Characters are the meat of the story and can either make or break a book. Some become favorites and hit it right off with us from the start, and then there are others we never forgive for existing. Still, the most memorable characters are those whose flaws we despise at the beginning and end up loving as we watch them grow and learn and be proud of how far they’ve come throughout the story.
To prove a good story begins and ends with infectious characters — here are five authors who have nailed the skill of character development.
Leigh Bardugo, Shadow and Bone
If there ever existed a reward for character development, Leigh Bardugo would definitely be in the running for it. Alina, in Shadow and Bones, is not much fun to read; she was annoying and whined throughout the entire book and made stupid decisions. But when Alina makes her comeback in Siege and Storm, the amount of character development she underwent totally changed the tune of the story. She was emotionally strong, stopped her complaining, and did what was needed to be done. She even stood up for what she wanted rather than go with the wishes of other characters.
The same was the case for Mal; in the first book, there was no spark to him, he was simply boring. But in the second there was a certain growth to his persona — he matured and understood Alina’s decisions and made contributions to her plan. Even his hunting abilities became an interesting plot point further in the story. Though he was still annoying, he became much more bearable than he was in Shadow and Bones.
L.J Smith, The Hunter
This book contains perhaps one of the most pleasant character developments in YA, at the start of The Hunter, Jenny was an over-caring girlfriend, who depended too much on her boyfriend Tom and in turn, he was tired and bored of her. But when she plays the game, with each level she discovers her inner strength, and by the end, not only Jenny but the readers also realize her growth. She becomes independent and gains the confidence to face Julian and his challenges and does everything to save herself and her friends.
Victoria Schwab, Vicious
Vicious opens from Victor’s point of view and immediately we know him as the antihero, and Eli, smart and religious, is portrayed as the golden boy by him. This led readers to believe that Eli would stop Victor’s evil ways in the future, although Victor points out on various occasions the darkness that hides inside Eli and rarely comes out. It’s this sort of wily manner that no one suspects — no one perceives Eli will go the full psycho route after Victor accidentally kills his girlfriend. He starts executing Eos in his twisted form of justice. Schwab handled her character shifts so brilliantly because, in his mind, Eli believes he’s doing the right thing — the mind becomes a fabulous contraption. It’s this moral struggle that makes his character all the more disturbing.
Jennifer N. Nielsen, The False Prince
Sage begins as rebellious troublemaker whose reckless behavior puts him in mortal danger many times. But toward the conclusion, and in the second installment of Nielsen’s series, considerable improvement is seen on his part. Sage realizes his flaws and becomes more responsible for his duties. Although he still remains a bit reckless and wild, his character gains a certain weight when he becomes king and tries to save his country from various threats.
Dianna Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle
At the start of Howl’s Moving Castle, Sophie Hatter is shown as a timid girl who doesn’t stick up for herself even though she knows people take advantage of her, causing her to believe she’s destined to fail. But after she transforms into an old woman, Sophie fully indulges the privileges of old age — ordering around people, whacking people with her stick. And throughout the book, she discovers her hidden power and finds the courage to face the Witch of the Waste by herself even though she was scared stiff of her. She even lifts the old age spell by herself without any help from Howl and saves him instead.