Slow & Sudden Change: Character Building

I have been daydreaming, I confess. I love this time of the year. I love that it’s warm enough to enjoy the outdoors and cool enough to not loathe it. I love how the color of the lake changes subtly with the coming of Fall. But more than anything, I love the trees (I know, right? Second verse, same as the first…).

Autumn happens slowly upon us. Day by day, we are surprised with a splotch of red or a brilliance of yellow. Every day is like a new revelation of the big bash that is coming. It’s like reading a book and having one sentence leap out of the page and into your heart. There is something slow and passionate about it.

But then, after weeks (sometimes months) of watching and waiting, Autumn wakes us to the celebration. Every leaf has turned, none have fallen yet, and we find ourselves enveloped in the glow of the Autumn rainbow of leaves. We can barely take it in, this sudden transformation; it blows our minds every time, and we ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at the magnificence of the change.

So which are we? Do changes happen slowly or suddenly in our lives? Or, like the Upper Michigan Autumn, is it both?

I’m contemplating this in terms of some new characters I’ve been working with. Three characters (or potentially four, but I’m not committed to the old man yet) share one life-changing event. And while there are immediate effects set into place, I’m also beginning to see that there have been (and continue to be!) splashes of color all along.

And not only from the time of the event forward, but prior to that particular moment. Elements have been in play for some time and the life-changing event simply brought some of them to the surface.

The question being: how do we determine which changes are slow and which are sudden? Ideally, I think the character would tell us herself.


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7 Responses to Slow & Sudden Change: Character Building

  1. Steve Ward says:

    Fast changes tend to hit you “like a bolt out of the blue”, while slow changes are barely noticed until you one day begin to contemplate about “then” and “now” in the same context. Your kids growing up are one of those slow changes. But, when it’s a niece or nephew that you haven’t seen for at least a year or two, it’s almost like you were struck again by a fast change.

    • semmie says:

      Hi Steve. 🙂 So…is it all about the perception? Like “the watched pot never boils” sort of thing?

      • Steve Ward says:

        Just as with God, day is like a thousand days, and a thousand years is like a day. God has the best perspective, because all eternity is laid out before Him like a blanket. He takes it all in, and He is still aware of the minute details.

  2. Abby says:

    I feel as if it has a lot to do with perception, as well. Some things could be a slow process that we barely mention until one day when it hits us.

  3. I feel that all changes are slow. Even the ones that seem sudden have been coming upon us, building themselves into our lives, long before we feel their impact.

    When I was younger I lived a great deal of life in regret. As I grew I felt shadowed by the choices I made in the past and felt like everything I did steered my life down rockier roads. Now I see things differently. I see all those choices have lead me to where I am today. I’m proud of the person I am right now. In acknowledging that, I look back on “mistakes” with new eyes. Without every step and seeming misstep through life I wouldn’t be who I am.

    I think when we consider our characters and the events that shape their lives it is the same. Every step and seeming misstep is a part of their larger wholeness. It completes the person they are and shapes the person they are becoming. Everything that unfolds in their life is the result of that slow evolution from past to present and everything that lies in their future has a foundation in what is going on right now.

    • semmie says:

      Hi Rebecca! Thanks for sharing your thoughts about character development! I love your perspective on how even the “missteps” are part of forming a person. And I totally agree with you. In my own life, I remember the moment when I clearly realized how one mistake changed me for the better. It’s hard to call it a mistake in that case.

      And I think all three of you are right in terms of internal change. I think, though, that there are changes that occur suddenly and without any warning–like a car accident or a death in the family. Any situation, really, where the character in question lacks control, where the force of the change is solely external, is going to bring about sudden changes for the person. Even in these cases, though, I think there must be a combination of things happening–the emotions, the physical pain, etc,–and they are not all immediate changes.

      Thanks for your thoughts, everyone!

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