There's something fascinating about watching a character change through the course of a story.
In good fiction, this happens between the beginning and the end of a novel. However, I find that I'm especially intrigued by series transformations, so I'd like to talk about that. It's difficult to give one character an arc that extends through a series of books (I know; I'm still working on it here). But I believe that it's ultimately the most rewarding experience a writer can have.
Allow me to give you an example of one of my favorite character transformations. This may seem irrelevent, but trust me, it's not. This particular character exists in a Japanese anime series (graphic novel and television cartoon form). The series is called Dragonball Z, and the character's name is Vegeta.
If you're familiar with Dragonball Z, I'm sure you know where I'm going with this.
In the beginning of the series, Vegeta is a bad guy. Okay, he's a bastard. His number one goal (main stakes) is to basically rule the universe and prove that he's the most powerful warrior alive. He is a prince, after all, and must be the best. But his secondary goal is tailored uniquely to him (personal stakes): destroying Goku, who is the hero of the series and whose goal is to save the universe from people like Vegeta. Vegeta feels that Goku's very existence is an insult to him. Unfortunately, being the hero, Goku (who is not a prince; is, in fact, the lowest of commoners) is stronger than Vegeta. Much rankling of pride ensues.
(Bet you didn't think a cartoon series could have this much depth, huh?)
Anyway. Throughout the course of the series, a lot of horrible things happen to Vegeta - mostly as a result of his pride and stubborn refusal to let anyone help him. He dies at least three times (in Dragonball Z-world, people can be brought back to life . . . don't ask. It's a long story.). His death is more traumatic each time, because he is slowly learning to care about people other than himself.
By the time the series reaches Vegeta's third death, he has become something else. He dies by blowing himself up in order to kill an enemy who is stronger than him, in an effort to save the universe (main stakes) - especially his son (personal stakes). And in the final confrontation between Goku and the last big bad guy, (Vegeta's been resurrected again at this point) Vegeta makes it possible for the universe to be saved by letting the bad guy beat the crap out of him as a distraction, to give Goku time to gather enough energy to kill him once and for all.
This type of transformative character arc can move readers to tears (yes, I did cry when Vegeta died). It is among the most powerful tools in a writer's box.
I've attempted to create a series arc for two of my main characters, and have come to realize that I've borrowed elements from this series. One of them (Gabriel), like Goku, is slowly shedding the part of his innocence that allows other people to hurt him; the other (Jenner), like Vegeta, is slowly learning that pride does not have to prevent him from caring about other people. At least a little.
I still have two more installments to go. Hopefully, I can maintain my character arcs and make people cry at the end.