100 Ways to Show Character Growth in Your Romance
1. Show hero in habit of being impatient. He blows horn at people who drive badly but later in the book he starts to hit horn but catches himself and does not do it.
2. Show hero become more sensitive to others and his environment; have hero hear something in the background noise that he would not have heard before.
3. Same as ‘2’ above but have hero see things in the environment that he did not see before (like how tired the workers on the cruise ship are as they often work 12 to 18 hour days).
4. Where once the hero was hostile to the doorman (for some reason)show him later in the story, for the first time, being nice and giving the doorman a compliment. (Even just calling him by name.)
5. Hero sees the ‘invisible’ people for the first time. Servants, lower level workers.
6. Hero sees something in store, that a minor character in the book would like, (for example: an old neighbor who cannot get out much) and buys it for him or her. (Have this experience make the hero actually feel good.)
7. Hero, who has no use for kids, does something nice for a kid. Maybe he helps fix a bike chain which is loose or shows a kid how to do something he has mastered or have hero do a magic trick he hasn’t done since he was a child. This could be something that his father taught him how to do. (Hero feels for first time that he may be missing something important by not being a father.)
8. Hero sees and waters a neglected house plant that perhaps someone used to take care of(show hero as becoming more sensitive).
9. Show hero, after criticizing the heroine for reading a romance or other genre book, secretly buying the same book which he reads without telling her in order to learn what makes her ‘tick’. Show him enjoying the book but make him feel guilty for doing so.
10. Hero starts listening to College Lecture CDs in his car. Maybe to improve his mind in an area he was embarrassed by being wrong about something in public. Note: hero may have evil intentions to one-up someone who made him look bad. Growth could be shown in this case where hero can use his knowledge but he does not do so.
11. Hero, after being critical of Spanish speaking employee, starts listening to Spanish Language tapes because he begins to feel guilty for the way he behaved – a feeling he has not experienced before.
12. Hero notices things, in a symbolic sense, that he didn’t notice before. This is a knowing kind of seeing, perhaps, even seeing things in cloud formations or ink blots as a kind of Rorschach test.
13. Hero starts hearing specific instruments in classical music that he never took the time to notice before. He had told the heroine earlier that all classic music sounds the same. Now he sees that it dosen't.
14. Show some ways where the hero acts more mature than he did before or ways he acts more childlike in situations where acting childlike is a positive movement for the hero.
15. Hero sends a thank you note in a situation where he never did this before
16. Show hero reacting to something that used to get him upset but now does not. Have hero notice the difference and wonder what is happening to him.
17. Adlai Stevenson said: “you can tell the size of a man by the size of the things that make him mad.” Work this into the story, perhaps, have the hero quote it to heroine at a point where he has gotten better control of his own temper.
18. Have hero, who has been somewhat negative, become a little more hopeful and then more optimistic as the story progresses. Be sure there is a cause for this happening.
19. Show how hero now takes defeats and disappointments better: like losing money on a small football bet at the office.
20. Show hero, who has been afraid to dance, take efforts to lean how. (What caused this change: hero saw 10 year old boy dancing well after only a few lessons.)
21. When once the hero had trouble taking a compliment, show him now doing so with grace. Think: what caused this? Something hero read, a sermon, or admiring someone else who did it gracefully.
22. When once the hero did not want to listen to anyone talking about or showing pictures of their grandkids, now he does so with grace. (Why the change: did he see the reaction of the old person after someone else was kind enough to look admiringly at the photos? Did the hero become jealous of the smile on the person’s face who just looked at the photos?)
23. Where once the hero used to ‘one-up’ or rain on other’s parades, he now lets others rejoice in their victories. Why?
24. Have hero become less stubborn. What made him change. Being stubborn hurt an innocent child as an unintended result.
25. Hero becomes less controlling; more willing to delegate work done or allow a child more leeway to act on her own. What made this happen? Did he see a child restricted in the same way he was restricted as a child? Did he see himself in that child?
