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.

One thought on “Creating a character arc

  1. […] typically drives your story. But I realized I had forgotten one thing – the character arc. (Click here to read […]

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