Most writers will agree that story planning is an exciting process: you’re building worlds, creating characters, and developing mind-blowing plot twists. However, writing the emotional journeys of our characters can sometimes feel a little flat.
Your story might be flawless. It can be filled with exciting travels, devastating setbacks and monumental wins, all the while pushing the story forward to a dramatic climax, and keeping the reader on the edge of their seat. But if your characters don’t experience some sort of change as a result of these events, then they can end up coming across as a little one-dimensional, and a little less believable to your readers.
That’s obviously not what we want: we want our characters to react to things, for their experiences to have an impact on them. We want our characters to be human.
For this to happen, we need to think more about the inner journey our characters experience as they make their way through the events of our story, and make it one that makes sense to them, and your readers.
What is a character arc?
A character arc is the inner journey a character goes on over the course of a story. It’s mainly defined by the changes they go through as a result of the story’s events, whether it’s overcoming a fear, or conquering a flaw.
Every character you read about will have a character arc of some kind: not just main characters, but secondary characters, antagonists, villains, even background characters!
No two characters will have the same journey either, although there are certain types of characters arcs you may be familiar with:
I’ll be writing more about these in a small series of posts to follow!
Does my character need a character arc?
To answer briefly, no, your character doesn’t need a character arc.
But everybody goes through changes in their life. You’re a different person to who you were ten years ago; you’re a different person to who you were a year ago. And the same goes for your characters! So it makes sense for your character to change over the course of your story.
If you utilise your character’s arc well, you can add more layers to your story with the potential for better subplots, more believable conflict, and to help support the overall message of your story.
A story about a teenaged boy defeating a dangerous dark wizard can also be a story about an orphan who finds family in his friends, and chooses love over power. A story about a hobbit helping to defeat a powerful dragon that had invaded the home of his new dwarf companions (that was a mouthful), can also be a story of a retiring, home-loving hobbit who learns to leave his comfort zone and embrace adventure.
Hopefully this was a helpful post explaining what a character arc is, and how useful they are. My next post in this series will be on the 27th, where I’ll be talking in more detail about the transformational arc. If you want to keep an eye out for the rest of the posts in this series, click here!
What are your thoughts on writing character arcs? Comment below ♥