When Your Character Is Really Ready For Change

Is your character stuck?

It doesn’t make sense. The character has supportive friends and family. The environment is nurturing and providing opportunity. No nemesis stands in the character’s way.

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Yet your character doesn’t budge.

So why is your written paradise not enough?

You recognize that your character needs to change. Even those close to the character see the problem.

But does your character get it?

Other players in your story can shout about it, spell it out, and even try dragging your character towards the solution, but it’s no use.

The horse isn’t going to drink the water.

If you want your character to change, your character must want it too. S/he needs to recognize that there is a problem and is ready to tackle it.

But when does that happen?

Meet the Four Stages of Competence. This four-phase process shows our evolving learning process, from denial to determination.

So at which stage does your character choose to linger?

Unconscious Incompetence

I don’t know what I don’t know

Your character doesn’t know how to do something, be it a skill or facing an emotion. S/he doesn’t even recognize that a change is needed.

Denial is your character’s middle name, especially when s/he recognizes the incompetence yet doesn’t want to change. Your character will resist, even if others present indisputable arguments in favor of change.

Your character may be in this stage forever—or what seems like forever. Only when the character desires to change does s/he leave this stage.

Conscious Incompetence

I know there’s something I don’t know

Hooray! Your character (finally) recognizes that it’s time to change and actually wants to change.

But it’s another battle now. Mistakes will be made. Insecurities may arise. Frustration replaces denial.

Your character’s patience and determination in mastering this skill determines how long this stage lasts.

Conscious Competence

I make the effort to do something a certain way

Your character crosses the finish line. S/he is now a master of the skill.

Well, almost.

Your character can perform the skill—with headache-inducing concentration. Your character may even reference written-out steps.

Don’t worry. This stage will fade as your character practices the skill.

Unconscious Competence

I automatically do something a certain way

This skill is no sweat to your character. It’s second nature. It can be done in your character’s sleep.

You’ll really know when your character reached this stage when the skill is in his/her multi-tasking shuffle. Your character probably can teach it too.

Truth is that the story is probably over long before your character reaches Unconscious Competence mastery. But knowing where and why your character is stuck is half the battle.

So what situation would get your character to get it? What needs to happen externally and internally for your character to recognize the problem and want to seek a solution? Journal about it.

Once you locate the knot in your story, you can untangle it.

Why is your character stuck? Share your story below.


  1. This is fortuitous timing. I have a character who is about to make a major change… she is literally forced to through a life and death circumstance. She should have done it already, though. These are good points to keep in mind as I finish this pivotal chapter and find the right measure of growth for her.

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