Character Arcs | Writing a Fall Arc

Hello and welcome to #4 of the Character Arc series! If you missed the first three, take a look at my, you can take a look a look at the Character Arc series here:

Writing a fall arc can be a challenge, as it requires exploring a character’s descent and how they deal with their downfall. However, when done right, a fall arc can make for a compelling and memorable story.

What is a Fall Arc?

The fall arc is a character arc that shows a character’s decline from a position of power or high standing to a low point. This decline is often the result of the character’s own flaws and mistakes, leading to their downfall. Unlike the transformation arc, the fall arc is all about loss and failure, making it a powerful tool for creating empathy and tension in your story.

Do I Know Any Characters With a Fall Arc?

Warning: if you’ve not read The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald, the following might be a spoiler

One of the most famous examples of a character with a fall arc is Jay Gatsby from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Gatsby is introduced as a wealthy and successful man, admired by many for his wealth and extravagant parties. However, as the story progresses, it is revealed that Gatsby’s wealth was acquired through illegal means and his past is shrouded in mystery.

Gatsby’s downfall begins when his love interest, Daisy Buchanan, chooses to stay with her husband, Tom, instead of running away with Gatsby. This rejection leads Gatsby to make a series of poor decisions, ultimately resulting in his tragic end. Gatsby’s fall from grace serves to highlight the emptiness of the American Dream and the consequences of chasing it blindly.

How Do I Write a Fall Arc for my Character?

To write a successful fall arc, you need to establish your character’s high point and then lay out a clear path to their downfall. Here are a few steps to help you get started:

  • Establish your character’s high point. This can be their success, power, or status in society. Think about what makes them feel invincible and what their goals are.
  • Identify your character’s fatal flaw. This is the character trait or decision that will eventually lead to their downfall. It should be something that makes them seem human and relatable to your audience.
  • Create a series of events that lead to the character’s downfall. The events should be the result of the character’s fatal flaw and decisions, rather than outside forces. The character’s actions should have consequences that escalate, leading to their downfall.
  • Show the character’s reactions: As the character’s downfall unfolds, it’s important to show how they react to their situation. This can be a mix of denial, regret, and anger, but ultimately the character should be forced to confront their own mistakes and take responsibility for their actions.
  • Explore the aftermath: The fall arc is not over when the character reaches their low point. Show how the character deals with their newfound circumstances and what they learn from their experience.

A fall arc can be a powerful tool for exploring a character’s flaws and creating empathy for them. However, it’s important to remember that a fall arc should not be used to punish your characters, but rather to show the consequences of their actions and how they grow and change as a result.

I hope this post has been helpful for you if you’ve been struggling with writing a character with a fall arc. If you liked this post, check out the rest of my posts in this Character Arc series! I’ll be back with post #5 in two weeks’ time.

Feature image photo by Iryna Ogarkova on Unsplash, photos in blog post by Robert ByeRima Kruciene, and Jen P on Unsplash

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