Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Character Arc

My annual weekend retreat with my private writer's group was this past weekend. We studied charactar arc, which is very timely since it's the next thing I want to talk about here.

What is character arc? Simply put, it's the path a character takes toward the end of the book. How they grow or change. It can a change for the better or a change for the worse. Significant or small. In some stories, characters don't really *change*. But characters should experience growth.

In fantasy, we can play more with character arc. And we have the freedom to include at least one character who is totally evil and doesn't change, except for being defeated (killed) by the hero. In LOTR, Sauron, the dark lord, is totally evil, has no personality and does not change. But he's not really a main character, even though he's the main antagonist. Saruman, however, does go through a change - for the worse. We don't see him before he turns over to Sauron's side, but we know he was not always this way because Gandalf tells us. And we see him fall deeper and deeper into Sauron's power.

So, let's look at character arc. This week, we'll start with your hero's character arc. In the beginning of your story, where is your hero emotionally, spiritually, mentally? What is their hidden need? Where are they in the middle? The end? Have you given the reader a completed, satisfying character arc? Where do you want to see your hero land? What is the end point? What growth do you hope to see at the end?

Lots of questions. You don't have to post an answer to every one, but I've included them to help you really see your hero and ponder where you want them to go. Let's talk!


  1. Okay, here we go! :)

    1) She is emotionally bound to the Inn, she is spiritually uncertain, and she is mentally unaccepting.

    2) Her hidden need is love

    3) Stuck ;)

    4) She has accepted people into her heart and moved on.

    5) I sure hope so :)

    6) On the ground safely.

    7) Hmm ... need to think about that one.

    8) Her hard block of a head softened :)

  2. For my heroine, Akeela, she is feeling trapped and depressed in the beginning of the story. Her obvious need is to get away from the old woman who raised her. Her hidden need is to be sure of herself and what she's called to do. By the middle of the novel, she's feeling so sure, she's cocky. This gets her into trouble. I haven't written the end yet (it's plotted out) but Akeela will experience enough of a "comeupance" that she's more humble regarding her calling and how she relates to others. Since the theme of my story is self-sacrifice, I believe Akeela's character arc will complete itself to everyone's satisfaction.