A Pirate's Resources


Exercise 26 :: Transformation and Character Arc :: My, how you've Grown!

Oh, the heart of a great story. Transformation - everything that changes because of the actions of the characters in the story. So simple, yet it’s the reason behind the story. If nothing changes - no princesses are rescued, no character learns to be brave, no dragons are defeated - there really isn’t any story. And as the story itself changes because of the actions of the characters, so too the characters themselves are transformed. This character arc is one of the key points in story, and in our lives. Encourage your child to look at the characters they love and see how they changed over the course of the story. Think on the joy when the character transforms from a shy, weak boy and into a brave, wise young man. Or the awkward pre-teen girl finds real friends and blossoms. And think of the sadness when a character you want to love grows more wicked, or succumbs to meanness. Seeing these aspects in the characters they care about will help them to begin to see these very same arcs in themselves and those around them.

At one point in the story, the Captain urges them through the archipelago of islands, and Scurvy Spat asks why they don’t just sail around them. He replies, “What kind of story would that be?”

In Real Life :: Our lives are a story. Every day involves hundreds of transformations. Every day involves hundreds of choices, when we, as we write our own life story, can decide which of our desires we will sail after. Every day we can stay the same, or be transformed.

Every day we can be the
seeker heroes in our families and lives, and we can encourage our children to be the same. Learning these different story elements will surely help your child (and you!) become better storytellers. It will help in all their writing. Knowing how to craft a compelling story is useful in all walks of life. But it is nowhere so useful as in our own lives. Keep your eyes on your child. See when they are the princess you might need to rescue, or when they may need you to be their dispatcher, or the donor for the magical agent they can use to defeat the dragons in their lives. Help them to see that they are in the middle of something that will end, when the end seems so far away. Encourage them to be creative, to express themselves through story (or painting, or dancing, or singing, or playing soccer). Let those inner thoughts and feelings that teens so long to hide away find a voice in your home and heart, listen carefully, and live this adventure with them. Help them see where they have already experienced a character arc, and have been transformed. And look to yourself, too. We all long to be transformed into the us we imagine ourselves to be. Don’t be afraid to tell a few stories, yourself, and definitely don’t be afraid to live the best story you can.

Finding it in the Story :: This story is full of them, so you can focus on the last two chapters, or go through the story as a whole. If your student needs some hints, have them look at Norman Nopants and how he changes. Think back to Monkey Mackenzie (pg 271), who becomes brave enough to look through the glass, and see the island (and how, on pg 297, he has developed such faith in the Captain). Note that there are transformations that aren’t emotional - like the end of pg 301 - the monkeys don’t smell as much. Ask your student to find a negative transformation (the monkeys who steal the beans - they change for the worse).

And now that the story is nearly done, one good exercise would be to go back and review the different characters. What function did they play in the story (it might change in different parts)? What was their character arc (could be positive, negative, or neutral)? What changed in the story itself, and what caused (actions) those changes? Remember that Scurvy Spat (your student) is one of the characters; these are questions they can ask of themselves - what role(s) did they play as it was written in the story? What role did they play as they were the actual student, going through the exercises? How have they changed through the process of learning this Grammar of Story? This is the end of this particular story - but the end of one story is nearly always the beginning of another. What story are they going into now? (Here’s a link to an actual PDF exercise for this very purpose.)