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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Strengthening Your Character Arc

Remaining in the vein of last week's post, we're talking about how to strengthen your character's arc and why it's important. The character arc is the changes your character goes through from the beginning to the end of the novel, how they grow and learn, or change. Take a good look at your manuscript or outline. Is your character arc strong enough to help carry the novel? It should be just as strong as the plot, if not stronger, depending upon your genre. Not every genre will have such a powerful character arc and that's okay, they aren't all supposed to. But if you write character driven fiction like I do, that character better be strong.

Think of a novel you read recently that had a really good character arc. How did that character change? What about them did you like in the beginning of the novel and in the end? Readers celebrate with our characters, be it an achievement, revelation, or growth. Without those elements in our characters the reader doesn't get as attached to them and therefore doesn't care, which means they may stop reading.

To make sure your character arc is strong enough, do an arc sheet at the same time you do an outline. Map out the changes, growth, hardship, and setbacks you want your character to go through. They should end up in a completely different state than they began the novel. Not an outlining kind of person? That's okay, jot down notes about what your character is going through personally throughout the novel. Make sure you have accentuated the changes.

For more help check out this article by Writer's Digest on the subject: http://writersdigest.com/article/motivate-your-characters-like-a-pro
And my post featuring a Character Arc sheet: http://heathermccorkle.blogspot.com/2010/04/working-on-outlining-and-character-arc.html

10 comments:

  1. Ah, this post came at a perfect time for me. I'm curious to try it on my secondary characters as well and see what I learn about each member of my cast ...

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  2. this is a good reminder. I remember when you posted the other one. That was a good diagram, problem is I couldn't really see the words at the side of each post card. I'm wondering if you'd share that with us? I think there were four or five of them.

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  3. Let me know how it works out for you Portia! I'm glad the timing was good.

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  4. Sorry about that Lorelei. It was Inciting Incident, Plot Point 1, Mid point, Plot Point 2, and Climax. I like the chart where my character will be emotionally with each point!

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  5. I'm ashamed to say I've never done a character arc! I love your worksheet, Heather. Thanks for sharing. And I clicked over to Jamie's...that's awesome! I think even I can remember the storysaurus!

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  6. Don't feel bad Julie, before this last book neither had I! But I've got to tell you, they make things so much easier!

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  7. Sweet! I'm going to check them out and probably use one very soon! I'm blogging about a similar thing on Friday too. Small blogosphere!

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  8. I hope you find it helpful Lydia. Great minds think alike!

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  9. Such a good idea to plot the character arc as well as the story, and at the same time as the outline - one will feed the other and add depth and complexity.

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  10. Excellent thoughts. :)
    Once I complete a manuscript I separate the first chapter and the last chapter, and compare them. There should be a clear and significant change in both the MC and her situation.

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