Creating a character arc

I’ve written numerous times about characters – developing them, naming them and pretty much every aspect about developing what typically drives your story. But I realized I had forgotten one thing – the character arc.

Oh, I’ve written about the story arc which is what happens overall to all the characters in your novel. Now don’t confuse this with the plot which is individual events that make up your story. The story arc is the sequence of those events. You can read my post on story arcs here.

The story arc is what happens to all characters while the character arc is an internal journey of just one person. It usually involves a character overcoming an obstacle and changing the way they see the world. Due to developments in the story, they change into a different sort of person. While you only have one story arc, you can have multiple character arcs per book. In fact, every character in your book could have an arc though readers may never see the arc of minor characters.

Here are some of the steps that typically show up in the character arc.

  1. Introduction – This is where your reader first meets the character and finds out about their normal life.
  2. Inciting Incident – This is the event that happens to alter your character’s life. Someone could enter their life and disrupts the status quo. Or perhaps they are forced to flee their home. This incident is the beginning of what will change them.
  3. Challenges – Incidents in the story will test the character. It will show their strengths and weakness. The character may start to change his beliefs and actions. He or she may already be changing but not realize it.
  4. Realization – At some point, your character may realize he has changed and realize he needs to embrace the change. He may have to face the truths he hasn’t been able to face.
  5. Moment of Arrival – This where the character must be honest and embrace that change. This is the final push where they have “arrived”.  
  6. Resolution – The character has transformed. They see the world differently now.

Now your character’s arc may not go exactly like this. It may speed through sections or stay longer in others. They may not have a big revelation of their change. It could all be subtle and internal. But the main thing is that your character must change. They must grow and be different than they were at the beginning of your story.

You can check out some compelling character arcs on this blog.

Recipe of the Month – Fluffy Strawberry Cheesecake Mousse

Springtime is almost upon us. I was looking for a nice spring dessert, and found this one on a website called Tater Tots and Jello. I love strawberries and cheesecake. And these desserts look so good. Now I haven’t tried it yet. Maybe next week during Spring Break I will have time, but this looked too good not to share.

Ingredients

Crust

  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 T. white sugar
  • 3 T. salted butter, melted

Mousse

  • 2 1/2 T. lemon juice (fresh)
  • 1 1/2 T. hot water
  • 1 1/2 t. unflavored gelatin powder
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • red food coloring
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 10 ounces strawberry jam (no seeds)
  • Minced strawberries

Instructions 

  1. Add graham crackers and sugar to a medium mixing bowl, drizzle hot butter over the top and mix well. Divide the mixture between 8 ramekins or dessert cups. Press the graham cracker mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom of the cups.
  2. Pour lemon juice and water into small bowl. Mix in powdered gelatin. Let it rest for 3 minutes. 
  3. Whip heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add 1/3 of the powdered sugar into the whipped cream and food coloring if you are using it. 
  4. In a separate bowl, whip cream cheese until smooth, mix strawberry jam into the cream cheese. Then add the remaining 2/3 cup powdered sugar and minced strawberries. 
  5. Whip the gelatin mixture until all of the lumps are gone. If there are still lumps, pour the mixture through a sieve. 
  6. Pour gelatin mixture into cream cheese mixture and whip with an electric mixer until all combined. Then fold the whipped cream mixture into the cream cheese mixture. 
  7. Scoop the combined cream cheese filling into the dessert cups and let them set in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. You can make this dessert the day before by covering the cups with cling wrap.

Making birthday and (possibly) vacation plans during the pandemic

Next week is Spring Break – a week off from school for the kids – and it will be my daughter’s thirteenth birthday.

Last year, I took the kids to Six Flags Fiesta Texas for a day. It was pretty empty since the pandemic was just starting (at least here in Texas). There was no way at the time I would have guessed that our fun day at the theme park would be one of the last things we did before the city started locking things down to stop the spread of COVID-19.

During that Spring Break, we also celebrated my daughter’s twelfth birthday by going out to dinner at her best friend’s family’s restaurant. Who knew that the next day, the school would cancel school for the next week, and then the next week and the next and so on until the kids never returned to school (until October).

