Designing a character arc

There are different forms a character arc can take. And different ways to create one. But if you’re struggling, I have a few tips on designing an arc for your character.

1. Where does your character start?

  • Where are they in life? What are their ambitions and dreams?
  • What are their main traits?
  • Most importantly: what is their biggest character flaw/shortcoming. For a character arc, this should be something that can be changed or that shows potential.
  • What is the one thing keeping your character from being the best they can be? What is the unrealized potential of your character?
  • We’ll call this point A
  • For example, let’s say your MC is very childish and self-centered

2. They should end at the opposite of point A

  • No, this doesn’t mean an angry character should suddenly be a meek little lamb.
  • It means that your character has managed to work on that flaw, has overcome their biggest weakness. Has fulfilled their potential.
  • Take point A and make it shinier, healthier, better, nicer etc.
  • Let’s call this point Z
  • Going with our example, this would mean that the character has learnt to be mature when they need to be and has come to be considerate of others’ needs.
  • This is where your character should be by the end of the story. This is the goal of the arc.

3. Which events/plot points will help your character get from point A to point Z?

  • Your character can’t just spontaneously transform from A to Z. The development needs to be believable and organic.
  • So, what can happen to the character to bring about this change progressively? Who can they meet? Do they fall in love? Lose someone important? Find a family? Go through war? The possibilities are endless.
  • The first event is usually your inciting incident (Point B) , which takes the character away from their regular life and comfort zone. Something around them has to change before they can start to change.
  • The change shouldn’t occur in a single event, however. It should be gradual.
  • In our example, the character could be exposed to the suffering of others, meet a compassionate love interest, be forced to take responsibility etc.

4. Breaking point

  • Most good books have a character breaking point. The point where your character has lost everything and is down in the dumps.
  • The breaking point presents the final choice: give up or go on
  • This should be your character’s final point before they are transformed into Z. (point Y if you will)
  • Overcoming rock bottom is what will eventually make your character the best they can be.

5. Big picture

  • So, eventually your character arc should look like this: A > B (inciting incident) > event C > event D etc > Y (breaking point) > Z

This is a very simple way to design an arc. Obviously, you can create one that’s much more complex. But I hope that these basics can be helpful.

Reblog if you found this post useful. Comment with your own character arc tips and any requests for future writing advice posts. Follow me for similar content.

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