What is a redemption arc?
“Redemption: An act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake.” An act, implying action, which is created by choices, which just happens to be the basis of character development.
Some writers confuse redemption arcs with things they are not, and end up creating situations which aren’t redemption arcs at all, but rather bad writing, such as when:
- The villainous character’s actions are never condemned by the heroic characters and the story, even when the villain is in the process of doing villainous things.
- The villainous character is immediately forgiven for all the wrong they’ve done despite making no real effort to change their ways.
- The villainous character suddenly becomes a genuinely good person without any notable character growth.
- The villainous character is suddenly made unaccountable for their villainous actions because it’s revealed that someone else forced them to do it. