This week, I'm kicking off a new series for writers using the transtheoretical model (TTM). [Hang in there. That's the only big word.]
This is also called the Stages of Change. Any time a person tries to change a behavior or life situation, often around New Year's, this theory gets a little face time on self-help sites. The theory first came about from the world of addiction, specifically as applied to smokers trying to quit. It has since crossed over to many other mental health arenas and even to business models.
But I had an epiphany! This theory is really helpful for writers in conceptualizing the stages of a character's arc through a novel.
The first stage is what we'll cover this week, with each additional stage to follow every Thursday.
The character may feel like they have no control over their life situation, or that they are forced to continue on as they have been. For example, a son who doesn't want to take over this father's business feels that he has to because it's expected of him and he's been groomed for it his entire life. He's in the precontemplation stage because he hasn't even considered that there might be another option.
A character in this stage won't move toward the Contemplation stage until after the inciting incident. Many books start with the inciting incident and leave much of the actual precontemplation stage to the reader's imagination, flashbacks, or internal monologue cues, so keep this in mind.
When your character is in this stage, it's helpful if things happening to them elicit some of the following questions:
What would have to occur for me to consider making a change?
What would have to happen for me to consider that I have a problem?
How have I tried to change this behavior in the past? Why didn't it work?
Next week we'll consider the Contemplation stage as your character moves through their internal and external arcs.
Q4U: Do you start your books with the inciting incident, or do you leave the reader a scene or two to establish your story world and the status quo of your character?