Your Story Must Have Character Growth Moments – Some Examples

by | Writing | 10 comments

“Remember, the essence of storytelling demands that we place our main characters on a path. A quest with something at stake, with something to do, to achieve, to learn, and to change.” —Larry Brooks

by Rickbrk

by Rickbrk

Novels must show change in their main characters. Growth moments in the character arc should be fed along the way as a story progresses.

The transformation might be like a flower bud opening.

lotus-219704_1280I pulled 5 different types of inspirational books off my shelves and randomly opened to pages about a fifth of the way from the end of the stories. In Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, modified by Christopher Vogler, this would be in Act 3, in the Resurrection part of The Return.

The experience was uncanny. I immediately spotted a growth moment in each book on the pages facing me.


Examples of Growth Moments


1.  River Rising by Athol Dickson – Fiction/Historical (Winner of the Christy Award)

“Hale realized he might not have failed in everything after all.

His bizarre kidnapping and bondage had obscured the quest that began with a manila paper folder, soft and mildewed from New Orleans humidity, its faded pages bearing the terse, clerically phrased story of a boy of three or thereabouts, brought north from down beyond the end of everything, to be raised with other orphans in a peeling twelve-room mansion.”

2.  A Slow Burn by Mary E. DeMuth – Fiction/Christian/General

“’I’ve made a terrible mess of things.’

‘We all do. Lord knows I did. But that’s where Jesus comes in. And if we let him, he takes us, turning us from orphans to adopted, loved children, taking our regrets and sadness and giving us unexplained joy. Kind of like the joy I feel right now.’”

3.  Terri by Sharon Srock – Christian/Women’s Fiction

“The noise of busy power tools, pounding hammers, and loud music pumping from three boom boxes did not drown out the annoying little voice whispering in his right ear these days. That little voice kept reminding him that this wasn’t where he needed to be. That this wasn’t the path to his future. This could be a stepping stone, nothing more.”

by geralt

by geralt

4.  Made to Last by Melissa Tagg – Fiction/Contemporary Romance

“Because Matthew brought her to life in a way no one had since Robbie. He listened. He talked. He saw. Exactly what she still wasn’t sure. But it was enough to know he was looking. Not at a homebuilder. Not at a television star. At her.”

5.  Calculated Risk by Zoe M. McCarthy – Fiction/Christian/Contemporary Romance

“Cisney’s heart pulsed like it had when she was a child and feared she’d made Daddy mad. Yes, she was learning at almost thirty to spread her own wings, but she’d lived in Daddy’s nest for a long time. Why did that verse have to be the one giving Mom hope? It rang so personal to their father-daughter relationship. She cringed as she pictured him grousing that God had no business telling him how to raise his children.”

Examples of growth moments that should exist in your story. Click to tweet.

What is a growth moment you’ve included in your story?

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  1. marilyn leach

    In my newest Berdie Elliott mystery with Pelican books, in the editing queue as we speak, my sleuth wonders if she’s loosing her God given ability to find the pea of truth in a stack of deceit. She comes to grips with the fact that God’s gifts are without recall, and moves forward. The story is centered around the holy season of Pentecost.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Congratulations on your upcoming book, Marilyn. Thanks for sharing Berdie’s growth moment.

  2. Elaine Stock

    Zoe, this was a great article and I appreciated you sharing this advice. I checked my latest story before sending it to my agent and was happy/fascinated to see this growth moment happening right where you suggested it should.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Elaine, that’s great. I’m working on keeping my heroine growing a little all the way through the story so that her ah-ha moment near the end makes sense. (epiphany)

  3. writercatherine

    Zoe, James Scott Bell has a book called Write Your Novel from the Middle. He says the mid-point should have a moment of revelation, too. Can you check the books you posted and see what they’ve got for mid-points? I’m wondering how the mid-point growth compares to the 1/5th from the end. Thanks! Great post!

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Catherine, thanks for sharing James Scott Bell’s principle. I hope I have not misled anyone. I opened 5 books to about a fifth of the way from the end and found those growth moments. I think we need to sprinkle steps toward growth through the whole character arc. That said, here’s what was on a page half way through Calculated Risk: (Cisney to Nick) “‘A small gift in appreciation for all you have done for me since I fell apart over Jason while you were in my office. The Lord guided you well, and I’m thankful.”‘

      One more from Sharon Srock’s Terri: (Steve) “Dwelling on the past accomplished nothing, but an occasional trip back kept him thankful. Thankful God had forgiven him for the mistakes and sins of his youth, thankful for his successful writing career, and thankful for a second chance with his daughters.”

      • writercatherine

        Zoe, No, you didn’t mislead. I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, so I need to go back into my draft and make sure those growth moments are clear. Mr. Bell only mentioned the midpoint, so I appreciate your insight about the 4/5 point.

        • Zoe M. McCarthy

          I wish I had the time to go through one of James Scott Bell’s (or an equally good writer’s) books and jot down all the growth moments and see what the character arc might look like. Maybe I’ll do that in the next book I read.

  4. leecarver

    From my WWII novel, “A Secret Life,” right about where you suggested:
    He took both her hands in his and locked eyes with his love. “Someday, Grace, I will be wealthy. I will be the son-in-law your father respects.”
    She drew a sudden breath.
    His words were tantamount to a proposal of marriage.
    He watched her recover from mild shock, and attempted to do the same. In truth, he had declared his intention.
    She looked down with a blush. Then she leaned toward him. “Money isn’t important to me. I love you. We’ll make it fine. I’ll work … ”
    “You won’t have to, my sweet.” In an echo from the past, he borrowed Father’s words. “I have a plan.”
    Her smile opened her expression as if in wonder. Whatever her thoughts, pleasure ran through them.
    He found courage to continue. “I don’t know how long it will take, but I will not dally.”

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Lee, I love how he tried to recover from the shock of his own growth moment. He had spoken in truth. So it seems that at 4/5 of the story a growth moment in many books often appears. Like I said to Catherine, I’d like to track growth moments in a well-written book and see how often and where the growth moments in the story lie. Maybe in the next book I read.

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