1. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Character arcs

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Catrin Lewis, Nov 12, 2016.

    How important do you think it is that your characters' arcs should be obvious?

    My male main character, I think his arc is pretty clear. At the beginning of the story, he has certain definite ideas about what's important in life and how he's going to achieve it, and by the end, while he still thinks those things are important, he's learned to subordinate them to goals and values that are greater still.

    My female main character, on the other hand . . . her goals and values pretty much stay the same, but at the beginning she hasn't grasped the implications of them. She's going to be put through the wringer to find out whether her values are all talk or if they're something real. She also has a problem with wanting to have things under control, whether that means holding back or literally charging into a situation. One of the things I'm having her learn to is to be okay with it when life gets messy.

    I'm not sure if I've made that clear. So I'm wondering if at the end of the book I should insert some lines where she openly reflects on her control issues and what she's learned about them. Or would that be totally naff and hitting the reader over the head with the Moral of the Story?
     
  2. Megs33

    Megs33 Active Member

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    I think it's good to have a balance of obvious and vague- if every single character arc was super obvious it would be kind of lame. have you watched Modern Family? They have a really great penchant for telling three separate stories. Then suddenly they all learn a similar lesson by the end of the episode, and I am genuinely surprised by how well the character arcs tied together. Some of their arcs were obvious, and others were a surprise.

    it's fun to follow the hero knowing that they're meant to be the savior at the end of the book. Similarly, i love following a character where i wonder "where is this going?". I think it's good to have both.
     
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  3. Unripe Plum

    Unripe Plum Member

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    I would suggest that somewhere between hit-over-the-head obvious and scratch-the-head vague is subtle. That's the sweet spot, where the characters traits and how they evolve is shown, clear and overt, but delicately woven into descriptions and conversations. You can drop little hints throughout your narrative, which taken cumulatively form a very full and clear picture of the character's evolution.
    And it's also good to have prominent static characters, forming the framework within which the evolution of the other characters can be measured.
     
  4. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Banned Contributor

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    Yeah, don't do that. It sounds as if she's on the couch with Oprah and it's just too tidy an ending for my taste.
    Personally, I'm not crazy about moments of reflection in fiction, wherein the character has a revelation and loose ends are conveniently tied up.
     
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  5. B93

    B93 Active Member

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    Can you give her some decisions/actions that reflect her recognition of the issues, rather than spelling them out?
     
  6. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I'm groping here, thinking out loud, but maybe . . .

    Okay, start over. In the climactic scene in the story, which is a stand-off with the bad guy, my FMC, a rank amateur, realizes/decides that the authorities are disregarding a piece of life-and-death information she's passed on to them. She infiltrates the police lines, the bad guy spots her, and crap ensues. It looks pretty bad for awhile, but when the smoke clears, only the bad guy is dead. At the same time, the threat she intended to avert has turned out to be potential only. The bomb, literally, did not go off.

    So her heroics, from her POV, are for nothing. The threat turned out not to be real, she nearly gets herself, her boyfriend, and the sheriff in charge of the operation killed, and even the death of the bad guy isn't a total victory since the authorities wanted to take him alive to get info on his activities.

    On the other hand, her action did have some good effects and may have led to the best and only feasible end to the stand-off.

    So she's not in a position where she can 100% say, "I goofed," or, "It's a good thing I did that," either one. That's what I mean by saying the moral situation gets messy.
     
  7. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I don't think it's 100% mandatory for novels to have character arcs at all. I guess for character-driven fiction it's kind of important, but if your story is more plot-driven, a character arc isn't necessary.

    I think there's some confusion because we talk about "character development" in two different contexts - the author creating a rich, complex, interesting and fully "developed" character, vs. the character herself changing and growing and "developing". The first type is pretty damn important to just about any story I'd want to read; the second? Not nearly as necessary, depending on the type of story being told.
     
  8. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I'd say my novel is more character-driven. And just today it hit me that I need to come out of it with a good understanding of where my FMC ends up as a character, since I'm plotting a sequel and it should reflect what she's learned in Book One.

    Ironically, grasping that is helping me get my head around this issue.
     
  9. Ebenezer Lux

    Ebenezer Lux Member

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    A shorthand that I have is that my more static characters get discrete arcs, if they get arcs at all; my most dynamic characters (usually the primary and secondary characters) get more obvious arcs.
     
  10. Jaiden

    Jaiden Member

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    I painstakingly write down every single point of each character's arc before I even write one word of prose. And then I tend to disregard the entire middle because it was more appealing to write about a drug-free prostitute who is saving up to open a home for retired prostitutes. In all seriousness (well, being more serious because I did write that, and I loved it), I don't even know the story I'm writing until I get myself stuck in. All the best books I've read don't have a character-arc that seems obvious and in your face, but that's because they have carried me along the journey with the reactions of everyone else to the decisions made. I find that with every decision made, my awareness of an overriding plot disappears as I become more and more invested in the decisions my characters are making. Sure, the hero that overcomes all is a tantalising character, and generally has the start and end written for you. How they get there can be a myriad of poor decisions and setbacks.
     
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  11. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    The two lead Hero Protagonists of my Doctor Who fanfic have spent most of their time together disagreeing on whether protecting the Villain Protagonist is justified or not. At the end of the story, they both come to this big dramatic moral realization after deep philosophical and religious pondering ... that neither one of them knows what they believe is right anymore because they've both been so persuasive against each other :p

    If the realization is going to be made out to be very clear instead, then it not only needs to be followed by the character doing something about it, but he thing that the character does shouldn't solve everything unless it was very hard to do it.
     
  12. Denegroth

    Denegroth Banned

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    Controlling people generally do controlling things. People who think they might be controlling say something about it out loud. Also, controlling people tend to believe it's right and just they are in control. They don't spend much time criticizing themselves for it because someone might not like them...boo hoo. Be careful you're not writing a neurosis in as an organic trait.

    By the way, I haven't heard "character arc" in a very long time. That tended to be used for longer fiction, that isn't techno-war-zombie-vampire killer based, such as Gone With The Wind and Scarlett O'Hara. I was pleased to see that subject line...almost nostalgic.
     

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