26. Hero becomes more able to be by himself. Before he was not good company for himself and would become nervous or get jumpy when he had to be alone. What made him change? How can you show this? Was he alone at night and looked to the stars on a very clear night and for the first time in his life felt the wonder of it all. He remembers a quote from college: we have a whole universe within us. 27. Hero does something he once refused to do, maybe out of principle, and maybe just because he thinks of it as ‘woman’s work’. It might be changing a diaper for a woman who has a broken arm. He finds out it didn’t kill him. He feels how he has changed. He likes the feeling as show by his actions and not his thoughts.
28. Where once the hero would not do women’s work, he now helps out after seeing, up close, how hard a woman he cares for works.
29. Hero gives up some of his use of sarcasm and/or his use of wisecracks after he sees how such remarks really hurt a sensitive person: these could be remarks made by someone else.
30. Hero was picky eater but now will try some food he would never have eaten or even looked at before. Heroine could have cooked it.
31. Where once the hero was closed and did not want to talk about himself or even have his picture taken, now he has become more open. Why? Hero begins to open more because it is the only way he can get the heroine, who has the same problem, to open up.
32. Coping skills of hero are improved. Show hero dealing with objections badly at first and then show improvement. This can come from hero being burnt on a business deal or by direct instruction by heroine with greater coping skills.
33. Hero had often felt guilty or unworthy but comes to feel better about himself because of an incident in his life. It could be a person, a sermon, or reading a biography.
34. Hero once felt superior and impatient but comes to feel less secure when he is proven wrong and his being wrong hurt an innocent person or animal.
35. Hero felt insulted or hurt too easily. He learns to lighten up and not take things so personally when he sees person laugh off something he would object to. “Can’t you tell he’s more mad at himself than you?”
36. (A.D.D.) The hero has a problem concentrating but leans how to focus. Why: is heroine into meditation? Does a child taking karate classes show him the way?
37. Hero becomes more considerate than he was at the start of the story. (Read one of the ‘Acts of Kindness’ books for ideas.)
38. Hero becomes more polite in his dealing with others. Perhaps he calls a homeless man, Mister.
39. Hero becomes more perceptive of others and learns better when not to say something and when not to push something he would have at the start of the book. (A speaker makes a mistake and hero has urge to correct him but holds back this time.)
40. Hero develops a win/win attitude in a given situation as opposed to a zero sum view of world. When problem comes up, hero now thinks of ways that both parties can win.
41. Show a dramatic change in hero’s world view, mindset, or paradigm. Maybe he has to work a full day as a migrant worker.
42. Have hero laugh at himself for the first time in the book.
43. Show the first time that the hero does not take himself too seriously – much to the surprise of the heroine.
44. Show the uptight hero take part in a child‘s game much to his own surprise and enjoyment. Have a prior event nudge him towards this change.
45. Show hero have a growth in tolerance. Maybe he was fast to chase kids off his lawn when their ball landed there.
46. Show hero saying things to children about loyalty and fairness that the heroine wishes he would apply in his business dealings.
47. Show forgiveness in the hero that he has not shown in the past. This should be different as when the hero grants forgiveness without resentment.
48. Show hero demonstrate empathy, wisdom, or understanding for the first time. Reader may not know if this is growth or if the hero was like that to start with.
49. Have hero become a mentor, an encourager to others when at the start of the book he felt doing so would be unproductive.
50. Have hero show respect to one person or thing or organization that he did not do at the start of the story.
51. Show hero display a willingness to sacrifice where before he would not have made such a sacrifice. This can be a series of small events.
52. Orderliness. Where once the hero’s room or desk was a total mess, now he starts to clean it up. Just a little change but the room could get more orderly as the story progresses.
53. Hero overhears someone talking badly about another or bragging, and he sees himself in the role of the person being spoken badly about or the person who is bragging. He doesn't like it.
54. Have wham, bam, thank-you ma’am hero learn to put heroine’s pleasure ahead of his own. What even made him think this way? (He could overhear women putting down bad lovers who have good looks but little else.)
