Charting Your Character Arc

We talked about the story arc and how the general shape can alert the writer to structural problems. Now let’s discuss another sort of arc–the character arc. At the outset of a project, you may only have a loose idea of how you intend for your protagonist and supporting cast to change and grow over the course of the story. After you’ve finished a first draft, you should be analyzing for these changes and growth. Disclaimer: Some writers accomplish a character arc intuitively, without diagramming or analyzing. If that’s you, you’re ahead.

Writing Tip for Today: At the beginning of a story, your main character or protagonist (or hero/heroine) should want something desperately. Giving your character a clear goal (even if it’s “I don’t know what to do about X”) will help propel the character to begin a path of growth and change.

Try This! Jot down what you believe your protagonist’s main want or need to be. To marry the man of her dreams? To overcome some obstacle? Be as specific as you can. Keep this note and refer to it again as you write the story and again at the completion of a draft. How is the character different? What events (plot points) are important to affecting this change? Voila! You’ve just created a character arc.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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