What Are Character Arcs? (3 Types of Character Arcs)

In this post, we briefly go over what are character arcs and why they are important.

A character arc is a transformation the character(s) goes through across the plot of a story. This transformation takes place in the physical world and the inner world of the character. For example, a protagonist typically starts off "not good enough" at the beginning of a story, but by the end has become fully capable of achieving their goal.

What Are Character Arcs & Why Are They Important

A character's development or inner journey through a narrative is known as a character arc.

If a story has a character arc, the character begins as one person and gradually transforms into a more developed person as the story progresses.

Radical change is frequently described using the term "arc," which refers to how change frequently involves substantial shifts from one personality trait to its exact opposite (for instance, from greed to benevolence).

It's not necessary for every protagonist in a story to follow a character arc.

There are some good stories where the characters' surroundings undergo changes but not the main character, but we'll save that for another lesson.

The character must develop or change in some way to overcome challenges. The character arc enters at this point.

No two character arcs in fiction are identical, of course. But the majority of character arcs fall into one of three basic archetypes.

3 Common Character Arcs

1. Transformation Arc

The first arc, possibly the most typical, is one of total modification or transformation. It complements the hero's journey, a plot device that can be found in an infinite number of books and films.

This character arc completely transforms a hero or savior from a "normal" person.

The change or transformation arc frequently begins with an ordinary person who is an underdog or at least seems unlikely to end up saving the world at some point and is typically reserved for main characters/protagonists.

However, as the plot develops, this character usually goes through a radical transformation.

The character eventually succeeds in what he set out to do thanks to some innate talent or strength, and in the process, essentially transforms into a completely different person.

Most, if not all, character arcs of change involve the protagonist holding onto a false belief or misperception about himself or the world.

The character then learns the truth, and his response to it—how he adapts in the face of it—forms the foundation of his character arc.

Therefore, when crafting a change or transformation arc, consider what misconception or lie your character holds to be true. How is he going to learn the truth? And how will this realization cause you to alter or undergo a total transformation as a person?

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2. Growth Arc

In this story arc, the character develops but may not change or transform.

He remains essentially the same by the end of the story, but he has outgrown something about himself. Because of this, he is either a better person or simply different.

Another way a character can grow is by adopting a different viewpoint, picking up a new skill, or playing a different role by the narrative's conclusion.

In general, this arc is a little more understated than an arc in the hero's journey style. A character in a growth arc won't save the world at the end, but they will have changed, evolved, and grown in some way.

Secondary characters benefit greatly from growth arcs, especially if the main character undergoes a complete change or transformation arc.

Compare your character at the beginning and end of the story and consider whether or not he is fundamentally the same person. This is important when writing growth arcs. For example, with just a new outlook, worldview, or method of operation, could he go back to "normal life"?

3. Fall From Grace Arc

This type of arc is a negative arc, in contrast to the two types of arcs that were mentioned above that are typically positive. It involves a character's decline or "fall" due to his poor decisions, which may lead to his destruction and possibly the destruction of others.

Typically, the character died, turned evil, or went insane after this arc. He probably destroyed his own life and the lives of others, and he only experienced the fall—no redemption or salvation.

The most extreme downfall arc is when the character begins the story as a good/happy/successful person. Still, they are completely unrecognizable by the time it is over, which is the opposite of the positive change or transformation arc we discussed earlier.

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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