Category Archives: Arcs

Writing: Where Should Character Arcs Lead?

As writers we strive to show time passing through character arcs. We know they had a past because they face personal issues during the story, and this raises a question. Should we consider what happens when their personal issues are resolved?

Most of us dream of a better life in the future. Some of us make our dreams come climbing-157588_1280btrue and others, like myself, dream pipe dreams that may never happen. All our dreams put hope and motivation in our hearts.

Personally, I think too much about the past and wish I had the philosophy Bossman does. He believes that without all the chaos and heartache in our pasts we wouldn’t be the lovable people we are today.

Whether I agree or not, I prove the theory when I write. My characters are the way they are because I’ve given them a backstory.

Every once in a while I rewatch a series. Lately I’ve been rotating through Bones, Castle and Elementary and I’m noting the arcs in the main characters.

Why some character arcs work:

Castle grows as a writer and adds to his resume by becoming a private investigator.

The addiction Holmes and Booth have is a constant reminder of human frailty. And I think, a better arc because no one really recovers from addiction. It hangs over a person’s head and will weasel its way back to the forefront at any opportunity. The threat is a constant and daily threat.

Joan Watson has moved from doctor to life/addiction coach to investigator, therefore, the door is open to other careers as she changes with her personal needs.

Why Some arcs end:

Kate Beckett was admired from the start. She was strong, level-headed and red-lips-1213161_1280tortured by her mother’s murder. Eventually she lands up resolving the murder and finds peace. Letting her find peace stopped the series from moving forward. They did try sending her to the FBI and giving her a conspiracy to solve but they didn’t have the same oomph. Instead of getting rid of the character the network decided to cancel the show.

I guess what I’m saying is, even if you don’t have plans for a series leaving the door open and hinting at future dips in the road isn’t such a bad thing. It leaves the author and the characters places to go and grow.

Do you or your characters ever wonder if they’ll find peace?


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?