Thanks for the input, everyone.
Sorry for any confusion as to what I meant by "Character Development". I meant it in the context of "Definition A"
What prompted my musing was the number of "Writer's Advice" books and sites that deem it important to decide in advance
what your character is like before the events and how they've changed afterwards.
From what's been said above, I guess those who give that advice prefer a more "character-driven" plot where the important thing is the change in the character and will ensure the events occur in such a way as to effect that change.
Personally, I've never thought along lines of "I want to have a story in which an insecure person learns to trust his own abilities and becomes more confident".
I tend to think more in terms of "I want a story in which these events take place" and, for me, any character development that occurs comes out of the characters interacting with those events.
If a character is already self-reliant and determined and resolving/surviving the conflict is a matter of self-reliance and determination, then (s)he's not going to "develop" a lot. The reader may learn more
about the depth of that character's resolve (and possibly why) and see exactly how tough they can be when the chips are down, but it's not going to be a "dormouse finds the strength to take on a lion" thing and I don't see any need to deliberately make the character a "wimp" just so they have "more to overcome".
If, however, the events push a character into doing something major - for example they have to take a life to save themselves or a loved one - then obviously it's going to have a profound impact on them and change them in interesting ways.
It seems to me that "the character must overcome some personal flaw by the final curtain" has become something of a cliché. Hollywood seems to love it:
OK, there's a major natural disaster and we're going to follow the survivors as they manage to avoid death. But that's not angsty enough so let's have the protagonist and his son estranged from one another and by the end of it they've gained respect for one another through their shared ideal - because nothing heightens tension more than two men squabbling like two-year-olds while death is bearing down on them. Cool, now add the obligatory wangsting over "I can't do it, I'm too scared!"/"But you must or you'll die". And Presto! Not only do they all survive but they're better people for it, too. They've got no home and their neighbours are rapidly attracting blow-flies but that's all right because they're reconciled and phobia-free.
It's like they treat the types of dramatic conflict like a check list rather than a guide. "Person vs Elements - check. Person vs Person - check. Person vs self - check..."
edited 25th May '11 4:27:44 AM by Wolf1066