I recently read Ellen Raskin's fabulous, Newbery Award-winning YA novel The Westing Game, about an eccentric millionaire, Samuel W. Westing, whose heirs are forced to compete for millions of dollars by following clues and solving puzzles to determine the identity of Westing's murderer. Complicating matters, the heirs all live in the same apartment building, and they're paired up with the least likely people as teammates in the game.
Bonus material (yay!) at the end of the book included an interview with the author.
She was asked about character arcs in children's literature, and she replied: "I'm not the type of writer who wants her characters to grow and develop and change... Children know change, they're changing every day. My attitude toward my characters in my book is to try to describe my characters in one way, a way that children might say, 'Oh, I don't like that one.'... and just when the children know them better, through their actions... to have the readers change the opinion of these characters, rather than have the characters in the book change..."
Her response fascinated me, because I'd had that exact experience while reading The Westing Game. Characters I didn't initially like, or assumed were a certain way, turned out to be completely different than I predicted, but they didn't really change; it was only my perception as a reader that changed.
For those who write MG or YA novels, do your characters grow in the course of the story, or does the reader's interpretation of them simply change?
I think there are merits to both, though I personally tend toward the former. I like to see a concrete difference in my main character from the first page to the last, but I also like Ellen Raskin's idea -- particularly in mysteries -- of holding back information and allowing that to color the reader's assumptions.
To hear more from Raskin (er, literally) here's the complete audio.
Also, next Thursday at 1pm EST, my agent Sara Megibow is hosting a live webinar all about opening pages and how important they are in catching the attention of an agent or editor. She'll be offering a free read of the first 3 pages of each novel for the participants. If you're at the querying stage, this is a great opportunity to get feedback and will be worth every penny.