LinkedinTwitterThe DetailsConnectBlog Facebook Meet the TherapistHome For Writers

Thursday, August 19, 2010

T3 - Stages of Change: Contemplation

We're up to week two in our new series about the Stages of Change. If you missed week one, you can read about the Precontemplation Stage here.

The second stage is called the Contemplation Stage.  This stage takes up most of the most of the novel...probably all the way through Act II at least. At the start of this stage, the main character faces the inciting event (also called the change element or trigger in my world of psychology) where they are introduced to the fact that they do have a problem or some hurdle that they need to overcome. 

This inciting event throws their life into chaos, and they sorely miss the days of their Precontemplative status quo. They are forced to begin to think about making a change or overcoming things, but they are in no way ready to commit. In fact, they might be begrudging to the representative of the new way of things (in a romance, this is usually the lead opposite character) and very resistant to even the idea of change, much less making it for themselves.

In real life, this stage can last months to years. People like things the way they are, and change usually isn't received well. It's messes up the flow of someone's life, so it's not welcome.  All readers can relate to characters going through this same thing, as this is a universal human experience.

Characters in this stage have been known to make pro/con lists or do a cost/benefit analysis to see if it's worth their while to even try to prepare for the change. Usually the costs outweigh the benefits to the person contemplating this, and they tend to focus on every reason why they shouldn't make the change.  
WRITERS: these reasons make for great plot points to address through your sagging middle!! As you unfold your story, you will painstakingly (and meanly!) strip away your characters excuses and defenses, driving them toward the third stage of Preparation.

Writers should show the conflicting emotions of characters contemplating the literary change they need to make. Typically, even though the character can see more cons and pros, they also usually know that they should make the change. This leads to their ambivalence, because along with the pros of the change, they also have to face those perceived cons.

Let me conclude with an example from Twilight. Edward's status quo was going to school forever on overcast days, pretending to be human. This is the Precontemplative Stage. His inciting event is getting a whiff of Bella's scent, his "own personal brand of heroin." He then enters the Contemplative Stage, i.e., What the heck do I do about this girl whose mind I can't read but the temptation of whose blood I can hardly withstand? He weighs the pros/cons, as seen in when he talks to her, trying to get to know her, but then turns around and is rude to her to keep her at arm's length. 

Next week we'll address the Preparation Stage and where this fits into our novels.

Q4U: How long do you give your characters to contemplate what's before them for the rest of the novel? Does this differ according to genre?

Wordle: signature


Mary Aalgaard said...

This is excellent timing for me. I'm writing a play. At the end of Act I, MC is faced with the fact that she's in a controlling relationship. She still wants to fight it, but everyone witnesses the verbal abuse via a cell phone call. Act 2 begins with her still resisting. Sure, she went to counseling, but he wouldn't go with her. In fact, he's ridiculing her, but she wants to say, "We're better, now." That's the pacing I'm on. Act 2 will force reality, cut down those excuses, as you say. I think that's good timing for a play. Thoughts?

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

sounds good to me, mary. i assume the inciting event happened much earlier than the abusive phone call that made her begin contemplating the change before her?

Lisa Lickel said...

Just catching up on last week's messages after putting some proposals to bed. Wowee, I mulled this point over this morning at a couple of writing buddies. In one of my stories that I'm trying (probably too hard) to make "happen," the main characters fight romance through their initial attraction despite commitments elsewhere and else-whom; when they decide they are in love, obstacles loom...which are overcome. They marry. Then they have to figure out how to live HEA, which is the last portion of the book. So, what's the middle muddle? Their contemplation of whether love can work for them when they feel called to another lifestyle. Is this God interfering in their plans or vv? The attraction is instant; they don't act on it until chapter four; they try to get over it until chapter 9 when they're interrupted by a crisis. They start to get back on track chapter 14; another defining crisis, then the wedding chap 19. The rest of the story ends with chap 25. Is that even enough? Is that what I mean?

Post a Comment

Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.