6/17/18

Character Arcs // Why You Need Them and How to Start Writing Them


Let me just throw this rambling at you about a certain thing I see missing from YA novels time and time again:

Character arcs are SO important!!

Without them, the whole point of the story is meaningless. True, there are probably some exceptions (there are always exceptions), but overall stories would be empty if the character reached the end without learning anything.

Would The Lord of the Rings be as amazing and touching if Frodo returned to the Shire in the end and went back to being the plucky young hobbit he once was?

Would The Voyage of the Dawn Treader be as amazing if Eustace ending up not being redeemed and went on with his bullying ways to the very last page?  

Image result for Frodo

I myself have changed so much over these years, and I haven’t even gone on a quest or led a worldwide rebellion against the government (yet)!


The first step to working towards your character’s arc is to give your characters flaws and shortcomings.

For example, one of my characters, Piper Anson, is a super optimistic happy-go-lucky teenage girl.

 Now, at first these aspects of her personality appear good, and in a way, they are, but along with being super optimistic, she’s also super unrealistic and na├»ve, even to the point of being selfish. 

Because of this, Piper leaves her brother who is suffering with depression and from being bullied to deal with their mom’s hospitalization alone in order to pursue a wild dream in hopes of earning money for her mom’s hospital bill. Obviously, this plan doesn’t work out like she thought, and she finds herself realizing the mistake she’s made.


Character flaws are easy to come up with, simply take the good things about your character’s personality and show the bad side to them.

Is your character super cheerful and spunky? They might also have a harder time empathizing with people and holding their tongue.

Are they super sweet and creative? They could also have problems socializing and feeling like they fit in.

Character traits are often paradoxes, there are pros and cons to everything, and showing this creates a more complex feeling to your plot, as well as making your characters feel like relatable human beings.

Getting back to character arcs, once you’ve established your character’s strength and weaknesses, consider what they need to learn in your story. At the end of their journey what about them has changed?
In the Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen realizes that she is weaker but simultaneously stronger than she thought, she also learns that humanity is a super important and fragile thing. 

In Nothing Left to Burn, Audrey learns that there is a difference between love and obsession and that the truth isn’t always as clear as she thought it was.


How has your story defined your character, how do they see themselves now? How has the changes in their lives affected their view on the world? How are their relationships now? And do they know something they didn’t know before?

The song I Know Things Now from Into the Woods illustrates this pretty well, in the song, Red Riding Hood sings about how she was deceived by the Wolf’s charms. “Nice is different than good,” she sings, showing that she has learned that there is a line between charming and authentic.

All in all, arcs are very significant, they add a sense of direction and satisfaction. 

How do you write character arcs?
What are some of your favorite arcs in fiction?
And what flaws do your characters have?

Happy Writing,

30 comments:

  1. Great post! Realistic characters always makes a story better because then we can really get into the book and relate to the characters!
    -Brooklyne

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  2. Awesome post! Characters arcs are so fun to read, but I’m finding recently that they are difficult to write. The simplistic way you said for how to write them actually helped me a lot. THANK YOU!!!

    Also, welcome back from your super-mini hiatus!

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    1. Thanks! They are, and they can be super difficult to write at times.
      I'm glad this helped!! :DD

      Aww, thank you. Glad to be back. <3

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  3. This is EPIC. GLAD YOU'RE BACK! <3

    I love how characters change and how you pretty much saved me time from watching LotR because you jus revealed it for me. XD XD (jk jk, not trying to start the mob again. Speaking of mobs, if you need a soldier for your rebellion... *salutes*)

    I love characters and arcs and this is just 10000000% EPIC! <3

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    1. Thanks!! :D

      Uh, I did not save you from watching that because LotRs has so many other plots and things to it than that element. XD

      Aww, I might randomly recruit you one day! ;D

      Thanks!!!

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  4. I never thought about using the pros and cons of each character strength as a weakness...I'll definitely play with these suggestions!!

    Catherine

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    1. It's actually really helpful in writing characters. ^_^

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  5. Yes! Character arcs are so important! Great post, Gray :)

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  6. I love our character's strengths can have great weaknesses, and their weaknesses can sometimes be their best strength.

    I loooove Janner's arc in The Wingfeather Saga - how he hates how he can't do things because he has to watch his siblings, and then learns that he has to protect them, and then embraces that role. LOVE IT!!

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    1. I TOTALLY FORGOT ABOUT HIS ARC, I SHOULD'VE INCLUDED IT, BECAUSE YES, IT IS AMAZING!

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  7. "Character traits are often paradoxes." You are SO right! Man. I loved your example with Katniss, too! I never really thought about it like that. It's so interesting how often people--and as a result, characters--have traits and flaws that seem like they shouldn't exist together, but somehow do. Yet instead of making things confusing, it makes everything so much more relatable and real. Thanks for this thought provoking post!

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    1. It is very interesting how complex people are!
      Thank you for reading. <3

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  8. I love a good character arc! Some examples I could list would be the journeys taken by Janner of the Wingfeather Saga, Euastace Clarence Scrubb of Narnia, and The Chronicler of Dragon Witch.
    Author K.M. Weiland has some very good insights and instructions on her blog about crafting character arcs: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/write-character-arcs/

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    1. Yes! Both of those are amazing examples!! :D

      I'll have to check out that post, thanks. ^_^

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  9. A good character arc makes me so happy. One of my favorites that I've written is a girl who learned to overcome her shy and receding ways, without losing who she was as an introvert.

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    1. Yep, same here. Aw, that sounds amazing, I love arcs that play out like that!

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  10. How old are you Gray Marie? There are many adult writers who haven't grasped this concept. In fact, I'm passing this blog along to my adult writing class! Kudos to you for writing this.

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  11. This was so inspiring. At a young age you have come up with something that a typical writers can't make. Good job!

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    1. Wow, thank you so much for your kind words!

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  12. Brilliant post, Characters arcs are so fun to read :)

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    1. Thank you! They really are what makes a book amazing.

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  13. A good character arc makes me so happy.Nice blog

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    1. It makes me happy too. Thank you so much!

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  14. I remember when I first got into blogging and I saw Goodreads reviews stating how much they disliked a book because there was no character arc. I've never heard of that term before so I was quite confused. Nowadays, I've seen a bit of a pattern within books that I don't like and a lack of a character arc are one of the problems.

    I also hope to apply this to my stories!

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    1. It's funny how much you learn when you start blogging!

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  15. I love reading it and its so inspiring. Thanks for sharing your post.

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