As writers, we want our books to influence others or at least resonate on a deep level. Over this last week, I’ve ran into the above question twice. Both times, it has really caused me to pause and think about it. Initially, I thought I don’t want my readers to change, but within a second I knew that was not true. I do what readers to change. I want them to change their perspective on the world. The perspective and the particular aspect of the world depend upon the book’s theme.
People change their behavior and thoughts when their core beliefs shift. Influencing someone’s core beliefs is hard work. In order for a story to change a person, they must become emotionally connected to the characters in the book. They must feel the pain, fear, and joy along with your characters. They must go through the cycle of change vicariously.
Changing our beliefs is painful and no one really wants to do it, our characters are the same. The first stage of change is precontemplation. At this point, the character/person doesn’t realize there is a problem or isn’t interested in changing it. Contemplation is the stage where the character sees there is a problem and is thinking about changing it. Finally, the character will take action to change, third stage(midpoint of your novel), and seek out solutions to the problem. This often leads to a relapse (usually at the third plot point) where the character falls back into old ways of thinking or acting before getting back on the horse and facing the problem full on in your climax.
Asking yourself how do I want my reader to change while you are writing can help you map your character’s arc, focus on the goal of each scene, and decide which conflict will ramp up the tension in the most effective and influential way.