Wednesday, November 2, 2016

What Gives with Character Arcs?

I'm being a little tricky today: I'm in two places at once. Sharing about my move to Brisbane and my next adventure, I'm with Denise Covey. And, sharing a couple of truths about myself and one naughty lie, I'm over at Crystal Collier's blog where you have a chance to win an ebook copy of Cling to God! I'd love it if you could visit both awesome blogs.

IWSG question of the month:  What is your favorite aspect of being a writer? 

Being able to find clarity of thought and creative expression through the written word, and sharing that with others. How about you?

Please welcome Crystal Collier here today sharing her new book and some writing tips!

In 1771, Alexia had everything: the man of her dreams, reconciliation with her father, even a child on the way. But she was never meant to stay. It broke her heart, but Alexia heeded destiny and traveled five hundred years back to stop the Soulless from becoming.

In the thirteenth century, the Holy Roman Church has ordered the Knights Templar to exterminate the Passionate, her bloodline. As Alexia fights this new threat—along with an unfathomable evil and her own heart—the Soulless genesis nears. But none of her hard-won battles may matter if she dies in childbirth before completing her mission.

Can Alexia escape her own clock?

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What Gives with Character Arcs? 

Thank you for having me here today, Lynda!

As you become a seasoned writer, you slowly master a whole slew of issues. First is getting actual words on a page. Next is translating the story in your head onto the page. Once you've written a WHOLE BOOK (!!!), you blissfully believe it's the best thing on the planet, until someone kindly tells you it isn't. And that's the moment a writer either gets off the horse, or learns the buiz.

That's when we learn the intricacies of plot, and as we're about to discuss today, character.

One subject I don't see very many people discussing online is character arcs. Every main character should have their own arc. (Including antagonists.) This is just like a plot arc.




  1. The protagonist starts out with status quo.
  2. Plot: Status quo is disrupted. Character: Reacts to status quo changing.
  3. Character tries to get back to status quo, or a new sense of normal.
  4. Conflicts keep the character from reaching their goals.
  5. No matter how hard the character fights, they are completely defeated.
  6. Character find the strength to start again, usually with a reversal of what they first wanted in the story.
  7. Character builds toward achieving their new goal.
  8. Character faces a crisis that forces them to make a key decision leading to the end.
  9. Climax: Big battle brings out the best or worst in the character.
  10. Character has achieved a new sense of normal.
There are the mechanics, so what does this look like when applied to an actual story? Let's try it with Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
  1. Status Quo: Goldilocks is taking a jaunt in the woods.
  2. Status quo interrupted: She sees a house in the middle of the woods. Strange.
  3. Character tries to get back to status quo: She knocks on the door to see if someone is home, to discover what kind of weirdo lives in the middle of the woods.
  4. Conflict keeps the character from reaching their goal: No one answers. 
  5. Character is defeated: She goes inside to have her question answered and sees the porridge.
  6. Character starts again: Now she forgets about her original inquiry and remembers that she's hungry. Goldilocks tries the porridge in her investigation. She's burned, chilled, and then at ease.
  7. Character builds toward achieving their new goal: Sated, she tries each chair. Now she's just looking for comfort and has forgotten her original intent.
  8. On to the beds, and she finds exactly the comfort she's looking for in the last one.
  9. Climax: The bears return home and Goldilocks is terrified. She runs away.
  10. Character has achieved a new sense of normal: She never returns to the home of the three bears.
Character arcs are AS intrinsic or more so than a plot arc. They're like the music portion of a musical. A MUSICAL wouldn't amount to much with just a script. The music is what makes you FEEL the story. If you want satisfied readers, the characters had better make the full journey from start to finish.

Just for fun, I'd like to show you how Status Quo is broken in each of my books:

In the beginning of MOONLESS, Alexia's status quo is disrupted by an unexplainable murder and everyone abruptly forgetting about it, except for her.









