Friday, October 29, 2010
The Character Arc
This is where the Character Arc comes in:
The Character Arc is the gradual development of the characters through the story. It’s about their inner struggles and growth reflected by the outer changes in the plot. The reason why it’s so important is because it gives depth to the characters. We want to cheer for them, we want to cry for them, and we want the novel to grab us by the heart and involve us in the story.
To plot out an Arc for a character many writers start at the end. They want to know where their characters are internally and externally so they can work out the best possible path to that point. For example, if I wanted a character to show an act of courage at the end of the novel, then the act becomes more poignant and heartening if the character starts the story with a lack of courage. Think of the Cowardly Lion in Wizard of Oz.
The change can be more subtle than the example I gave above, but it shouldn’t be a sudden change. It’s unrealistic (and a bit of a cheat) for a character to do a sudden 180. No one decides to change their ways without reason. Instead, key moments in their story will guide them to the changes they need to make.
Do you plot out the Character Arcs before you begin a novel? How detailed are your Arcs? Do you ensure an Arc is present for your secondary characters as well as your main character?