Saturday, November 01, 2014

KM Weiland's Character Arc series

KM Weiland has written a wonderful series of posts about growing a story from a character's flaws, what she calls The Lie the Character Believes. While she calls it a character arc, if the character is the main character, this is the core of your story. She helps you grow your character from the damage in his past through all the structural aspects from Act 1 to the climax.

At her website, Helping Writers Become Authors, you can check for additional posts and sign up for her newsletter.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 1: Can You Structure Characters? - What if there were a sure-fire secret to creating stunning character arcs? Would you be interested in discovering it? If you care about connecting with readers, grabbing hold of their emotions, and creating stories that will resonate with them on a level deeper than mere entertainment, then the answer has to be a resounding yes!

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 2: The Lie Your Character Believes - People hate change. We may sit around and wish our lives were different, but when the rubber really starts streaking the tarmac, we usually find ourselves wishing we could just hang out here in our safe and familiar haunts. Characters are no different. They resist change just as staunchly as any of us.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 3: The Thing Your Character Wants vs. The Thing Your Character Needs - The Lie Your Character Believes is the reason for all character arcs. After all, if everything’s hunky-dunky, why change? We might think of the Lie as the cavity in a tooth. Everything might look shiny and white on the outside, but inside there’s decay.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 4: Your Character’s Ghost - What is your character’s ghost, and how does it affect his character arc? Once you’ve figured out the Lie Your Character Believes, as well as Thing He Wants and the Thing He Needs, the next question you need to ask yourself is: Why does the character believe the Lie in the first place?

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 5: The Characteristic Moment - First impressions do count. And your protagonist’s Characteristic Moment is his first chance to impress your readers. Now that we’ve got the basic theory of character arc out of the way and figured out how to set up your protagonist’s inner conflict, via the Lie He Believes, the Thing He Wants and the Thing He Needs, and the Ghost, we’re ready to officially begin writing our character’s story.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 6: The Normal World - Who wants to read about a boring old Normal World? The Lost World? Sure! The Exciting, Unusual, Exotic, and Absolutely Thrilling World? You betcha. But the Normal World? Isn’t that a pretty lame way to begin a story? Nope. Not if you want your character’s change arc to make sense, it isn’t.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 7: The First Act - The First Act is one of my favorite parts of any story. Why? On the surface, the First Act seems to be the slowest part of the story—and it often is. It’s just setup, after all, right? True enough, except for that one little word just. It isn’t “just” setup; it’s SETUP!

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 8: The First Plot Point - If the First Act is setup, then the First Plot Point is the point of no return in character arcs. The setup ends, and the story begins “for realz.” At this point the character commits—usually because he has no choice—to a decision that will propel him out of the comfortable stagnation of the Normal World and the Lie He Believes.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 9: The First Half of the Second Act - In the structure of character arcs, the First Half of the Second Act is where your character ventures (or is thrust) into uncharted territory—and gets lost. He may not quite see it that way himself, but this is where he begins to discover that the old rules (the Lie He Believes) no longer apply.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 10: The Midpoint - In a positive change character arc, your protagonist will have spent the First Half of the Second Act blundering around in foreign territory, making mistakes based on false assumptions, and getting his hand slapped for his every wrong move. But he’s also going to have been slowly—maybe even subconsciously—learning his lesson and figuring things out.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 11: The Second Half of the Second Act - The Second Half of the Second Act is where you cue the hero music in character arcs. Thanks to that major personal revelation at the Midpoint, the protagonist now gets it. The puzzle pieces are falling into place. The light bulbs have flashed on. He sees what he has to do to win the conflict.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 12: The Third Plot Point - If you had pick the single most important moment in characters arcs, what would it be? The Third Plot Point, you say? Well, you’d be right. Now here’s the harder question: Why is it the most important moment? The Third Plot Point is the low moment in your story.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 13: The Third Act - Character arcs in the Third Act are all about intensity. On the story’s exterior, the conflict is heating up. The protagonist is a runaway train thundering toward what has now become an inevitable confrontation with the antagonistic force. But, on the inside, he’s reeling.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 14: The Climax - In character arcs, as in plot, the Climax is the dot on the end of the exclamation point. The Climax is the reason for the story. This is where the author reveals what the journey the character just endured was really all about—and, in a positive change arc, why that journey has turned out to be worth all the heartaches and trauma.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 15: The Resolution - The Resolution caps character arcs like the cherry on top of a banana split. In some respects, it almost seems to be an extraneous piece of the story. After all, your character’s arc is already complete. He irrevocably proved his devotion to the truth in the Climax. He turned his back on the Lie so completely that he’ll never again be able to surrender to its thrall.