In SOULLESS, her status quo is broken when she flees from her home forever to escape the Soulless and a group of Passionate who have come to kidnap her.









In TIMELESS, Alexia has thrown her own world out of whack by stepping into a time where the Knights Templar are trying to wipe out her bloodline.








We all want to see the change in people. It's fascinating. It's what makes our lives worth living.

Do your characters make the full journey?


Crystal Collier is an eclectic author who pens clean fantasy/sci-fi, historical, and romance stories with the occasional touch of humor, horror, or inspiration. She practices her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, four littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese.







(Email address is required for awarding prizes.)




Don't forget to visit Denise and Crystal!

86 comments:

  1. Hi Lyn! I hope it's fun rattling around in an empty house. I hope the pics are showing up for everyone on my blog. I re-posted them in case it wasn't just you.

    Thank you Crystal for the post on Character Arcs. I need this right now. Awesome. I like the way you linked it to your books.

    Denise :-)

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    1. Denise, I'm so glad it was helpful! I'm headed to your place in a bit.

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    2. The house echoes! But this is the last day here. We head off tomorrow, taking our time to drive up to Brisbane. And yes, the pics are working now. Thanks again for having me!

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  2. A needed review of character arcs for me. Just in time for nano. Thank you!

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    1. Woot! Good timing for writers. Here's wishing you epic success with your goals!

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  3. Breaking it down with Goldilocks - brilliant. Congratulations, Crystal!
    Pray the move is going well, Lynda.

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  4. Great writing advice, Crystal. Thanks for sharing. Wishing you lots of luck with Cling to God, Lynda. Have a great November.

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  5. Character arcs are super important. I always decide on mine and then make sure to plot them out as I outline the actual plot. (I don't get pantsers at all. They never know what they're doing with arcs; they always come too early or fall flat at the end. :P)

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    1. LOL. Some pantsers end up smoothing out the ARCs in the edits. *shrugs* Different approaches for different types of brains, eh?

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  6. I am much better with a plot ARC than character development. Thanks for breaking it down for us, Crystal.

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  7. The character arc, and the character's goals and how that person changes during the story, should prety much BE the plot.

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  8. I hope everything goes smoothly with your move Lynda. Crystal thanks for this great breakdown on character arcs.I love the way you explained it.

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  9. Hi Lynda - good luck with the move ... I'm sure all will be well - the best thing is having friends and family at the other end to help with the odd snag that will arise. Good story making too ...

    Crystal's thoughts on character ARCs ... are just great - good luck to you both - Hilary

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  10. Great part of writing indeed. Hopefully the move is going well.

    Character arcs are sure needed indeed, without them it can be rather stagnant.

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    1. And who wants to read stagnant, eh?

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    2. Yep, it's going swimmingly. I'm rattling around an empty house at the moment.

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  11. Enjoy your move! I hope to see lots of pics. Character arcs are a must. I'm developing one for my MC and one for the antagonist!

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    1. Sweet! I wish you the best with your efforts, and a TON of cheese along the way!

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    2. Thanks, Jennifer. I hope to share some pics once I move in.

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  12. Lynda (King) Young, ;) I hope you've emptied enough boxes to find some sanity--especially around all this book release fun.

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    1. You cheeky thing, you. No emptying of boxes yet. The furniture and boxes have moved, but I haven't yet. Staying in an empty house today and then I'm off on my big adventure.

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  13. sounds like a whole science indeed!

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  14. Good luck with your move, Lynda!

    And yeh for Crystal!

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  15. Hi Lynda, its nice to see Crystal here and learn all about character arcs.

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  17. I will come back and study this closer. In a bit of a rush right now. You are a great source of helpful information, Crystal. Thank you for that. Off to visit Lynda.

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    1. Thanks, Joylene. I hope your tour is rockin'!

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  18. Crystal - your Goldilocks example was so useful! It makes a lot more sense presented like that. Lynda - I really enjoyed hearing about your move over at Denise's blog. Cheers - Ellen

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    1. Right?! Better to see something in execution for it to actually sink in.

