My good friend Hank Quense is a master of story design and character development. That’s why I’m so pleased to share his newsletter article here as a guest post:
The Importance of Character Arc by Hank Quense
Here’s a fiction writing problem.
If you look through most books on fiction writing, you’ll find little on the importance of a character arc. The book may mention the story needs such an arc, but there is little more than that. Certainly, the book will not mention the importance of the arc. And that is a shame because I submit that the character arc is one of the most important elements in the story and, without such an arc, the story will most likely fail.
The overall definition of the arc is “What changed in the life of the character over the course of the story?” Or “What great lesson did the character learn because of the events in the story?”
As such, the character arc can be summarized by two values: the beginning value and the ending value. Some writers think of the character arc like it’s an on-off switch. It’s in one position at the beginning and the it’s in the other position at the end with nothing in between. Treating the character arc in such a fashion is to miss the main purpose of the arc, namely describing the journey the character takes from the beginning value to reach the ending value.
This journey comprises a story within a story. This isn’t a subplot, rather it is a part of the main storyline, but outside the basic plot. It adds a richness to that storyline. Once the reader pegs that the character is changing before her eyes, she will keep turning the pages to follow along with those changes.
However, the change can’t be a straight line. It has to have ups and downs, starts and stops, two steps forward and one step back. This isn’t easy, but the effort is worth it.
Want an example? Think of the original Star Wars movies. Luke Skywalker has to fight the bad guys, that’s the main plot, but the character arc is about Luke learning how to be a Jedi Knight. And it only takes three movies for him to learn that.
Here’s another example. The main character in the story is a pompous windbag who constantly hurts people with his cutting remarks. Over the course of the story, he slowly comes to realize the pain he causes and starts to change. The change has to be two steps forward and one step backward and the reader has to see the evolution as it occurs.
Adding a character arc to your story and making it a story-within-a-story will greatly increase the reader’s enjoyment and interest in your book.
If you’d like to subscribe to Hank’s newsletter, visit: https://hankquense.substack.com/. Hank also publish articles on Medium, at hanque99.medium.com. If you need help with fiction writing, self-publishing or book marketing, check out Hank’s amazing resources at: https://writersarc.com. He also offers courses at Udemy: https://www.udemy.com/user/hank-quense-2/
Bravo, Hank—write on!
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