A character arc is the changing of someone’s personality or life circumstances over the course of a story.
Character arcs can be written with either positive changes or negative changes, but this article focuses on writing a character arc that has a positive change in personality or circumstance by the end of the story.
The goal of a character arc is to have the audience understand the protagonist better. It’s important to keep in mind that this doesn’t happen overnight, but over time through various events and interactions with other characters.
What Is a Character Arc?
A character arc is a literary device in which the protagonist changes over the course of a story.
A character arc can be shown through conflict, change, or personal growth.
The term “character arc” was coined by screenwriter Michael Hauge who wrote about it in his book Writing Screenplays That Sell.
In order for your character arc to be effective, it should always end on a positive note at the end even if you’re writing about someone who starts off as cruel or negative.
How To Write A Character Arc With A Positive Change
Do you want to know how to write a character arc where the protagonist starts out in a bad place and ends up better?
First, introduce your protagonist. Let readers get an idea of who they are before anything else happens.
Then, have them experience something really hard that changes their outlook on life for the worst.
You can make this event as big or small as you want it to be, but if it’s too small then there won’t be enough change in their personality by the end of the story.
Next, have this event lead them down a path of self-destruction which leads into another event that is just as difficult and makes things worse than before.
Character arcs are important because they help readers connect with your story and empathize with the protagonist.
A character arc is an emotional journey that changes from the beginning of the story until its end—a transformation or change in perspective on life.
A good example of this might be someone who starts off hating their job but becomes happy through hard work by the end of it all.
How To Write A Character Arc With A Negative Change
The first step in creating this type of arc is identifying the protagonist’s flaws, or something that prevents them from being happy.
Next, you need to show the protagonist either overcoming these flaws or succumbing to them.
Finally, you must end your story with an extremely negative outcome for the protagonist.
This is called a downer ending because it leaves readers feeling sad and disappointed about life in general.
A great example of this is Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man And The Sea.”
In this story, Santiago goes out into the sea day after day for weeks trying to catch fish but he ends up catching nothing.
First, you need to decide on what the character’s goal is and then create obstacles that would make it difficult for the protagonist to achieve this goal.
Next, introduce an event or person that changes everything in your protagonist’s life (this is called a trigger event).
Finally, plot out how your protagonist deals with these new challenges and come up with a conclusion of what they learn from their struggles.
In order to write a character arc with a negative change, the author needs to know how people react when they are faced with adversity.
The protagonist must be given challenges that will make them feel uncomfortable and stressed in order for them to grow from their experiences.
For example, if you want your protagonist to have an experience of feeling lost and out of control, then it’s important that they start off as being successful and confident.
They need something tangible in their life before the change can happen so that readers can empathize with what is happening through their eyes.
The most common way this type of character arc is executed is through having the protagonist go from being someone who struggles with self-confidence or doesn’t believe in themselves at all.
The most common type of story with this kind of narrative structure is found in Charles Dickens’ novels. The first thing you want to do when writing your own character arc with a negative change is to figure out what caused it.
Was there an event that made them feel betrayed? Did they have their heartbroken by someone they had deep feelings for?
Character Arcs Type
Every story has one primary type of arc it follows.
Every story needs a protagonist, but what if the protagonist doesn’t change? In order to create an engaging and interesting story, there are three basic types of character arcs that can be used.
The first type is when the protagonist starts out bad and then turns good. A second type is when they start off as good but turn bad. And lastly, the third type of arc is where they don’t really change at all and remain neutral throughout their whole arc.
The three most common types of arcs are:
- the redemptive arc,
- tragic arc, and
- flat/static arc.
Redemptive arcs go from bad to good while tragic arcs go from good to bad.
Flat/static characters don’t change their attitude or mindset throughout a story but can still have some significant growth within themselves during that time period if they’re introspective enough about themselves.
As we all know, stories are centered around characters who undergo this type of change.
With both protagonists and antagonists alike, there needs to be an identifiable shift in behavior or perspective for readers and viewers to remain engaged.
Character arcs are often presented as an inner struggle between two opposing forces: that which the protagonist wants to do and that which they feel they must do.
The process by which this happens can be called a “character’s dramatic arc.”
Character arcs are an important and powerful part of storytelling. They can be used to show a character’s development over the course of a novel, or they can be used to examine one single moment in a person’s life.
Linear arcs follow a straight-line progression from beginning (the protagonist starts off as someone who lacks something) through middle (they grow into someone who possesses those qualities) and ending (they find themselves at peace).
The most common types of character arcs are: the protagonist arc, the antagonist arc, and the foil. The protagonist is usually your main character who goes on a journey to overcome some problem.
The antagonist is usually someone with opposing views or goals from those of the protagonist. A foil is someone who contrasts with another person in order to highlight their qualities.
I can name six types of character arcs: Flat Arc, Positive Change Arc, Negative Change Arc, Static Arc (no change), Reversed Arc (reverse direction), and Complex (multiple changes).
Types Of Character Arcs In Novels
In novels, there are many types of character arcs.
The protagonist is the main character that undergoes a significant change by the end of the story.
There are also side characters, who do not experience as much change but have an important role in the novel.
The antagonist opposes and blocks the protagonist’s plans for some time before he or she is finally defeated.
These don’t change at all during their appearance in a story; The static arc is when a protagonist does not experience any type of significant development or change during the course of the story.
Flat characters don’t show any depth or complexity.
A flat arc is when there is some change but it remains stagnant across most if not all parts of the narrative; this type often coincides with a tragedy or an event that has interrupted someone’s life but doesn’t actually lead them anywhere new.
The flat arc is when a person stays pretty much exactly how they were from start to finish with their level of confidence being all over the place but not changing enough for you to label them as having had an actual change.
These develop over time and display more than one dimension; round arcs show significant growth over time as they explore their emotions and reactions to events.
dynamic-flat characters: they start off as flat but then grow into round ones later on in a story;
The most common types of character arcs in novels are the “character who changes” and the “character who doesn’t change.”
The latter is also called an anti-hero.
There are many other types of arcs that you can find in literature, such as the self-destructive arc and the growth arc.
Every writer has their own idea of what a character the arc should be.
From the journey that Frodo takes in The Lord Of The Rings to Aragorn’s story arch in The Return Of The King, there are many different types of arcs out there for you to choose from when creating your own characters!
How To Create A Powerful Character Arc
In order to create a powerful character arc, you need to start with your protagonist. What is their goal? What are they struggling against?
How will it change them by the end of the story? And how do you want that transformation to be shown in her actions and words.
For example, if she wants to become more assertive and finds out she’s pregnant as part of her journey, then there may be a shift from timidness around bosses or other people who make demands on her time when we first meet her.
She might become more confident about asking for what she needs at work without feeling guilty about taking “time off.” You can show this through dialogue: “I’m sorry I didn’t say anything before now,” he said.
It’s been said that every story has a protagonist, and the goal of any good writer is to make their protagonist grow throughout the story.
The first step is understanding what makes a great protagonist. What are some characteristics of an engaging hero?
They should be flawed – no one wants to read about someone who always does everything right.
They need something they’re striving for, but also have obstacles to overcome along the way (that could be internal or external). For example, “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte tells the story of Jane’s quest for independence and love.
Every story has a protagonist, but not every protagonist is memorable. How do authors create a compelling character arc that will have readers hooked from page one?
Let’s take a look at some of the most successful characters in literature and find out what made them so unforgettable.
Utilizing Character Arcs Within Your Story
If you’re looking for a way to make your story more engaging, one of the best ways is not to dwell on plot points but focus more on character arcs.
The audience will be able to identify with the protagonist and journey they go through as opposed to just following along in a passive state.
Everybody has a different experience and perspective when reading a book. Some will read for the plot, others for the characters.
Regardless of what you’re looking for in your story, it’s important to think about character arcs. A lot of people don’t even realize that they can be shaped by our thoughts and actions – but they are!
You have an opportunity to create deep connections between your reader and your protagonist through something as simple as how he/she reacts to certain situations throughout the story.
In order to create a compelling story, you must utilize character arcs. Character arcs are the progression of a protagonist as they change throughout the course of your novel or short story.
They can be progressed through growth, regression, twist, self-discovery, reversal, and transformation. These progressions will shape how your characters change over time in relation to their environment and themselves.
Every type is indicative of certain struggles that may be faced by your protagonist:
- regression indicates that they are struggling with decisions from their past;
- self-discovery refers to them discovering who they really want to be;
- while reversal means that something has changed in their life for which it now makes sense for them to go back on what they were doing before.
How Character Arcs Develop Theme
A character arc is the journey of change in one or more characters throughout the story.
Character arcs can be seen as a coming-of-age tale, and are often associated with growing up, overcoming obstacles, and finding acceptance.
In movies and on TV, the theme of a story is often revealed through character arcs. A character arc occurs when a protagonist starts off with one perspective but then changes their mind because they have learned something new about themselves or their world.
The protagonist’s change in perspective can be internal (in his or her head) or external (actions). These types of arcs are found in nearly every movie:
Harry Potter learns to love himself and others as he grows older; Luke Skywalker realizes that Darth Vader is not his father and decides to help fight him instead; Katniss Everdeen becomes less self-centered after she finds out how many people need her for survival. By changing, characters reveal what the theme of the story might be!
A character arc is a term used to refer to the changes in a character’s personality or outlook on life. In literature, these arcs are closely related to theme and can be analyzed through this lens.
Do you remember the first time you read a story that changed your life? The one that made you see things in new light, with a different perspective.
I do. It was during my fifth grade year when I read To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. After reading this classic novel, I knew what it felt like to see through someone else’s eyes and understand their struggles better than before.
This is because of the way Harper Lee weaved her character arcs into the overarching theme of racism and injustice in America during the 1930s-1950s era.
In fact, characters change so drastically throughout this story that they serve as an example for how character arcs are used to develop themes within literature today!
How to Write a Character Arc
Character arc describes a change in the internal or external dynamic of a character, from his or her original perspective or identity to one that is more flexible or malleable.
This change is not a sudden one – the reader is allowed to understand the character’s thoughts and motivations over a period of time before an actual arc begins.
The character develops gradually and the reader is kept on as a spectator, waiting for the outcome.
In an essay or story, a character arc normally occurs when the reader comes to a sudden change in the flow of events.
This change may occur because of the inciting incident, such as death of an important person, or even if the reader gets an unexpected twist, for example, when an unreliable narrator reveals some crucial information about the past. In either case, it disrupts the established pattern of the story. The inciting incident introduces a new perspective for the story, and the inciting incident generally leads to the development of a new character or set of characters.
This disrupts the normal sequence of events and movement in the plot.
How to write a character arc depends on the reader’s knowledge of the changing emotions of the protagonist and how these emotions impact the creation of the new character.
It also depends on how much information can be revealed without spoiling the surprise. In novels and short stories, the inciting incident is usually the first event that triggers the development of a new character.
In comics, a major change in the continuity can also initiate a character arc.
However, to establish a completely new character, you need to have a completely new plot developed.
How to write a character arc depends on how you want readers to perceive the changes. Readers may be initially impressed by the sudden change, especially if they previously had no reason to like a character.
However, if your new character lacks realism and becomes the victim of circumstances beyond his control, readers will likely grow bored with the character.
Conversely, if the new character overcome his flaws and experiences an improvement, readers will enjoy the journey he takes, as well as the changes he undergoes.
How to write a character arc requires good planning, especially when plotting the beginning and the end of a character’s journey. It is important to plan carefully, drawing out the various stages of the story universe.
Then you need to decide how to develop each character, taking into consideration the time period and the setting of the story you will be telling.
You must think carefully about how to show and portray the conflict between the various characters, including the resolution of the conflicts, to ensure that the development of the character arc occurs naturally.
How to write a character arc begins with the introduction of the major character and his or her history, in chronological order.
This information should clearly reveal the character’s personality traits, strengths, and weaknesses.
The more information you provide, the clearer it will be for readers to see the progression of the character, as he or she rises from the initial arc to another.
Once you know how to write a character arc, you need to establish a central conflict or theme.
For instance, in “Darth Vader,” the main character has several defining struggles within his personality, such as loyalty, friendship, and lust for power.
These struggles drive the story forward until the climax, at which point the character either triumphs over the dark lord, or falls to the dark side.
The inciting incident is crucial to how to write a character arc, because it throws the reader into the character’s shoes for a short period of time, allowing you to gain a better understanding of who they are and what they are trying to accomplish.
Another important part of how to write a character arc is to keep the resolution of the conflict up to date.
Readers don’t like to feel that they have missed the resolution, especially if the resolution came after the character had already fallen to the dark side.
This can result in the loss of the reader’s trust in the author as well, and you need to make sure that your climax doesn’t happen too soon.