Change is the heart of every story because the hero often resists change so there’s conflict. Without change, you likely have nothing but empty conflict. Just watch any bad James Bond movie (such as “A View to a Kill”) and you’ll see that James Bond doesn’t change one bit from start to finish. Therefore he has no internal, emotional conflict so all the conflict is nothing more than special effects, explosions, car crashes, and gunfire. All superficial conflict that ultimately means nothing.
When you don’t have change, you have a weak story. When you have massive change where not only your hero changes but all the supporting characters around him or her, then you create a far more emotionally satisfying story.
Compare two children’s movies, “Ferdinand” and “Paddington 2.” “Ferdinand” is the story of a bull who likes to smell flowers but is forced into fighting in a bull ring. It’s not a bad story but there’s really not much change. Ferdinand, the hero, simply wants to smell flowers and not fight. That’s his character from the start and that’s how he stays through the end. The main conflict is he’s pressured to fight because once inside the bull ring, he either has a choice of fighting with a chance to survive, or not fighting and guarantee he might die. When Ferdinand chooses not to fight, it makes a strong statement, but there’s little change because he was like that all along.
Even worse, none of the supporting characters in “Ferdinand” have a goal or change in any way. Ideally, every supporting character should change at the same time the hero changes. In “Star Wars,” Hans Solo finally changes by not being selfish and coming back to shoot down Darth Vader’s TIE fighter escorts so Luke can blow up the Death Star. In “Ferdinand,” one group of supporting characters are the other bulls. The other supporting characters are hedgehogs. A third supporting character is a goat. A fourth group of supporting characters are the farmer and his daughter who adopt Ferdinand. Yet absolutely none of them have goals of their own so they don’t change in any way.
In “Ferdinand,” every character is the same from start to finish, which creates a static story.
Now “Paddington 2” is different. The hero, Paddington the bear, does remain the same from start to finish, but his actions change all the supporting characters around him. First, he helps change the son and daughter in his adopted family. Second, Paddington helps change a group of prisoners who help him escape. Because Paddington’s actions help the supporting characters change, the story feels more emotionally satisfying at the end.
In comparison, “Ferdinand” is emotionally flatter and less engaging. “Paddington 2” is uplifting and emotionally satisfying. “Ferdinand” is not as satisfying emotionally and that’s because none of the major characters change at all. “Paddington 2” is fun and enjoyable because so many characters change through Paddington’s actions.
So the lesson is that you want as many supporting characters to change as possible. The more characters change, the stronger your story can be.