This stage can also go by a few other names in stand-alone novels. In romance, it could be the happily ever after. In an action-packed thriller or speculative, this could be the new status quo after the asteroid has hit, the bomb has been disarmed, or the country has been overtaken with ice. This is the feeling of calm after the bad guys are either jailed or killed.
Action stage. (Which is preceded by Precontemplation, Contemplation, and Preparation, just in case you want to get the whole series). It could include parts of the denouement, but it could also be an implied ending that happens off the page in the reader's imagination.
For those of you who write series, you'll love this next part. In my way of thinking, part of Maintenance is what some call the 6th stage, that of Relapse. A lot of drug treatment centers will say, "Relapse is part of recovery." In a way, authors could say, "Relapse is part of serial writing."
Characters don't always make the huge leap or life change they need to by the end of the first book. Or they make the leap and then fall back into old behaviors in subsequent books, like in the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella. The heroine manages to get in financial trouble time and time again, despite many resolutions and motivations to stop overspending.
The main difference between the additional Shopaholic books and the first one is that Rebecca Bloomwood doesn't go through the Precontemplation or Contemplation stages. She starts at the Preparation stage because she already knows she's got a problem and just has to get ready for Round Two with her component, compulsive shopping.
Then you have other series where the heroine/hero don't necessarily relapse, but just struggle to maintain. The rest of the Twilight series could arguably be Edward attempting to Maintain his decision to to keep Bella a part of his life in a very real, romantic way as his girlfriend. In New Moon when Jackson nearly kills Bella for a tiny paper cut, Edward regrets his decision to bring Bella into his inner circle. In Eclipse, Victoria targets Bella to kill because Edward had killed Victoria's mate, so turnabout is fair play. Bella wouldn't have been in that position if Edward has just walked away. Each book has Edward maintaining his decision until we finally all just say hurry-up-and-make-her-a-vampire-already by Breaking Dawn.
I hope that the Stages of Change have given you a different way of looking into the character's journey across the pages!
Join me next week as I start an in-depth series on GRIEF. If you have burning questions that you might want answered, drop them in the comment section. For example, I'll be addressing, What's too long for a widow to wait before remarrying in Christian Fiction?
See you tomorrow for Friday Free Association Chain!