Character Arcs | Writing a Redemption Arc

Hello and welcome #6 and final post in the Character Arc series. In this series, we explore different types of character arcs and tips on how to write them.

You can catch up on the previous posts here:

What is a Redemption Arc?

A redemption arc is a type of character arc where a character who has done wrong is seen to make amends for their past actions and become a better person. This type of arc often involves a character who is initially flawed or morally bankrupt, but through a series of events, comes to recognise their wrongdoings and actively works to make things right.

Do I Know Any Characters with a Redemption Arc?

WARNING: IF YOU’VE NOT READ HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! BY DR SEUSS (OR SEEN THE FILMS), THE FOLLOWING MIGHT BE A SPOILER

In “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” by Dr Seuss the Grinch is initially presented as a mean-spirited, bitter creature who hates Christmas and is determined to ruin it for the Whos in Whoville. He devises a plan to steal all the Christmas presents, decorations, and food from the Whos in order to stop Christmas from coming.

As the story progresses however, the Grinch begins to realise that Christmas isn’t just about material possessions; it’s about love, kindness, and togetherness. When he hears the Whos singing on Christmas morning despite having nothing, he realises that his heart has grown three sizes, and he feels remorse for what he has done.

His redemption arc is realised when he returns all the stolen items to Whoville and joins the Whos in their Christmas celebration, showing that he has truly learned the meaning of Christmas.

How Do I Write a Redemption Arc for my Character?

To write a redemption arc, you need to have a character who has done something wrong, or has a significant character flaw that needs to be addressed. The goal is for them to recognise their mistakes and take active steps towards making amends and becoming a better person.

Here are some prompts to help you write a redemption arc:

  • Establish the character’s flaw or mistake that needs to be addressed: this can be a past action or a current character trait that is causing harm
  • Create a catalyst event that causes the character to start questioning their actions and motives. This can be a personal tragedy, an encounter with a wise mentor, or a confrontation with the consequences of their actions
  • Have the character actively work towards making amends for their past actions. This can be shown through their actions, words, and decisions throughout the story
  • As the character works towards redemption, they should face significant challenges and obstacles that test their resolve. This can include external factors, such as opposition from other characters, or internal struggles, such as self-doubt and temptation to fall back into old habits
  • The redemption arc should ultimately lead to the character experiencing growth and transformation, becoming a better person as a result of their journey

A redemption arc can be a powerful and emotional journey for both the character and the reader. By exploring the character’s flaws and mistakes, and showing their growth and transformation, you can create a compelling and engaging story that resonates with readers.

I hope this post has been helpful in understanding how to write a redemption arc for your character. If you liked this post, be sure to check out the rest of the series for more tips on writing dynamic and engaging characters. Stay tuned for the next post on Writing a Transformation Arc!

Photos in blog by myself, Nathan Dumlao, Bookblock, and feature image background photo by Anete Lūsiņa
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