55. Hero learns something about himself by how he is tempted to do something he had not been tempted to do before. Like run his fingers through heroine’s hair – but this is a cliché: think of something else he wants to do or is tempted to do. This works best when he has not experienced the particular temptation before.
56. Hero sees something on a billboard which changes him. Perhaps it is two billboards, one above the other, with headlines that make profound sense when read as one sentence. This is very story specific and takes a good deal of creativity.
57. Hero takes a wrong turn on freeway and enters a bad neighborhood and sees people on the street in a condition that makes him think about his life in a new way. Perhaps these people could have been him if he had not been helped by a stranger as a child. He sees a drunk passed out or a hooker walking in an alley with eyes that see nothing.
58. Hero seeing someone well dressed arrested for shoplifting in his supermarket. What does this do to his thinking?
59. Hero is upset and suddenly a famous scene from a movie flashes through his mind. This makes the hero wake up. It is the cause of the change in the hero’s world view.
60. Hero hears the words to a popular song that filter into the hero’s mind and mean something different to the hero than the songwriter intended. It is like a light going on in the hero’s head. It is a cause of a change in the hero.
61. Seeing a book title might do the job of causing the change in a hero. Think of book titles which could push the hero over the edge. This is very story specific.
62. Show that something the hero eats triggers the ideas which stimulate the change. Maybe he eats a biblical food which brings to mind a parable which provides him with an insight.
63. Have something an animal does, perhaps as seen on a nature show, lead the hero to a new way of thinking. (A mother bird pretending to be wounded to draw a hawk away from her chick.)
64. Hero hears someone say, “think outside of the box” and it actually ‘clicks’ with the hero and he changes his behavior.
65. Hero hears call-in listener on talk radio and thinks host gave a wrong answer. When he hears the host's answer, at first thinks host is stupid, but later thinks it could have been the right answer. As it turns out, it was like a problem hero has been dealing with himself.
66. When hero sees reflections in a lake it makes him think of a cause that makes him change his thinking.
67. Hero sees and hears kids fighting and this lets hero see his own actions in a different light. He vows to change but will he?
68. As hero rushes to his next appointment he sees a very old couple in a park caring for each other (visit to nursing home) and he thinks that he is seeing himself – but alone – in a future that he is mindlessly rushing towards.
69. Hero watches a tv show on which a contestant must make a sourpuss laugh. Seeing how the contestant approaches the problem leads to an insight that changes the hero.
70. Hero watches a security video of himself leaving his office and walking to his car. Just by observing his body language on the tape makes him see himself in a very different way.
71. Hero sees a father shouting at his son in a batting cage and he sees himself or a problem he is having at home or at work in a new light.
72. Hero goes to little league game and the behavior of the parents mirrors faults in hero’s own life. The child in the game is the heroine’s.
73. Hero sees two nuns (in habits) doing something…maybe laughing at a bird in a flower bed… (or something that just shows a pure love of nature and living) and seeing this makes the hero rethink a past action or decision.
74. Hero stops on street and sees a very happy child who looks at him and says: “Don’t you wish you were me?” This could be very powerful in making the hero stop and think about his life.
75. Think of highly emotional situations. A spectacular auto accident happens right before the hero’s eyes or an electrical transformer blows up down the street and rocks the ground. This is a case where the hero did nothing to cause the change.
76. Hero reads a funny newspaper headline like on Jay Leno and while laughing he reads a second and deeper meaning into the headline. Make story specific. It could cause the hero to think ‘what if’ scenarios that he would not have thought of otherwise.
77. Hero sees funny wording on a billboard that makes him think of a solution to a puzzle he has been working on.
78. Hero see a lover’s billboard which reads “Mary Will You Marry Me” and for the first time he begins to consider marriage to the heroine. (Her name could also be Mary if it fits the story.)
79. Hero is playing chess and gets into a situation like: checkmate, stalemate, forked by a knight and sees how he is also in a similar situation. He wonders how great chess champions have dealt with the same situation. A knowledge of chess plus having the right story is necessary here. The hero could be a grand master chess player.
