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Transmutation: A Character Study - Feature Introduction

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Welcome to Transmutation: A Character Study a new SpoilerTV summer feature. This will be a fun new feature exploring a group of characters that we feel have undergone some major character evolution. We all love television, and while some of us come to a show for the premise most of us stay for the characters. What makes some characters better than others? It all comes down to how the character evolves and that evolution is what we want to examine here.

This is not a feature about the best fandom, best ship, best performer or the best show, so please leave all those arguments at the front door. This is all about the characters and we are diving into the core of who they are and what makes them tick. We will look at what has made them such dynamic characters and what changes they’ve undergone. Most importantly we will delve into their evolution to see how they changed from who they were to who they became/have become.

Then, just for an extra added element of fun (and bragging rights for the author of the winning character’s article), all of you will get to vote for who made the best pitch and which character you think underwent the most evolution. That poll will go live on Tuesday, September 12th after the final character article is released the prior Tuesday.

The team of writers has already been assembled and they’ve each already picked the character they will be writing about. These characters span from current shows to long gone shows, but all are on or were on shows that ran longer than one season. If this feature is a success this will just be the first round of many, so if a character you think belongs in this feature doesn’t get covered in this round then there is always next summer. The character choices were strictly up to the discretion of each author, but you’re welcome to use the comments section of this article to pitch what characters you’d like to see covered. A SpoilerTV writer may just see it and feel inspired to cover that character in the next round if they don’t get covered this time. The first article will debut next Tuesday, so get ready for a summer of fun!

To kick things off a few of the writers that will be participating answered some questions to better help break down their interpretation of character evolution. Remember, this feature is meant to be a fun character exploration to help make the long summer pass a little faster. We hope that all of you will enjoy this character study and come along for the ride.

Describe your take on good character evolution. What makes one character’s journey stand out from another?

Aimee Hicks: I believe that character evolution is a critical part of any show. If a show is going to truly succeed it must put great effort into developing its characters. That means not keeping a character in a stagnant existence. Events that happen to them must serve a purpose and have some impact on the trajectory of the character. One of my big pet peeves in television is when a character is hurt then miraculously the next episode it is as if nothing ever happened. The same goes for character evolution. If some big major even happens and suddenly the next episode the character is back to normal, that’s just not realistic. Good writers know how to keep the core essence of the characters while allowing them to grow and evolve. To be considered good character evolution the writers have to allow events to have an impact on the characters. It’s about letting the characters grow from the things they experience and survive.

Doug Greer: I think the key that always makes a character’s development stand out for me is pacing. Of course there are a ton of other factors that are important as well, but if development isn’t paced correctly, I just don’t buy it in the first place. A great example of this is Clarke in The 100. She always had that leader mentality in her, she had to build up the confidence to have it come out. I remember the first few episodes of season 1, she was trying to push back on Bellamy’s violent leadership, but no one took her seriously and she wasn’t able to lead the group. Over the course of series, though, she started to come into her own as a leader and people began to follow her and trusted her to make huge life or death decisions. If this development wasn’t paced as well as it was, then moments where she had to make these decisions, like killing everyone in Mount Weather, wouldn’t have packed the emotional punch that they did.

Prpleight: I got hooked on TV dramas in the 70s when a character would have their world rocked and the next week everything was hunky dory. It made me crazy because that’s not how real life works.

When major events happen to us we are affected; we change. It’s unrealistic for a character to have an event shatter their world and have that character be unaffected.

So, for me It’s not that I need one character’s journey to stand out from another’s, it’s how intense/real or compelling a character’s journey back is.

Marko Pekic: The essence of character evolution for me is that a character is learning how to react to life. No matter if a character is mature or immature, a hothead or cold as ice there will always be situations that challenge us, throw us off balance and force us to adapt.

The characters arc has to be well written and not rushed so that it would feel relatable to the audience.

Sean Candon: TV, perhaps more than any other storytelling medium, is based on comfort. After all, for viewers to come back week after week, they have to enjoy the show's world, and the characters are an integral part of any show's world.

Given the sheer amount of time a show has to spend time with its characters, TV provides great opportunity for character evolution. Perhaps the biggest challenge such an opportunity presents is maintaining consistent characterization through it all. No matter what a character goes through, his/her actions have to feel believable, and be consistent with everything that came before. After all, it's the characters that keep us coming back week after week.

A character's journey doesn't need to stand-out on a plot level, but on a more personal one. On any show, each character should feel unique, and that should translate into their journeys. Two characters should be able to share the same experience and react completely differently, and both reactions should feel real.

DJRiter: It seems more and more with the shows I watch there is generally a secondary character that I call a producer’s ace-in-the-hole, a gifted, solid performer that can go toe to toe with a talented lead or in some cases bolster a weak lead. These are the characters that draw me back to some shows week after week. In a good show, you can tell when the writers recognize what a gift they have in these performers and write great stories for these characters giving them added depth, and richer stories. Thus, this character’s journey can become more interesting to watch. That’s when the magic happens, this character takes a life of their own and in some cases, have gone from a scheduled one episode performer to recurring guest and even co-star.

