Fiction University: Grow Up Already: Creating Character Arcs

Fiction University: Grow Up Already: Creating Character Arcs

Fiction University: Grow Up Already: Creating Character Arcs Grow Up Already Creating Character ArcsBy Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

A robust character arc will weave its approach by way of the turning factors of the plot.

A personality arc is the inner wrestle and progress a personality goes by way of over the course of a novel that modifications them in a roundabout way. It’s often linked to the inner battle in order that what they do (the plot) forces modifications in who they’re (the character arc).

It can typically be confused with character motivations (a personality worries over one thing in order that they act to forestall that one thing) however why a personality acts is completely different from how they modify due to their actions. Motivation drives the actions. Growth is the results of the actions.

But ought to the author know the place the character is heading/motives earlier than the primary draft? Is it unhealthy should you don’t?”

Heck no.

For loads of writers, that journey is the rationale they write the guide within the first place. I could know my plot inside and outside earlier than I write a primary draft, however that draft is after I discover out who my characters actually are. My second draft fills within the motivational gaps and fleshes out the character development.

That mentioned, it is just a little simpler when you’ve got an inkling of the place you wish to go, since you’ll have some route and will not simply write willy nilly. (There’s nothing fallacious with willy nilly, it is not for everybody).

For instance, your story theme would possibly inform you your protagonist must study the that means of affection, or that revenge is finest served chilly, or that puppies make life higher, and this allows you to know your character arc will in some way finish with that lesson discovered. You might not know the trail of that journey, however you may head in the fitting route to get there.

I would suggest determining why the protagonist needs what he needs, as a result of that may enable you to perceive what’s at stake. A narrative with no stakes is a fairly boring story, even when it is stuffed with thrilling scenes. If there’s nothing to lose, there’s little enjoyable in seeing if a personality wins. If the one purpose your protagonist is appearing is since you informed him to, there is a good likelihood you may hit that wall round web page 100 and never know what occurs subsequent.

Character arcs can take many varieties.

Some of us plot them out and know each step a personality must take to succeed in the arc ending, others let their characters run and see the place they go. Both are acceptable methods to do it.

Here are some issues to think about when creating a personality arc:

1. Where would you like the character to finish up?

Most novels finish with the protagonist present process some form of development, however not each protagonist must develop. Characters in a sequence usually maintain the protagonist as is, because the enjoyment is coming again to an outdated buddy. 

Even in a sequence I nonetheless suppose it is a good suggestion to have some development. Watching a personality make the identical errors on a regular basis will get outdated quick and so they lose all credibility. But if the entire level of the guide is to point out the protagonist altering, then understanding that change will assist get you there.

2. How a lot does the character have to undergo to attain this transformation?

Nobody modifications only for the enjoyable of it. Something made them reevaluate their conduct and so they realized they wanted to make a change or else. Sometimes the struggling is minor if the change is small, like realizing they may very well be a bit extra well mannered when coping with co-workers. But for actual change you want actual incentives. So in case your protagonist goes to evolve in a serious approach, the occasions that pressured that change are prone to be equally main.

(Here’s more with The Catalyst for Character Change: The Dark Night of the Soul)

3. Who or what brings about that change?

This helps a lot in the plotting department. Character arcs often show the protagonist exhibiting the behavior that needs to change and it turns out badly for them. Eventually, they’ll do the right thing and be rewarded. They don’t do this on their own, though—someone or something forces that change and makes the character take a hard look at themselves and their life.

(Here’s more with The Wheels of (Character) Change)

4. Change works both ways.

Negative reinforcement might gain positive results, but bad things can also push your protagonist away from the change they need to undergo. It’s often the Dark Moment event, where they feel defeated and wonder if it’s all worth it. There might be some bad times ahead before that change occurs.

(Here’s more with The Inner Struggle: Guides for Using Internal Conflict That Make Sense)

5. Not all growth is good growth.

The character usually exhibits the behavior that needs changing and it turns out badly for them early on in the novel. Eventually, they’ll behave the right way and be rewarded. Typically, this takes many small steps in a longer process to make the character take a hard look at themselves and their life. Identify the clear path (even if there are setbacks) between the beginning and the end of the novel. (Here’s more with What “The Profit” Can Teach Us About Characters and Change)  

6. How does the change reflect your premise or theme?

Odds are the arc is going to connect to the theme or premise, since character growth is a common vehicle for illustrating theme. Look at what the story is about on a more conceptual level, and if the character arc can help illustrate that idea. Pinpoint where the character arc illustrates the theme.Once you understand these elements, you can spread them out over the novel so the arc, well, arcs. Look for the moments when:

The protagonist’s flaw is established: This is usually seen in the opening scene or first few chapters.

The protagonist makes their first mistake: This usually happens on or around the inciting event, and might even cause the event.

The attempt to grow fails: The first attempt to change usually doesn’t go well, and is often seen around the end of Act One when the plot problems start putting pressure on the protagonist.

The protagonist is blindsided by weakness: It’s common for the flaw or weakness to cause unexpected failure, often around the midpoint of the novel. It’s a moment when the character is surprised or caught off guard because of their flaw.

The protagonist has a major screw-up or rejects the growth: This usually triggers the classic Dark Moment of the Soul just before the climax (Act Three) starts, and it’s the personal demon the protagonist must face in order to move forward. 

The protagonist realizes they’ve grown: This is the culmination of everything they’ve learned and experienced over the course of the novel, and the result of the soul searching they did during their Dark Moment.

(Here’s more with Making Sense Out of Character Wants and Needs)  

Nothing  says you have to know all of these things going in. You don’t even have to do all of them, but they should get you started thinking about how your character arcs can help you plot. These are the whys that make those whats happen.  

Do you know your character arcs before you start writing? 

*Originally published January 2011. Last updated May 2023.

Find out more about characters and point of view in my book,
Fixing Your Character & Point-of-View Problems.

Fiction University: Grow Up Already: Creating Character Arcs
step-by-step by way of revising character and character-related points,
reminiscent of two-dimensional characters, inconsistent factors of view,
too-much backstory, stale dialogue, didactic internalization, and lack
of voice. Learn how you can analyze your draft, spot any issues or weak
areas, and repair these issues.

With clear and easy-to-understand examples, Fixing Your Character & Point-of-View Problems presents 5 self-guided workshops that focus on the frequent points that make readers cease studying. It will enable you to:

  • Flesh out weak characters and construct robust character arcs
  • Find the correct amount of backstory to boost, not bathroom down, your story
  • Determine one of the best level(s) of view and how you can use them to your benefit
  • Eliminate empty dialogue and rambling internalization
  • Develop character voices and craft distinctive, particular person characters 

Fixing Your Character & Point-of-View Problems begins
each workshop with an evaluation to pinpoint downside areas and presents
a number of revision choices in every space. You select the choices that finest
suit your writing course of. It’s an easy-to-follow information to crafting
compelling characters, stable factors of view, and powerful character voices
readers will love.

Available in paperback and e book codecs.

Fiction University: Grow Up Already: Creating Character Arcs Janice+Hardy+RGB+72Janice Hardy is the award-winning creator of the teenager fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, together with The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The Shifter, was chosen for the 2014 record of “Ten Books All Young Georgians Should Read” from the Georgia Center for the Book.

She additionally writes the Grace Harper urban fantasy series for adults below the title, J.T. Hardy.

she’s not writing novels, she’s educating different writers how you can enhance
their craft. She’s the founding father of Fiction University and has written
a number of books on writing.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound

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