Thursday, November 17, 2011


One of the most powerful kinds of stories to write is a redemption story, where a villainous or selfish or cowardly character makes good, makes amends, changes for the better.

A Tale of Two Cities is a well-known example of this, with Sydney Carton delivering the ultimate lines for such a character: "'It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done ...'" Which sums up the redemption story in a nutshell. But it can be even more powerful when the character doesn't die, but sustains that character growth for the remainder of his life (a la Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. Hm, more Dickens!)

The challenge in a redemption storyline is to make the transformation believable. Either the character has always shown seeds of salvageability, or the transformative event is sufficiently powerful, that we can buy into the kind of fundamental shift that we rarely see in real life. When it works, this can be a compelling, hard-hitting story. But it's tricky to pull off, because it means aiming very high.

Have you ever wanted to write such a story, or have you read a good redemption story?


  1. I finished a novel where one of the MCs had a storyline similar to redemption; he was still a bit on the dark side by the end, though, so it wasn't complete.

    One of my favorite redemption stories is Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer.

  2. Can't think of any off the top of my head this morning, but you're right. Pulling off a believable redemption takes skill.

  3. Thanks for contributing, Golden Eagle and Angelina!