There are two types of change in a story: a character wants to make a change or is trying to stop change from happening.
If they are trying to make a change, it is often something in their own life: a new job, a new relationship, a new life. They’ve probably wanted it for a long time, but either fear or a lack of direction held them back.
Or they want to make a more significant change: an institution: a government, a workplace, an education system.
But wanting change can also be minor and within, like wishing for a better version of themselves.
The other type of change happens to the character, often in the environment them, and they seek to stop it.
Perhaps the evil empire is taking over, the psychotic killer is murdering their friends, or the world is progressing in social, political, or technological ways, and they want to keep things as they were.
Or can be happening to their body—disease, old age, or uncontrollable emotions.
Both versions of change can be either positive or negative. Sometimes we need to embrace change, but it can be destructive and must be stopped.
Identifying the change in your story links you to your characters’ wants and the central tension and reveals the theme. How your characters relate to change and how they manage it or enforce it all indicate what your story is about.
So spend the time to identify where change is in your story. It is a clear signpost of your character’s want, the central tension, and the theme.