80. After a bitter loss, like losing the state chess championship, hero feels bad but also notices that he doesn’t feel as bad as he thought he would. His new relationship with the heroine has shown him that life offers more than his obsession with chess.
81. Hero starts having daydreams that are different in kind than his usual fare. The hero becomes aware of the change and wonders why this is happening. He asks: are we what we daydream about? 82. Hero has a series of nightmares that changes his view of the world in stages. Hero might have been a daredevil who risked his life as if it meant nothing. With the first nightmare about death he begins to rethink his view of life and its worth. Is heroine behind this change? How?
82. Same as above except the dream is not a nightmare. It is a harmless dream that does not mean anything. The dream’s the thing. While readers are trying to figure the meaning of the dream the dream actually has a no symbolic significance.
83. Make an activity spark the insight or growth. Use something the hero learns while fly fishing. Think what this ought to be. There are actually books about this. (That is, what I learned while fly fishing.)
84. Use nature: have dark clouds broken by a beam of sunlight but make the insight other than light in darkness. For example, have it about penetration or escape not illumination.
85. Hero sees argument with umpire at a ball game. He feels for umpire and this leads to a change in him. It is a change he does not want to admit so when he does the new behavior, which the reader can see, he does not want to admit that he has changed his way of thinking. The fact that he still wants to cling to his old ways or views shows the change in him is in a transitional stage.
86. The hero finds and reads his father or mother’s diary and this very much changes the hero’s views. Nothing was as it seems. How much of life is like that. How sure of his view that 'the heroine is undesirable' can he be of now?
87. When the heroine or someone else reacts in a very different way than the hero expected, it causes the hero to rethink his own views. “How could I be so wrong?” Pick an emotional reaction to fit the story.
88. Have the hero go unshaven for a few days --for the first time in his life -- and let the hero see what he looks like in a mirror. Shocked by what he sees his view of himself begins to change. Change into what and why? Why did he refuse to shave? Despair, daring, desire?
89. Hero has a change of feelings over an event: where once he would have felt differently: where once he felt guilty…he felt proud…etc.
90. In a 'friends to lovers' theme romance have hero see heroine naked for the first time ever. An image he can’t get out of his mind. Cliché but you can make it new if you have a very original reason why he saw her naked.
91. Hero has not seriously considered getting married until he sees heroine playing with two young children. Two things happen – he’s jealous that she is married and that she is a good mother and he thinks what a wondrous thing it would be to have a woman like the heroine love him. What bright children she would likely have as his wife. (The kids are actually her sister’s.)
92. Hero sees a woman in a wedding dress advertisement who looks a lot like the heroine. This gets him thinking along lines he does not like to go. “Don’t go there”, he tells himself.
93. Show hero and heroine coming out of a concert and walking past a jewelry store window. She’s looking for a gift for her sister. They both notice the engagement rings. Show the expression on their faces.
94. While at heroine’s apartment, hero is surprised to see a romance book hidden under a pile of newspapers. The book has ‘bride’ in the title. Have hero look at his own expression in the mirror without saying anything. Let the expression speak.
95. Hero sees a prom picture of heroine, who he sees as just one of the guys at work, and sees her as a beautiful young woman.
96. Hero sees heroine in a YouTube video where she is demonstrating belly dancing. He can’t get it out of his mind.
97. In an older heroine theme story have the hero lose a 2 mile race to the heroine. She is more fit than he is. So what’s the age difference mean then? Maybe he should consider her as wife materal.
98. A little child see hero and heroine together and the child asks the hero: “Is she your mommy?” Hero sees heroine’s hurt expression and feels for her. The experience actually moves the hero into a deeper feeling for heroine and this makes him think of her as something more than a friend. (Older heroine theme, of course.)
99. Hero sees a pregnancy test kit on heroine's desk at work, (It’s for her married sister.) But it makes the hero imagine what the heroine would look like with a baby bump. He may even tell her this. This will be a change in their relationship.
100. Rock the hero's world big time! Have hero mistakenly arrested for murder. Have him booked and placed in the tank with really bad criminals