Character growth in 4 minutes, 44 seconds

Character growth is one of those nebulous concepts that writers seem to struggle with, yet it’s necessary for those of us writing character-driven fiction like romance. It occurred to me in the car the other day while I was listening to music that songs are often a great peek at character growth and it happens in a matter of minutes whereas it can be far more subtle in books. Here’s a great example:

“Stay” by Sugarland

I’ve been sitting here staring at the clock on the wall
And I’ve been laying here praying, praying she won’t call
It’s just another call from home
And you’ll get it and be gone
And I’ll be crying

And I’ll be begging you, baby
Beg you not to leave
But I’ll be left here waiting
With my Heart on my sleeve
Oh, for the next time we’ll be here
Seems like a million years
And I think I’m dying

What do I have to do to make you see
She can’t love you like me?

Why don’t you stay
I’m down on my knees
I’m so tired of being lonely
Don’t I give you what you need
When she calls you to go
There is one thing you should know
We don’t have to live this way
Baby, why don’t you stay

You keep telling me, baby
There will come a time
When you will leave her arms
And forever be in mine
But I don’t think that’s the truth
And I don’t like being used and I’m tired of waiting
It’s too much pain to have to bear
To love a man you have to share

Why don’t you stay
I’m down on my knees
I’m so tired of being lonely
Don’t I give you what you need
When she calls you to go
There is one thing you should know
We don’t have to live this way
Baby, why don’t you stay

I can’t take it any longer
But my will is getting stronger
And I think I know just what I have to do
I can’t waste another minute
After all that I’ve put in it
I’ve given you my best
Why does she get the best of you
So next time you find you wanna leave her bed for mine

Why don’t you stay
I’m up off my knees
I’m so tired of being lonely
You can’t give me what I need
When she begs you not to go
There is one thing you should know
I don’t have to live this way
Baby, why don’t you stay, yeah

 
We start the song with the “other woman.” The woman a married man is obviously having an affair with. It’s safe for us to assume the affair has been going on a while and the man has made promises to his mistress, promises no doubt that include him leaving his wife for her. Yet that doesn’t happen. The mistress is distraught, she loves him, he says he loves her, yet he keeps returning home to his wife. She begs him to stay with her, but again and again he returns to his wife. Finally though the mistress comes to her senses, she realizes that she’s been doing everything she can to keep a man that clearly has no intentions of ever staying forever. She acknowledges that she deserves more, that she wants more, that he can no longer give her what she needs/wants. So she ultimately gets up off her knees, stops begging and tells him to stay with his wife. In a little over 4 1/2 minutes we have a “character” grow and change and end up a better person. That’s character growth or a character arc, if you will. 
  • http://www.RakesRoguesandRomance.com NancyS.Goodman

    This is great Robyn, Thanks for this. Tweeted

  • Sabrina Shields (@SabrinaShields)

    An easy yet excellent example!