Saloni Gajjar: Character evolution is so essential for a TV show. It’s over the course of their growth and experiences that the audience finds them relatable. What differentiates different characters on TV is exactly that, their differences! Not every person is the same and that’s what shows should reflect. When a character we love or hate goes through something and changes because of it, changes and adapts because of their situation or the people around them, that establishes the realness of the character. A good character evolution, according to me, is done in a subtle but brilliant way. It depends very much on the writers and actors of the show.

Every character starts a series one way and ends it another. Do you think that each character needs to be drastically different to constitute good character evolution? Can subtle changes be enough to show character growth? Explain a little bit as to why.

AH: It’s not always about the drastic things. Yes, some events should cause a drastic character shift, but for the most part good character evolution happens over time through gradual subtle shifts. If a show runs many seasons, then yes, there should be some pretty drastic changes in the characters, but they shouldn’t happen all at once. Perhaps most importantly, the character should always remain recognizable. Change is necessary for good evolution, but the character must maintain some general characteristics that tie back to their character when they first debuted. The character needs to maintain some base point that the audience can look at and recognize as the character they first started watching. So, short term changes should be subtle but extended long term changes should have some pretty big shifts from the starting point.

DG: I don’t think that they need to be drastically different, I just think it’s more about the journey. Take a character like Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In a lot of ways, she is drastically different from where she started in terms of confidence, strength, and sexual orientation, to name a few. At the same time, however, she still makes the same goofy, nerdy jokes and has the same a huge heart as she did in season 1. So although in some ways she’s drastically different and in other ways she’s not, her journey from pilot to series finale was believable and emotional, which to me made for some great character development.

PL: As I said, I’ve been hooked on TV since the 70s, at this point a LOT of plots are predictable for me, so it’s the characters that pull me in; that make me decide to commit to a show.

Two well-defined characters faced with the same trauma will both be affected but, they will react in very specific ways. For one character these changes may be subtle and for the other it could be huge. Both reactions are valid and interesting.

MP: The subtle changes that make sense and that the audience can relate to are the best in my opinion.

For example we can take Christina Yang teaching her interns in season 9. It was such a small and sweet detail that showed how far she has come from the moment we've met her in season 1. And how her path didn't just turn her into a great surgeon but teacher as well.

SC: While one of the greatest pleasures of watching TV is seeing a character believably change drastically over a number of seasons, good character development doesn't need to be so obvious.

What matters above all else is that a show stays true to its characters. A drastic evolution, a more subtle evolution, and non-existent evolution should be equally rewarding to viewers, if done right. The biggest sin a show can commit is sacrificing character for plot.

DR: Not sure I’d use the word drastically, but a good writer will recognize that a character has to grow to survive. A one-note character is a sign of sure death. Slow, subtle changes work for me. A quick, drastic change can doom a character if the reason for such change is explained, i.e. a traumatic event, etc. However, with slow, subtle changes you add depth and layers to an already existing character.

SG: Nope, the character doesn’t drastically need to be different to make the character evolution good or even justifiable. In most cases, subtlety can be enough, especially for a long time viewer of the show. Small actions or dialogues to convey this growth can sometimes make all the difference whereas in some cases, it’s grand gestures or big, noticeable things about the character that points out how much they have evolved over the course of the seasons.

Without spoiling what character you’re going to be writing about in this feature give a quick tease about them.

AH: The character that I’m writing about started off the series they are in as a very normal character albeit their allegiances were a bit shady at first. Through a series of life-changing situations, one of which involved nearly dying, this character became so much more than they were at the start. Some used to view this character as annoying because their purpose wasn’t clear, but after the series started to evolve this character they became a pivotal part of the series.

DG: The character that I’m covering for this feature is exciting because they had multiple different personalities throughout the course of the series, so the actor/actress had to balance different levels of development depending on which character he/she was playing. HINT: It’s NOT Tara from the United States of Tara.

PL: I’ve chosen to profile a character that fell in love with a woman he didn’t expect to fall in love with and set out to make himself worthy of her.

MP: My character knows pain and that pain made her build walls. Over the course of her character evolution she learned to trust people again and let them into her life.

SC: The character I'm going to be writing about began as an opportunistic coward, and eventually transformed into someone who commanded fear and respect from everyone around them.

DR: My character has spent most of their life playing second-fiddle. As a result of trying to be good-enough and live up to expectations of them, they’ve made choices, some smart some not so smart, that have led them into dangerous situations and questionable actions. The irony is they’ve been more than good enough all along.

SG: The character I will write about for this feature is someone who, when the show began, was arrogant, selfish, and annoying. Luckily, over the course of the show, they created pretty much an iconic character with lots of great moments.

And now the fun begins. Starting next Tuesday, June 6th the first character article will debut. In the meantime, can you guess what some of the characters are that we’ll be covering? Altogether there will be 14 characters analyzed in this round. Prepare yourselves for the fun of TACS Tuesday's all summer.

Hit the comments and tell us what your idea of good character evolution is. What characters do you think have undergone major character evolution?

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