How Does Internal Conflict Fit into the Character’s Arc?

Today’s guest post is by Becca Puglisi.

If you’re writing a story in which your character will need to evolve internally to achieve his goal, a cohesive and well-planned character arc will be vital to its success. This type of arc (a change arc) requires internal conflict, which will provide opportunities for your character to adapt and grow.

But first, let’s quickly summarize what the change arc is and what it looks like.

At their heart, most stories boil down to a simple formula: It’s a story about A (the character) who wants B (goal/outer motivation) because Y (inner motivation). That Y explains why the character so desperately wants to achieve the goal. If you look at the movie Groundhog Day, Phil Connors (A) wants to win Rita’s love (B) so he can find meaning in an utterly meaningless life (Y). This example shows how the character’s outer and inner motivations work together in the story.

The outer conflict is the main external thing keeping the character from his goal. Phil’s conflict comes in the form of the supernatural forces that have him reliving the same day over and over, making it virtually impossible to get Rita to fall in love with him. Continue Reading…

7 Ways to Create an Empathetic Antagonist

Today’s guest post is by Sarah Tinsley.

“Complexity is an indispensable ingredient of life, and so it ought to be with the characters we create in our stories”— Stavros Halvatzis

Everyone loves a good antagonist. From the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood to Cersei in A Game of Thrones, there’s nothing more appealing than a baddie. When you’re writing, an antagonist is often a vital part of your story. They allow you to create tension, to give your main character someone to push or fight against, and are often the main driving point behind your plot.

But they need to be more than cartoon villains. It’s very rare that you will have an archetypal monster like the shark in Jaws. Most stories need subtle, nuanced antagonists. Getting your reader truly engaged with your story means finding points of empathy with all characters, no matter how reprehensible their actions.

In a wider sense, this is also the power of literature in general—to examine the darker side of human nature and to ask important questions about why bad things happen. It’s not for the writer to judge their characters but to present a real, rounded person that will raise debate and interest in their reader. Continue Reading…

How to Create Nuanced Characters

Today’s guest post is by Nina Schuyler.

In ZZ Packer’s short story, “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere,” Dina is an incoming black freshman at Yale who isn’t interested in being polite or friendly or accommodating. She’s abrupt, angry, cruel, and at the same time, she’s wonderfully emotionally engaging.

How does Packer do it?

If you’re creating a female character who doesn’t embody stereotypical female traits—nurturing, maternal, you know the list—you have a challenging project, at least if you’re writing for an American audience. (That’s an entirely different topic, which I’ll leave for another time).

In early drafts, there’s a good chance you’ll go too far in the opposite direction. You’ll have a Dina character stomping and growling and swearing through the pages of the story, but she fails to elicit the reader’s emotional engagement.

In your next draft, here are some techniques to create that all-important engagement. Continue Reading…

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