One Character and 5 Possible Arcs

What is a character arc?

Simply, things happen, people change, and so do fictional characters.
As writers we throw things in our character’s way. Sometime it’s a mirror. They face themselves, revealing warts and all, which brings on a change. Or if we really, really like them we can throw a inciting incident at them and they can start an adventure.

Hero or villain, they drag the rest of the characters along with them. Arcs running amok.

Is there time for change?

How much does a person change over an hour, a day, a weekend? If they spend a weekend watching movies, it won’t be much. If they spend an hour running for their lives… Well, no doubt they’ll change a little, learn a new skill or two, and become stronger for it. Arcs should be gradual, natural and depend on the circumstances.

And the circumstances prompt growth.children boy-34124_1280

No one is perfect and we know it. Our characters struggle with this too. Some want to be married and can’t attract a partner. Some wish for more and don’t do diddly about it. Some just want the same things everyone else has, approaching it like no other because they don’t know what the heck they’re doing. Some just want to deliver pizza and land up saving the world. All this growth can be entertaining.

How do the characters feel about it?

Conflicted. Upset. It’s not like they set out to change. It happens as a consequence of what we sling at them. They discover who they are and what they are capable of doing. It’s their personal journey. At one extreme hate changes to love, prejudice to tolerance, and cowardice to bravery. The other is a mild mannered reporter pizza guy saving Lois the world.

stick-figure-297443_1280But here’s the thing. Not just heroes should have an arc.

I’m not saying the pizza guy that appears on page 12 should have pages and pages of notes Nope, that’s taking it too far, but if he is a reoccurring character you’ll want him to be more than a stick figure. Let’s just say, the more important the character the more defined the arc should be.

Some arcs to consider:

1. Day and Knight—pizza delivery guy changes to a completely new person. As a hero, he buys cape, mask, tights dedicates time to his six-pack.

2. Grows Up—pizza guy grows a facial hair. Working so hard he buys out owner. He may still be pizza guy, but now he’s new and improved pizza guy.

3. Change Up—pizza guy quits his job and become deli guy. Adding the two skill sets, he thinks he’s more informed, more skilled, new and improved, but he’s not. He’s basically the same guy in a new hat.

4. Day and Black Knight—pizza guy decides pizza is for suckers, quits and man-295495_1280buys doughnut shop. He takes over the block destroying all pizza parlors everywhere. Needing a new image, he buys a latte and a white cat with diamond collar. Unfortunately they both become very fat and  resort to online dating.

5. Happy Days—he’s really the pizzeria owner. To encourages others through example, he works as a pizza guy. Young people everywhere worship the ground he walks on becoming the best darn pizza guys ever. Satisfied with his success, he tips his hat back off his brow, tucks his thumbs under his suspenders, smiles proudly.

‘Nuff said. What about you? Anything you’d like to add?

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28 responses to “One Character and 5 Possible Arcs

  1. This post makes me think of Glenn from The Walking Dead. I believe he started out delivering pizza, and now look at him. 🙂

    This post also makes me want pizza…. Sigh.

  2. I’m with Madeline on wanting pizza!

    Character arcs are so important, especially if you’re writing a series.

  3. I must confess, I don’t think of characters as having an arc. And I should! Thanks for this.

  4. I like your story of Pizzaman. When I wrote my play, I knew that all of the characters needed something. They all had to have an answer/outcome, but not everyone had a big change. Minor characters have minor changes. Major characters have major changes. Great post.

  5. Pizza guy walks out on being pizza guy. Goes off in a boat trying to be important guy. Comes home realising that he is at his best as pizza guy.

  6. Pizza guy loses his job. Is he supposed to be pizza guy or is this an opportunity for him to be the not pizza guy he never dreamed he could be?

  7. Haha! What a fun post on character.

  8. Good job showing how characters can grow to the good, bad or not at all with the pizza guy. I like it. Well done.
    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  9. This was fun to read! I’m now a big fan of pizza guy. 😀
    And like others have said, hungry for pizza.

  10. Yup, even minor characters needs arcs. Especially when the story continues. I liked your pizza delivery guy arc examples. And I laughed at Madeline’s comment. I lover Glenn.

  11. Most characters change when pushed out of their element and yep Glenn from Walking Dead is a perfect example.

  12. I like Day and Black Knight.

    Everyone changes over the course of time, for better or worse. The most uninteresting stories are where the main character stays the same and learns nothing. (Especially if no one around him/her really changes either.)

  13. I pay attention to character arcs when I’m planning a manuscript. Those arcs really make characters pop and make readers more invested in them.

  14. Great post, Anna!
    It was Monica M. Clark who said, ‘Being a part of the moral, mental, or emotional journey that leads to a revelation is a key part of the experience of reading a book. It shouldn’t be passed over.’ And I really believe that. We have to see the arc!

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