There’s this annoying song that plays where I work, where a preteen/teenage girl is singing about trying to be “the best me” she can be. “I try not to change who I am, I’m strong and I stay true,” etc. And I remembered how people would say things like that, and I do know what they mean, but when you think about it, it’s a bit weird. It’s weird that we write things like “don’t ever change!” in people’s yearbooks. I mean…
This is something to think about when it comes to character development. There’s a difference between giving in to peer pressure, or compromising your values, and experimenting to learn and grow. It’s something to think about both in life and writing, I suppose.
I read this book called “Divine Bloodlines” and absolutely adored the main character because she stuck to her values even when faced with pressure. It was very well done. But not all characters have to be perfect role models, in fact, they shouldn’t be. So, here are a few things to think about while your character is growing and changing.
Consider her values before she makes decisions. If she’s going to give in to peer pressure, let the negative experiences be negative. Sort of along the same lines as portraying the creeps as creeps, and not romantics. She should acknowledge that she gave in to pressure and regretted it, and when she’s faced with the pressure again, let her learn and make a better decision. Readers will see her as a pushover if she makes the same mistake over again.
However, if she wants to rebel, let her, and let her learn from the experience (good and bad). Maybe she discovers a new side of herself this way, and now has to learn some balance.
This doesn’t just apply to young adults deciding how “good” or “rebellious” they should be. Maybe your main character is tough, and can be mean sometimes, but fears being “soft” because they don’t want to get walked all over. They can learn to be kinder, balancing kindness with assertiveness. Maybe your character just wants to change up his style of clothing.
Let your characters experiment, learn, and grow, especially if you’re writing teenage characters. That time of their life is all about experimentation (which is probably why I find that song so annoying).
Also, don’t get so stuck in the “I am who I am and I’ll never change” mindset that you miss out on opportunities to grow.