Martha Beck (life coach) wrote a book (The Four Day Win, 2007) and dug into the world of science and looked into data from social sciences to discover the process people go through when changing their lives. She uncovered the Transtheoretical Mode of Change, which is pretty damn handy when writing a book, to make sure you have believable character transformation.
Character transformation is an essential part of a page turner book. It doesn’t matter how many near death events your main character faces if they don’t affect him in any way. Your characters live through horrors and happiness. They experience every obstacle the writer throws at them. Event affect us, and so, they affect characters too. In the simple terms of Darwin, survival of the fittest, it’s all about adaptation. Your odds of survival increase greatly if you adapt to your new circumstances.
The 7 phases of character transformation
Phase 1 – Precontemplation
At the start of the story, the character has no intention of changing. He is set in his daily life, his basic routines with set expectations on how life continues.
Phase 2 – Contemplation
The protagonist has to think about changing. Something happens which makes him think.
Phase 3 – Preparation
There hasn’t been any changes yet but we can see them coming. He is stepping out of his routines, doing things he wouldn’t normally have done.
Phase 4 – Action
The protagonist makes the change which starts off a chain reaction of consequences.
Phase 5 – Maintenance
The protagonist reaches his goal, all is well.
Phase 6 – Relapse
The past comes back to haunt him. He falls back into old routines when he is overwhelmed and everything starts to go wrong. The protagonist will start to wonder if the change was ever real or whether he is just faking his way through.
Phase 7 – Termination
He is truly transformed after all. With renewed motivation and determination, the protagonist sticks to the new way of life and make it his own. He is now a person with different thoughts, actions and emotions. He holds on to his goal.