Character Change – Detachment

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In order to sell a manuscript you must work the central character through a significant life change. The simple solution is to use a career change or a new relationship. The transformation can also be dictated by the story, such as when they overcome their fears to achieve the main goal.

It’s tempting to go with whatever fits easily into your story. That won’t make your manuscript stand out from the pile in the publisher’s reading room. You need to have a good arsenal of character change possibilities, just like you have many story ideas.

To that end I’m posting a series of articles about different kinds of character change. The first few are on types of negativity that people get caught up in, how it happens and how they can get back out.


People who become detached from their life just go through the motions. Their job has stagnated. Their marriage has stagnated. They have the same routine day after day, week after week, year after year. Nothing especially interests them. Even their entertainment falls into a repetitive routine.

Haruki Murakami writes novels where the main character wanders through life in this detached state all the time. He only comes to life long enough to solve some problem and then falls back into his disinterested existence.

Since you aren’t a famous writer like Murakami, you’ll want some insight into how a person gets into such a state and how they get out of it.

The Cause of Detachment

People become disinterested in life when they fail to achieve their goals and dreams. We’re not talking about one try here. Detachment is the result of trying to achieve your goals many times and finally giving up in frustration.

When you use detachment in a story, you will not have the character become detached. Becoming disillusioned with life and finding the way back could be a minor plot point. To work as the major character change event, your character needs to have been stuck from the start and work their way out through the events in the story.

The Cure for Detachment

The cure is to make your character take another kick at the can. Even someone in this condition still reacts to problems. Problems are part of what move a story along, so make some of them relate to your protagonist’s goals.

For a stalled career, create problems that can be solved by what they’ve already learned. You may need to take the story into the workplace. You can make that more interesting by extending the workplace out into other parts of the city. Even office workers must sometimes entertain clients. No matter what job they do, people can get sent for training and meet new people that send their lives in new directions.

When the problem is failed marriages or relationships, it’s often the case that a person keeps going for the same kind of uncompatible other. Your story could throw them in with someone who isn’t their type, someone they can’t stand at first. As the story progresses they grow closer together and a relationship develops. By the end, it should be clear that they are made for each other.

Opportunities will also motivate someone who is detached. Let the actions they take to resolve problems in the main story create openings that further their goals. Once they overcome detachment, they will be filled with new life and that can be what gives them the energy for the challenges that take the story through to its conclusion.

The Positive Side of Detachment

While someone who is detached needs to get a life, there are much worse types of negativity. If someone is in an antisocial type of negativity, detachment may be a good stepping stone on the path out of despair. For a person in one of the worst kinds of negative states, detachment may be the only good permanent lifestyle.

The next article will look at a more serious type of negativity, addiction.

Article by Ivan Izo.


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