KM Weiland mentions 3 types of character arcs: Change, Negative and Flat. The Change Arc is gone into detail above. The following 2 sets dig into how the Negative and Flat Arcs differ.

How to Write a Negative Character Arc, Pt. 1: The First Act - Who in heaven’s name would want to write a negative character arc? Well, how about Shakespeare, Dostoevksy, Faulkner, and Flaubert? Just to name a few small-time wordsmiths you may have heard tell of. Everybody likes a happy ending, but, let’s face it, not all stories have happy endings.

How to Write a Negative Character Arc, Pt. 2: The Second Act - The Second Act in a negative character arc bears a lot of similarity to that in a positive change arc. In both types of arc, the character will be thrust out of his Normal World into a new and strange dilemma, where he will be forced to confront his Lie.

How to Write a Negative Character Arc, Pt. 3: The Third Act - In a word, the negative character arc is about failure, and this becomes nowhere more clear than in the Third Act. If the positive change arc is about redeeming self and the flat arc is about saving others, then the negative character arc is about destroying self and probably others as well.

How to Write a Flat Character Arc, Pt. 1: The First Act - Next to the positive change arc, the flat character arc is the most popular storyline. Also called the “testing arc,” the flat arc is about a character who does not change. He already has the Truth figured out in the beginning of the story, and he uses that Truth to help him overcome various external tests.

How to Write a Flat Character Arc, Pt. 2: The Second Act - The Second Act is the beating heart of your story—and that’s just as true in a flat character arc as it is in a change arc. The Second Act is all about loosing the character into an unsettled world.

How to Write a Flat Character Arc, Pt. 3: The Third Act - The Third Act is where we find arguably the greatest similarities between the flat character arc and the positive change arc, since in both types of story the protagonist will have a full grasp on the Truth by this point.

These aren't specifically part of the series, but are related. (There may be more at her website by the time you're reading this.)

The Impact Character: Why Every Character Arc Needs One - When we think of necessary characters, we tend to come up with obvious choices such as the protagonist, the antagonist, and maybe the mentor, love interest, and sidekick. “Impact character” probably isn’t at the top of your list. But it should be. Because you can’t create a character arc without one.

Can a Character’s Arc Be a Subplot? - You’ve written an amazing story. Your premise is high concept. Your plot structure is brilliant. The whole thing is killer. But the main character’s arc seems to be, well, lacking. It’s there all right. It just doesn’t get much screentime. It’s more of a, ahem, subplot. Is that even possible? Is it workable?

How to Figure Out WHAT Your Character’s Arc Should Be - Over the last six months and three series, you’ve gotten a pretty good idea of how to structure your character’s arc–whether it’s positive, flat, or negative. But what you may still be wondering is how to figure out which arc you should choose for your character.

Should All Your Minor Characters Have Arcs? - If your protagonist’s character arc has the ability to deepen your story, then just think how much more depth you can create if all your minor characters have arcs! Dizzying concept, isn’t it? And it raises the (somewhat trepidatious) question: Should all your minor characters have arcs? It’s a fair question.

The All-Important Link Between Theme and Character Progression - Theme is a slippery concept. The prevailing wisdom among writers is that if you apply any deliberate force to your theme, you’ll end up with a heavy-handed Aesop’s fable. On the other hand, a story without a theme is shallow escapism at best and an unrealistic flop at worst.
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