Monday, July 6, 2009

Paradigm Shift

Ever heard of this?

It's basically when everything you think you know, changes. The transformation is usually brought about by specific agents of change (got that term from the article it's linked to; worth reading).

A friend recently told me she didn't think I was an introvert.

That was my agent of change. Me? Not an introvert? I've lived with this image of myself from high school and until my friend said something, I didn't realize how I've changed.

I'm still quiet. I'm still somewhat a loner who gets exhausted after any social event. But I also like to get out and laugh loud. Her comment completely transformed the way I view myself. It surprised me.

In writing, our main characters need to have a paradigm shift. Either at the beginning of the story, in which the character's new view leads to the story taking its path, or at the end, in which the character's shift resolves the story.

Where else do you think paradigm shifts happen in a book? Do you think they're important to the character arc? Have you ever believed something about yourself, only to discover your belief was false or distorted?

43 comments:

Jody Hedlund said...

Great post, Jessica! I think paradigm shifts are hard to write. It's another one of those things that usually we want woven invisibly throughout our plot. (Or maybe I'm equating this too much with Character arc.) I like a plot in which the character changes subtly and finally comes to a natural resolution of their internal conflict by the end.

Jessica said...

That's true. It could happen long term or in one, blinding flash. You wrote your comment so well! I'm still learning character arc, and how to use it the best way possible.

Jeanette Levellie said...

Jessie:
Do you suppose God, so gracious and kind, gave you a paradigm shift not only as a personal favor, but so you could write about it? He is so sweet.

Jen
Audience of ONE

Jessica said...

I would believe that of Him. :-)

Katie Ganshert said...

Great post, Jessica! It always suprises me when other people describe me. We think we know ourselves and how we come across, but it's so interesting when others say something that sort of contradicts what we believe about ourself.

In highschool, I took this elective...I can't remember what it was called. It was everybody's fav class. Anyway, one of the activities was to get in groups of eight, and on a scrap of paper, write one word to describe each person in your group, and give it to the person. Obviously, you couldn't write a mean word.

Two out of seven people wrote "Confident" on mine. Huh? Me? Confident? I had no idea, because most of the time I feel very unconfidant...if that's a word. Some of the others were ahtletic, nice, outgoing, and funny. It was a cool exercise. :) Obviously, since I still remember it and it was ten years ago!

Jessica said...

Wow, Katie, that's a pretty cool story. :-) It's funny how we see ourselves so differently.
It's great that they saw you as confident. That's an excellent trait to have! Even if you don't always feel it. :-)

Jill Kemerer said...

The main character in any of my books is being pushed to a paradigm shift throughout the book. Sometimes smaller revelations will occur along the way.

I can relate to your feelings about introversion. I've always been an introvert. I need time alone, crave hours to myself, and get worn out with too much socializing. However, I'm very successful at being social, so people don't see me as an introvert!

I've seen your name around the blogs and finally checked yours out. Terrific stuff! Look forward to coming back.

Genny said...

I love seeing a character change like that in a book, and I agree: it needs to happen. I especially love it when a character is able to overcome something (fear, doubt, etc.) and rise above these things to be victorious.

Yes, there have been times I've believed something about myself that was distorted, specifically when I struggled with an eating disorder in college. Sometimes what we believe can be entirely false (and distructive). It's an awesome thing when we are able to change and become free of those false views.

Interesting post!

sherrinda said...

I've been mulling over an idea for a book series that involves paradigm shifts somewhat. It is an interesting concept, isn't it?

I have always been shy, but have been forced to be in the forefront as a minister's wife. In my heart, I will always be shy, but outwardly I have grown into a more confident person.

Great post! Short and succinct!

Jessica said...

Hi Jill,
That's interesting. And a very good point, that event in the book should always be leading up to this.
I've seen your name too. :-) Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

Janna Qualman said...

