Friday, August 16, 2013

Character Arcs

Happy Friday, good people of the blogosphere! I'm looking forward to the weekend SO much. Melody is in round three of edits (see this post for the editing steps I take) and Coralie's story is flying from my fingers. I've been an emotional wreck the last few days because her story is truly terrifying. But, today isn't about those books, though I may use them for reference, it's about Character Arcs. What the heck is a Character Arc? Well, grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going!

If you've been a regular visitor to the blog, you've probably read a lot about doorways and change. I'm always talking about how a character should pass through the doorway of no return and how that moment should end up changing your character in a profound way. But what are the steps from doorway to epiphany?

An excellent character arc has these things:
  • Meeting
  • The Doorway
  • Impact on the Persona
  • Moment of Change
  • Finale
Meeting is where we're introduced to the character and learn a little about them. This isn't full disclosure, it's a tasting of the character's basic beliefs, values, attitudes, and opinions. Now, the basic beliefs and values a person holds are a direct result of their attitudes and opinions. Change enough of the opinions and you end up changing a core belief.

This is where The Doorway comes into play. Your character must waver on the threshold. Because of their beliefs and values, they won't want to step through that door. Find a way to shove them through. Leave them no choice in the matter. This is the beginning of change.

A few examples: In Mystic ~ Bronya, she has to leave the town she's in and give up on the possibility of love. I shoved her through the door by taking away all she cared about and leaving her no other option. While she answers the letter from WSTW with gusto, she almost turns around at the airport because she's still trying to retain hope that she'll end up with Cecilia. In Mystic ~ Lily, she's made to face the person in the mirror and practice self-love. She fights it because drugs and alcohol have served her well in taking away the pain up to that point. I added Markaza to the mix to shove Lily through the doorway; kicking and screaming.

Impact on the Persona happens throughout the story. These are what lead a person to begin to change their beliefs. Maybe hate is erased or judgment tendencies are quelled. But there are always outside forces at work. People the character interacts with or things they witness will begin to change their opinions, thereby changing their attitudes, values, and beliefs.

There has to be a Moment of Change. From everything that happens to the character from the doorway beyond, it will bring about the epiphany. It's that "ah ha!" moment. And it can't come out of nowhere. Outside forces are always at work on all of us. It's the same with your character.

You don't have to write out the moment. It can be shown via actions during the Finale. New things the character does or says can show the reader just how monumental the change was, and how the values and beliefs of the character were altered.

In a series, the Moment of Change doesn't usually happen in the first book; but in the last. For example: In the Mystic series, none of my ladies have really had that moment yet. Markaza is off collecting the girls,  each book is a sampling of their individual doorways, and some of the Impact that occurs to force the girls to pass through. There's no outside forces changing their belief systems just yet (though there was a hint of it in Mystic ~ Shelia when Aunt Ivy shows up).

Now, how to keep it straight?

Try creating a Character Arc list. Four columns on a sheet of paper, each with a heading. Here's an example:
Temujin begins life believing he's the end-all be-all and has very astute ideals about how things should be. When he breaks his values during the story, he ends up with a lot of humility and understanding about life and love. This can be ramped up with a little bit of tweaking, but it'll give you a map to work from. I didn't show what I have in store for the women of WSTW because that would spoil the last book.

I hope you all have a good grasp of Character Arc and a handy tip that will help you formulate a plan.

Question of the day: Do you plot out your characters beyond page one? How has it helped you/hindered you?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!



  1. I like the character arc list, never seen that tool before. Great post!

    1. It's an awesome little thing to keep you in line when you're feeling lost. :) Thanks for the blog love!


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