Sunday, March 8, 2020
How to Write a Compelling Character Arc in Just 3 Steps How to Write a Compelling Character Arc A character arc maps the evolution of a personality through a story. It's a term that writers use to describe their protagonist's journey from a place of comfort to rapid change and back again: hence, an arc.While main characters might face big challenges (Hungarian Horntails and evil Dark Lords), character arcs have to do with internal, personal change. Characters will find their strengths and weaknesses tested over the course of the story - so that by the time they arrive at the story's end, they are a changed person. These changes might not be monumental, but they will have made a significant impact on the character, either positively or negatively.In this post, we'll look at how a writer can plot a compelling, believable arc - starting with a classic story of good triumphing over evil. Whether your protagonist has a happy or unfortunate ending, here's how to arc their internal development How to write a character arc with aÃ positive changeWhen the protagonist overcomes external obstacles and internal flaws in order to become a better person, we can describe this as a positive arc. ItÃ¢â¬â¢s often used in story structures such as the HeroÃ¢â¬â¢s Journey.At its core, this arc is made up of three points:The Goal: Every character needs to have a goal. It might be to fall in love. Or it might be to make as much money as possible. Either way, their journey will be hindered by...The Lie: A deeply-rooted misconception they have about themselves or the world that keeps them from reaching their true potential. In order to reach their goal, theyÃ¢â¬â¢ll need to acknowledge and overcome the Lie, by facingÃ¢â¬ ¦The Truth: While the character may have their own plans, the positive change arc has its own goal:Ã self-improvement. This is achieved when they learn to reject The Lie and embrace The Truth.To see this arc in action, letÃ¢â¬â¢s map it onto a few classic prot agonists.Example The HobbitIn Breaking Bad, Walter goes off the deep end (image: Sony Pictures Television)Walter White is in a happy marriage and lives an honest life working as a science teacher and as a father to his teenage son - but then he receives news of his advanced lung cancer. To begin, heÃ¢â¬â¢s concerned with the sudden confrontation with his own mortality. Until the inciting incident introduces...The Goal: Sell enough meth with ex-student-turned-drug-dealer Jesse Pinkman so that he can pay for cancer treatment and to secure the future of his family.The Lie: Arrogance. Walter believes he has the power to avoid the hand of the law, avoid corruption, and avoid bringing danger upon his family while entering the drug trade.The Truth: Walter believes heÃ¢â¬â¢s on a noble journey to provide for his family. In reality, heÃ¢â¬â¢s rebelling against his mortality - and playing with fire usually results in burns.This arc is different from the others weÃ¢â¬â¢ve examined be cause Walter starts his arc already aware of the Truth: cooking meth is risky business and is not the solution to his problems. But faced with impending death, the boundaries of his morals have been suddenly pushed, leaving him vulnerable to the Lie: the belief that he is immune corruption. His arc sees Walter continuously rejecting the red flags and embracing the Lie, until any distinction is lost and heÃ¢â¬â¢s so far gone he has no choice but to embrace the Lie completely. In the end, it consumes him and he loses everything, turning into a full-fledged anti-hero.Character Arc Map: They know the Truth about the world Ã¢â â They pursue a goal believing they can hold onto Truth Ã¢â â They succumb to the Lie and reject the Truth Ã¢â â They embrace (or are defeated by the Lie) and lose. How to plot a compelling and believable character arc - with examples These three steps, while being universal elements of all arcs, can take countless forms depending on the specificities of your character. Sometimes, the arc doesnÃ¢â¬â¢t involve substantial internal change, and is more about the change they effect on the world around them - something often called a Ã¢â¬Å"flat arc.Ã¢â¬ When planning the arc of your central personalities, always look for the lie they believe, the truth they may or may not believe, and the goal that drives them. We recommend downloading this free character profile template to help. If you find that you're still struggling, try using these character development exercises. Ultimately, breaking arcs down this way should help you emphasize cause and effect and keep your characters anchored in ways that will make it so much easier for your readers to empathize with.