Do you think a paradigm shift can be gradual? Maybe not the realization of or need for change, but the execution of it? I think that's the way it is for my MC. She realizes early on, and then the story takes us through her gradual shift.

Jessica said...

Hi Genny,
I agree, it is awesome in life when we can overcome something. Kudos to you for recognizing that distortion.
I like it when characters rise above stuff too. Makes me want to whoop. LOL

Jessica said...

Hi Sherrinda,
That would be tough to be in the forefront. I can't imagine. It's nice that you've learned how to overcome the shyness though.
Yes, I was fascinated when I first learned about paradigm shifts.

Jessica said...

Hi Janna,
I think so. I'm not sure. According to that website it's a series of events that lead up to the shift.
I'm sure your heroine is fine. It's women's fiction, right? Which is all about the heroine's journey of growth, so you're probably right on with your character arc.

denise petrovich said...

So that is what they call it when a character goes thru transformation, I always thought it was "A light bulb finally came on in me.lol:)" I love a good shift. I love reading about the build to it and often it seems to happen in the center or end of the books I read. It is interesting Jessica, that you and I both see ourselves as introverts and others may not. Love you, Mom

quixotic said...

I'm with Denise on this. I didn't realize there was a specific name for it. I definitely think a character should change and grow as the story progresses. It doesn't have to be an "Ah-Ha!" moment, it could be a gradual growth of person.

Great blog topic!

anita said...

What a great post, Jessie! And--just curious--but was I the friend that caused this shift in your paradigm? WOW! teehee...

I really wonder how many writers do see themselves as introverts? It's not that we don't like to be around other people ... it's just that we're most at ease and content when we're quietly doing things on our own. And it's a good thing, considering how much alone time writing demands. I think your average joe would go NUTS being in that little creative box that constitutes writing a book.

And I agree wholeheartedly, ever character worth their salt is flawed and working out those flaws through things that happen in the book. At the end, they should reach some major personal growth.

Oh, and congrats on your own personal growth! :-) Not to mention that fabulous progress on your revisions up there on your word count widget. When do I get to read the rewrite?

Terri Tiffany said...

I've never read about this shift before but I went YAY cause I am doing that with my MC.

Jessica said...

Hi mom,
The transformation a character goes through is usually called the character arc. But I almost think it could be called this too.
I may have been wrong about you. Extroverts are energized by socialization. Introverts get tired by it. :-)
So it's possible to be an out-going introvert, I think. LOL

Jessica said...

Hi Katie,
I've actually never heard of the character's growth referred to a paradigm shift. I could be wrong to use it that way, but right now it seems to fit. *grin*
The word I hear most often is character arc. :-)

Jessica said...

Anita!!! YOu're back. :-) No, you weren't the friend. It was the one I just went to the movies with. She's so outgoing I've just always felt comfortable around her and that's why I was shocked when she said she thought I was out-going. LOL

You're right. A non-writer would not like to spend their life immersed in writing a book. :-)

Jessica said...

Hi Terri,
Good for you! A static character is no fun. I'm not surprised that you're already doing it. :-)

Eileen Astels Watson said...

This made me think of the spiritual thread in a romance. When one of the character's faith really shifts into acceptance of God or a definite growth in their faith.

See, you never cease to amaze me with how you get me thinking!!

Can't wait to meet this introvert gone extrovert or semi-extrovert at ACFW!!!!!

Jessica said...

Hahaaa! Well, I can't guarantee I'll be outgoing there. Maybe though, because I'm equally excited to meet you! :-)

Yes, the spiritual thread, imo, is SO important.

quixotic said...

Thanks for adding some clarification Jessica!

Danyelle said...

For me, the paradigm shift is important in the character arc. It changes the way they see themselves and their place in the world.

Re your question, all the time. :D One is never to old to have their paradigm shift. :D

Cindy said...

