Tag Archive - character arcs

When Your Character Is His Own Worst Enemy

Traditionally, there are four general types of opposition at the heart of a story. While our protagonist might face multiple kinds of opposition, the primary one will usually fall into man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. society, or man vs. self (and of course you can replace man with woman, or robot, or alien).

In story structure, there are key scenes in which the opposition rears its/his/her ugly head and “pinches” the protagonist—hence why these are called “pinch points.”

Two specific pinch points occur in traditional story structure, the first one falling between the 25% mark (turning point #2) and the midpoint (turning point #3) and the second one around the 67% mark (before the Dark Night of the Soul moment).

The purpose of the first pinch point is generally to introduce the opposition to the reader. The second pinch point reveals the full force of the opposition. Continue Reading…

The Intersection of Character Transformation and Moral Dilemma

The protagonist’s transformational journey is highlighted in countless stories, whether novels, movies, or plays. If you take time to examine some of your favorite stories, you should be able to identify key scenes or moments in which this transformation gradually takes place. It’s the events that transpire that erode the persona and emphasize to the character that living in that identity isn’t working.

People don’t change overnight; it’s a process. And when we write a story, we want that process to be believable. While there are six stages in the process, you might have a dozen or more scenes in which your character’s beliefs, opinions, and biases are challenged, one bit at a time.

What Theme Really Is

Keep in mind this truth: the theme of your story is your character’s inner motivation made universal. What drives him, what plagues him, what consumes him is what propels him toward the visible goal.

These key transformational scenes with your protagonist are the ones that will shine a light on the themes of your story.

Consider the movie Hostiles, which I explored in another post. The title itself implies the theme and poses the moral dilemma Capt. Blocker faces. Who truly is the hostile?

The question Blocker asks himself, essentially, is this: “How am I all that different from those I hate?” In asking that question, consciously or subconsciously, the theme is brought to the forefront. Continue Reading…

The Character Arc in Six Specific Stages

Here’s a post I wrote for Writers Helping Writers some months back that I’d like to share with you.

As a writer, you’re probably familiar with the term “character arc,” but what does a character arc entail? How do you structure this arc? And what informs the way your character changes, from the start of your story to the end?

While all characters in a novel can have arcs, it’s the protagonist whose change should be the most significant. Depending on genre and plot, your hero’s change might be subtle or life-altering. A suspense thriller or cozy mystery may show little character growth by the end, when the bad guy is caught or the mystery solved, whereas a thoughtful women’s fiction novel or relational drama may showcase monumental change.

But, in all stories, arcs are about change or transformation. And the stories with strong arcs show a character starting in what Hollywood movie consultant Michael Hauge calls identity or persona.

What makes for a great persona is a character who has suffered in his past and has developed a coping mechanism over time. This is his face he presents to the world that keeps buried his pain, fear, or hurt. Continue Reading…

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