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    2. So glad to hear that. Thanks, Ellen.

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  19. Writing is a way to clarify your thoughts. You have to be so careful to choose the right words and the way to set them down so others will "get" your message. Thanks for the Goldilocks post!

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    1. Agreed! It's worthy taking the time to get the right words down, eh?

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    2. I'm always getting my words muddled when speaking, so writing gives me the time to clear the thoughts, lol.

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  20. Congratulations to both you! Great tips Crystal:)

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  21. I do tend to spend more time on the external story arc than the character (internal) arc. I have to keep going back and reminding myself that the character had better be growing throughout the story or else the readers will be disappointed.

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    1. Or you can just wait until the next draft and clean some of that up. ;)

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  22. I like the line about clarity of thought. Writing is about making sense of the world, even if you're building another one.

    Great breakdown of character arc from Crystal. There wouldn't really be a plot unless the characters were facing things that challenged them and building from them.

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    1. Too true! Yet some people get so stuck in "plot" that they forget the character's growth.

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    2. writing IS about making sense of the world, and publishing it is about sharing that perspective.

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  23. Surprised to see you here, Crystal. Character is so important. I'm glad you tackled it here. Especially the antagonist. A lot of writers have trouble with that one.

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    1. I agree. It seems that many writers don't put as much thought into their antagonist as their MC, and they really should.

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  24. Thanks for the mini lesson on character arcs. It's one of my favorite subjects to talk about.

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    1. Right? And it never gets enough attention.

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  25. Fantastic post, Crystal - this is something I was literally just thinking about yesterday. At the moment, my character doesn't seem to have much of an arc, so that's the next piece of the puzzle I need to figure out - how do I raise the stakes high enough for people to care? Something to bear in mind during NaNoWriMo!

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    1. I'm sure you'll figure it out, Rachel. I remember a day and age when I wasn't even aware that there was such a thing as a character arc. LOL. Here's wishing you cheese as you edit!

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  26. I'm learning (slowly and painfully) to plot and do arcs and beats and things. Tough on the brain, but I think it's helping!

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    1. It's definitely a learning curve, but you can do it!

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  27. Lynda, writing really does provide me with clarity of thought. I like that answer.

    Crystal. Character arcs are essential. Scrivener has a great tool for helping with character arcs.

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    1. So I tried Scrivener. It was too rigid for me. I know it works for many, many people, but it stopped up my process. We have to figure out what works for us, eh?

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  28. Congrats ladies. Best of luck. Thanks for the tips on character arcs.

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Sheena-kay! *salute*

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  29. Congratulations to Crystal and to you, Lynda!!! Way to go with writing awesome books!
    Love the plot arc. I hadn't thought of the inciting incident as an interruption of status quo, but it is.

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    1. When evaluating it from a character's perspective, that's exactly what it is. From staight plot, it's an inciting incident.

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    2. You made me blush, Tyrean. Thanks so much for your enthusiasm. Big big hugs.

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  30. Great advice, although ironically not useful for my current work since it's not super character focused. haha. Thanks though!

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    1. Hey, it applies to plot too--but I bet you have some of this stuff worked into your plot anyway. ;)

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  31. Thanks for the character plot lesson. I'd be interested in seeing how it applies to some of my stories. I'm pretty sure I got at least some of these in there.

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    1. I always do a detailed analysis after completing a book--along with a graph to show where in the story they fall (for pacing purposes).

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  32. I guess when I write, my character arc is included in the detailed plot that I map out, because I don't do it separately or even think about it. lol It's all in my plot. ;)

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    1. That works. I tend to include both aspects as well.

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  33. Good stuff about character arcs! I probably need to pay more attention to them. Sometimes I don't think about them until I finish the book, then I tweak later. lol Congrats, Crystal, on your newest book!

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    1. Tweaking later works too. =) Thanks, Carol!

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