What Is A Character Arc?

Character arcs are an important part of the story, but maybe you aren’t familiar with the term.

A character arc is the change a character goes through during the story.

Nathan bransford

Your main character might start off scared but gain courage through their journey or start off brave and develop a lot of fears. Character arcs are not always positive.

Here are some things to consider while you map your character arcs:

  • What does your character want
  • What is their external and internal journey
  • What obstacles get in their way and what they think of them
  • How does your character react to the climax

A character wants something

A character arc opens when you establish something that character wants. The reader naturally wonders: are they going to get that thing?

Readers are pulled through the story waiting to see if the character is going to get that big thing they want. These desires can be external (saving a kingdom, finding a talisman) or internal (redemption, ) or both.

A character’s motivation is the engine of the story.

The character goes on a journey

When the character wants that big thing they need to go after it.

This sends them on a journey, whether that’s a literal journey through a world or realm, or an internal journey such as battling mental illness or making a key decision.

Along the way…

The character encounters obstacles

It should not be easy for the character to get what they want. They should encounter obstacles along the way in ascending intensity.

The obstacles come in the form of other characters with competing desires (especially villains) and forces outside of the character’s control within the setting.

As the character encounters these obstacles, here is the crux of the character arc: they are forced to change and evolve.

Sometimes this means learning new skills, talents, and powers, and sometimes this can mean that the character is overwhelmed and begins to unravel.

There’s a climax and the character emerges changed

A character arc closes when they either do or don’t get what they want. This is usually a definitive resolution in a climactic moment, but you’ll also see it resolved a bit more ambiguously.

Whatever happens: the character emerges irrevocably changed. Not just in terms of their life circumstances and the rewards/penalties, but, more importantly, they’ve changed as a person. They’ve developed new skills and talents or they’ve regressed.

Source: NathanBransford.com

Originally published on September 28, 2021 @ 12:00 pm

Published by J. M. Tuckerman

J.M.Tuckerman is a neurodivergent writer with a big education. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, an MA in Writing, and a BA in Writing Arts (specializing in Creative Writing, New Media Writing, and Publication; concentrating in New Media Production), which she somehow managed to earn despite her three very loud and large dogs. Jessica was lucky enough to intern at Quirk Books and Picador, USA while earning her master’s degrees. Her service dog, Ringo, is very proud of all that she has accomplished and hopes to be on a back cover of a published book with her very soon. An avid reader, writer, and lover of young adult and middle-grade literature, Jessica’s bookshelf is overflowing with hardbacks, paperbacks, and a million half-filled notebooks. She is a proud fur-mommy to two lab/st-bernard littermates, a retriever-mix service dog, and one orange little hobgoblin cat, all of whom have made very audible appearances on the Booked All Night podcast.

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