“A character arc is the status of the character as it unfolds throughout the story, the storyline, or series of episodes.”
“In real life we each regard ourselves as the main character.”
~ On Writing, Stephen King
As part of our workshop series, I wanted to take a look at the concept of Character Arc, and how it can enable us to write characters that:
* Make the story better
* Are plausible
The Character Arc, explored in Chris Vogler’s book The Writer’s Journey, is a framework. Are there flaws? Yes, I believe so. Characters don’t always need to change to grow. Some grow in their resolve. They remain steadfast in their beliefs.
When I first committed to writing, the only book on craft I’d read was Stephen King’s On Writing. It’s an excellent book, and I referenced it a few times for today’s post. So, I dove into writing my first book. I had great fun, and only a vague vision of where my story would go. But I got stuck. When a girl from mudding and four-wheeler country says she’s stuck, she means mired in muck up to her elbows.
The second book on craft I read was Chris Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey. Here’s what using the framework did for me:
It enabled me to learn to ask the right questions of my characters, and move the story forward. I began to understand how to connect-the-dots. Using the Hero’s Journey, as Vogler suggests, as a guide to creating a realistic Character Arc, helped me create a cohesive beginning (Act 1), middle (Act 2), and end (Act 3).
I still write the first, even second draft from an organic mindset. One of my great pleasures in writing is the feeling of awe and adventure as I listen to the whisper of my subconscious. I live a safe life with my remarkable husband and children; writing is my great road trip.
It’s awesome to hit the road and words in the spirit of spontaneity and telling the story as honestly as we can, but if we get lost, there’s nothing wrong with referencing a map.
I encourage you to further research character arcs, the three- act story, archetypes, as well as steadfast characters. I’m using my notes taken from The Writer’s Journey. I’ve broken down the Arc into three acts. The words in parentheses reference the Hero’s Journey.
1. Limited awareness of problem (Ordinary World)
2. Increased awareness (Call to Adventure)
3. Reluctance to change (Refusal)
4. Overcoming reluctance (Meeting with the Mentor)
5. Overcoming reluctance (Crossing the Threshold)
6. Experimenting with first change (Tests, Allies, and Enemies)
7. Preparing for big change (Approach to Inmost Cave)
8. Attempting big change (Ordeal)
9. Consequences of the attempt (Reward)
10. Rededication to change (The Road Back)
11. Final attempt at big change (Resurrection)
12. Final mastery of problem (Return with Elixer)
Here are some examples of questions using this framework can help us ask:
* How does the character become aware of conflict/ problems?
* How will the character initially react to the conflict?
* Can the character turn to anyone for advice and honesty?
* What motivates the character to a.) change or b.) remain true to their belief system?
I would love to hear your thoughts on character arc, the Hero’s Journey, or the three-act story structure. How have they affected your writing and storyline, or have you found another system that works for your manuscript?
Thank you for participating.