So now that Spring Break is almost upon us, I need to decide what we will do about both the school break and Lexie’s birthday. We no longer have our Six Flags annual pass, but we do have a zoo pass. Or we could go back to Guadalupe State Park to play in the river assuming it is warm enough. I don’t know what, but we will need to do something. In the past, we might also go visit my parents for the day, but that is off the table with my mother in the hospital.

In addition to figuring out what to do for the week, we also need to figure out how to celebrate Lexie’s birthday. Soon we will have two teenagers in the house. Right now, she is hoping her best friend can come over for pizza and video games. And we will probably go out for a family dinner the following evening. I just want to make sure I do something special for her. It isn’t every day you become a teenager.

Jase is also having a big birthday coming up in May. He will turn 16. Wow. Last year, we had just a quiet, home celebration for him. We were perhaps 2 months into our stay-at-home orders. Jase is such an easy going boy that he didn’t seem to mind that he couldn’t have friends over or we didn’t get to go do anything on his birthday. But this year, well, he is turning 16, and that calls for a bigger celebration. No, we probably won’t do anything with his friends, but I am thinking maybe the family can go out and have a family day. What that day will entail will be up to him.

And just a few weeks after his birthday, the kids will be on summer vacation. Last summer, we cancelled our trip to New Orleans, but did go to South Padre Island to enjoy the beach for a few days. And of course we did go to Disney World over Thanksgiving break. We really haven’t talked about what to do this year. I’m thinking the kids always enjoy the beach, so maybe it will be South Padre Island again. I certainly want to go somewhere – as long as we are all together and safe.

Surviving the wintery Texas snow

If you are in the United States this past week, I am sure you heard about the massive winter storm that tore through Texas. I’ve lived in Texas for the past 25 years and in San Antonio, Texas for the past 19. Never have we seen an arctic blast like this one. Typically weather in February is in the 60s or 70s in the day time and it dips down into the 40s at night. We don’t get many evenings where we hit freezing so when we had a series of days of freezing temps and evenings in the single digits, it was an unusual event.

In fact it was the second coldest week ever in Texas, and San Antonio hit a record low of 12 degrees (beating a record set in 1895). In addition to the cold, we saw 4 inches on Sunday night followed by another 4 inches on Thursday. The last time San Antonio had a big snowfall was back in 1985 when more than a foot of snow fell over two days.

Since this is such a rare event – snow and frigid weather – the City and its residents were not prepared. And more importantly, the electrical grid wasn’t ready. To prevent the whole state from losing power, they implemented what should have been rolling blackouts. Now, our power never went off. It turns out my power grid also supplies a nearby hospital. But, for many neighbors, power did go out, but not for a short time. They lost power for 2-4 days – in freezing weather.

The loss of power also took out some of the water pumps around the city. This meant that some people lost water in addition to their power. Our water became a trickle Tuesday evening and by Wednesday morning it stopped. It would be 36 hours before it came back on.

You never know how much you rely on something until it is gone. We couldn’t take showers. We only had what little water we had put in bowls before it stopped for cooking and cleaning dishes. We only had a few bottle of water at this time but went and picked up a few more from my husband’s work (which was without power). To flush the toilet, we used melted snow. If you have ever tried this, you know that it takes a lot of snow to melt into a decent amount of water.

By Friday morning, our water was back to normal though we are still under restrictions even this morning to keep boiling the water before drinking or cooking with it. But man it was nice to take showers Friday and be able to do laundry. Like I said, you don’t know what you have until it is gone.

Because many people lost power – and because people in Texas tend to panic – stores were hit hard before, during and after the storm. Shelves were empty. In fact, I had to rely on a neighbor to provide me with a gallon of milk since I couldn’t find any.

And of course because much of the city was without power and/or water, school was cancelled for the week. I know you people who deal with this snowy mess all the time are shaking your heads that we are freaking out about snow. But the city really isn’t ready for such a rare event. We don’t have snow plows and very few trucks that can salt or gravel the roads. Our buildings are winterized so pipes burst and the lack of power crippled repairs.

Now, we fared way better than many others across the state of Texas. We were at least warm and could cook our meals. And even though we did have a pipe burst from being frozen Monday morning, my husband was able to patch it at least temporarily. Or at least enough until the plumber can fix it which won’t be until this Wednesday.

And then just like typical Texas weather, we went from below freezing temps on Monday to 70 degrees by the weekend.