3 Tricks to Justifiably Explain a Character’s Sudden Change in Personality

Sometimes, writers get the urge to do something radically different with a character. Perhaps a narrative arc requires it, or it could be as simple as wanting to inject new life into your story. When changing a character’s personality, do so in a manner fitting with the fictional world that you have already established. Consider drawing on the common events found in daily life to make a character’s shift in personality believable to your readers.

Loss

In both fiction and real life, the loss of a loved one brings about unforeseen changes. For children, whose personalities are not yet fully formed, the loss of a parent can, and often will, trigger profound changes. Older people may find their temperaments changing as they work their way through the stages of grief. Some never get to acceptance, and the resulting hurt and pain can turn some people’s personalities inside out. Keep in mind that individuals react to loss in different ways. Some become melancholy and brooding, but denial is also common. Thus, you may find a character turning into an extrovert in an attempt to deny their grief. Loss causes unpredictable reactions.

Injury

Injury is another event that may change a person. Even a fairly common car crash can cause personality and mood changes. A traumatic injury affects the body, but it may also affect the mind. Brain injuries are notorious for causing sudden and profound changes. Physical damage to one or more areas of the brain is but one cause. Even in the absence of physical trauma, side effects like depression are not unusual. Other changes may include self-absorption or a lack of impulse control.

Stress

A growing body of research suggests that on-going stress can have multiple effects on people, including personality changes. While we all have had an occasional stressful day, unrelenting stress affects moods and behavior. As with loss, sometimes attempts to come to grips with only the symptoms of stress can result in the underlying cause going unaddressed. Attempts to downplay irritability and depression may precipitate personality changes.

Some of these personality changes may seem undesirable because, in real life, they frequently are viewed as negative. Still, there is an upside; sudden personality changes may be jarring, but they are often just the signposts of a larger journey to a better place. When taking the long view of a character’s evolution, let personality changes chart a path of growth.

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How to Write Court Cases: Plea Bargains

When you are writing any story involving a court case, especially a criminal case, it is enhanced by including a drama between the prosecutor and defense attorney called plea bargaining. This is high stakes poker in the legal profession. It pits lawyer against lawyer, hiding and showing their hands to get the best deal they can.

What Is a Plea Bargain?

Less than 10% of criminal cases go to trial. The others are either dropped or negotiated. This process of negotiating, plea bargaining, is so prevalent—and controversial—in the judicial system, portraying it accurately and realistically is almost mandatory to a story’s credibility.

A plea deal is the outcome of a prosecutor and the defense attorney bargaining for a reduced charge or reduced sentence in exchange for a guilty plea and no trial. There are as many reasons for a defendant to plead guilty as there are defendants. Usually, the reasons for a prosecutor are more mundane. Dockets are overwhelmed, budgets are tight, and sometimes victims are ready for it to all be over.

The Timing of the Offer

The circumstances under which a lawyer offers a plea bargain may be determined by the perceived strength of the case and the most likely projected outcome. Negotiations usually take place after the evidence is collected and the theories of the case are developed. Maybe the evidence isn’t as strong as the prosecutor would like to ensure a conviction at trial. No reason to show that card yet, though. Overcharging for the actual crime committed is a tool to threaten the defendant and extract a guilty plea. Is this abuse? The defense lawyer would say so—if the truth was known. Convictions are notches in an ambitious prosecutor’s belt. Plea bargaining adds those notches more quickly. But hast leads to lazy investigations, wrongful convictions, and letting the real criminals remain free.

The Plea Is the Story

Describing the plea bargain can develop characters through showing not telling. Not all defense lawyers are altruistic defenders of the accused. Not all prosecutors see doing justice as anything more than eradicating vermin. Expedience then becomes the better part of discretion.

Including the plea bargain in the story’s writing with its ins and outs, its “what ifs” of possible trade-offs, exposes not only the personalities of the actors—it also tells the story.

Writing court cases may seem intimidating at first, especially plea bargains. However, if you are able to understand the ins and outs of the legal process, then you will be able to write a compelling story. Also, don’t be afraid to dive into the gritty details, even if things don’t seem so black-and-white afterward.

Looking for more advice on how to write legal documents? Check out: What to Know About Writing Trials