Keys to building a good character arc

  • The central axis of the dramatic arc

You cannot lose sight of your novel's central axis if you want it to support much more than you anticipate. The central channel, which features your protagonist's adventures, is situated in that central axis. That serves as the plot's foundation. And it is the one that marks the evolution of the protagonist and his dramatic arc. And what exactly does it include? To challenge the protagonist to reach his ultimate goal, we keep pushing him to the point where he is in danger of losing everything he values the most. He no longer exerts himself in any way. How does it happen? It's carried out gradually, consistently, and convincingly. And in this way, the readers change along with the protagonist as he transforms.

  • The dance between the protagonist and the antagonist

Returning to the characters, the conflict in the story, and all the different ways the protagonist's life might be threatened must be considered for everything to be turned upside down, always logically with the plot and the character's journey. Right now is the time to think deeply and choose what feels right. It would be difficult to believe the transformation if you were the dramatic arc. Save yourself the hospitals, accidents, and sudden deaths because they are not credible and disrupt the protagonist's natural transformation.

We must never forget that every Cinderella has a stepmother, every Little Red Riding Hood has a wolf, and every Sleeping Beauty has an evil witch waiting for her. For everything to be credible and for each twist to be meaningful, the protagonist and antagonist must have a consistent relationship. The antagonist is necessary for the protagonist to be connected to the primary conflict of the narrative, which originates with the initial idea. The antagonist and protagonist work together because they are two sides of the same coin. They create the dramatic arc collectively. If we want the protagonist to experience a genuine transformation, there is no other option.

  • The conflict brings the dramatic arc to life. A practical example

The central axis represents the protagonist's dramatic arc. It is a path that both the protagonist and the antagonist take. Both fight from the conflict, which is the struggle to achieve the protagonist's external and internal goals. There are always two objectives, one visible and one hidden, one external and one internal. The goal is derived from the initial concept and theme you wish to develop in your novel. As a result, the dramatic arc ensures evolution.

Assume we have a novel about a woman who was abandoned as a child and longs to belong to something, to someone. She is an orphan in search of love. Vanessa is her name. She is desperate for love; it is her ultimate goal. Her dramatic arc is outlined from her feeling of abandonment to the love that she will receive, though she is still unsure what kind of love it is.

When we meet her, she is married but has no love; her husband is cold and indifferent, only interested in power. Vanesa is willing to put almost everything on the line to feel loved. She is shy and quiet, but inside herself, in her heart, she carries a bomb that is about to explode, and she knows she could blow up and lose everything at any time. Her love burns him because he lacks love due to her constant feeling of abandonment.

The first thing we need to consider right now is what opposition this woman willing to risk everything for love will face, or we won't get a meaningful arc. Precisely because love is hurt, conflict arises. What if her husband is unfaithful? What if she, he, or both of them are unfaithful? What if neither of them knows how to love? What options do they have? We must keep thinking if we want a great conflict about love, its complexities, and the desire to feel loved at any cost. If the conflict is intense, the protagonist will fight harder and more effectively, and the dramatic arc will be more important, human, and intriguing.

Vanesa may consider having an affair with her husband's brother or best friend due to a very strong, passionate attraction, implying Vanesa will lose everything. She would lose not only her husband but also her husband's brother, and everything would turn upside down because deception, lies, prevarication, and betrayal were major challenges at this time. What if her brother begs her husband to let them be happy? What if she asks her husband to let her live with the man she now believes she loves, her husband's brother? What would happen if she or her brother approached the parents of these two brothers?

Analyze the possibilities of your story and characters; the messier, the better, because the dramatic arc will be more appealing. Of course, the ultimate problem is whether she or her brother would kill her husband because she can push a character to that point. Sure, then you're in for a passionate thriller. But, finally, we're talking about a leading lady and her goal and core need, which we jeopardize to draw an engaging and exciting dramatic arc.

Here are resources I recommend to get more in-depth knowledge

Storytelling 101 teaches you how to write compelling stories worthy of commercial success. This is best for screenwriters, novelists, filmmakers, videogame writers and storytellers.

Children’s Books 101 teaches you how to write stories that children will love. This is best for aspiring children’s book authors and storytellers.

Owl AI is the revolutionary AI-powered content production platform that helps storytellers, writers, and bloggers of all subject matter easily create highly-polished content.

Success, Money & Mindset Subliminal is a self-hypnosis recording that we recommend to new writers to help with focus, concentration, creativity, and motivation.

Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.

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