What an interesting post. I love reading about this kind of shift in a main character. I am struggling with this in my WIP right now. I know the place I want my MC to end up, but getting her there too quickly makes the shift less believable. I am having to be as patient with her as the other characters in the book :D

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Really great post, Jessica! I am also a person who would consider myself an introvert, and yet love those times when I can get out and socialize (especially now that I have a toddler!).

I think those paradigm shifts are important to a character's arc, if by the end of a story the character doesn't come to see themselves or life in a slightly different way then what was the story really about?

Warren Baldwin said...

We can change our mood, atttitude or even perception of ourselves just by the words we use. Its called neuro-linguistic programing.

Next time you are angry, instead of saying "I'm mad" say "I'm agitated" and see how you come down a notch or two. Then say "I'm energized" and see if that doesn't change your mood even more. Say it with conviction for it to work.

Irritable Mother said...

YES!!!
I used to think I could be a perfect mother. Thought I had all the answers to all the questions and would raise my children with relative ease.
Then I had them.
And, believe me, my paradigm shifted.
BIG TIME!!!
*grin*

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jess -

I think characters need paradigm shifts in the way the view their relationships. They may gain an appreciation for a prickly inlaw or realize a grouchy old man is really a sweetheart underneath that exterior.

It's amazing how putting I Corinth. 13 (the love chapter) into practice will change your views of others and their view of you.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

I've been having my own shift lately. Does my book suck or not? My own opinion keeps changing. lol.

Pen Pen said...

I actually had the opposite situation happen to me! I used to think I was an extrovert cuz I was out and about and loud--but-I took my Meyers Briggs Personality test, and it says I'm an introvert. That made me think. I looked back at my life. When I moved in 5th grade to a new school, it was difficult for me to make new friends cuz I had never had to-I grew up with all my friends from the other town. So- I had to PUSH myself to BE interesting-funny-charismatic-loud. I'm not really sure I would be so outgoing now if I hadn't learned HOW to be when I was put in that situation. The kids in my new school had ALL grown up together too, so I had to be OVERLY interesting to break into the group in a way. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone I think. I still get nervous and worn out when I'm out with friends, and I'd rather just sit and chat or bake with my best friend really. It was very difficult for me to say I was an introvert at all...I think it's made me more comfortable with being shy and stuff tho--I can be honest with people and tell them I'm ready to leave and go home and NO I don't want to drive to another city TONIGHT! I'm an introvert who can be extroverted when I HAVE to!! :)

I think that most of my characters have their shifts near the climax of the story. I like when it happens that way--You get the character "shift" climax as well as the story one--so it's a double scoop(that's ALWAYS good!).
I'm so glad u mentioned this topic tho- I hadn't actually heard of the term before, but now I can identify it and check that it's fully formed! Many THANKS for that!!
:)

Angie Ledbetter said...

Nice post. I've had a few of epiphanies myself. Not always pleasant, are they?

Jessica said...

LOL Danyelle,
No, we're never too old for that. :-)

Jessica said...

HI Cindy,
I like that you're working on making your mc's shift believable. A good book can be ruined by a too quick turnaround. :-)

Jessica said...

Kate,
It definitely is the kiddos. When I worked I didn't need to get out because I was around people all day. I valued my quiet when I got home. But now I'm home all day so to get out with real, live adults is a treat! LOL

I love, love what you said in your last line. You are completely right.

Jessica said...

Warren,
What an interesting concept! The next time one of my kids make me mad, I'm going to say, "I'm a trifle annoyed."
LOL! I totally believe this would work.

Jessica said...

Haaahaaa! Karen, your so funny! But then your paradigm changed again when you realized you didn't have to be perfect. :-)

Jessica said...

Hi Susan,
I agree. Seeing others with love can completely change how we behave.

Jessica said...

LOL Karen,
That's always happening to me. So annoying. :-)

Jessica said...

Hi Pen Pen,
That's so interesting. A secret introvert. :-) I hear you on the new schools, I went to several but I never got the hang of being interesting. :-)

Jessica said...

LOL Angie!
No, they're not always so pleasant.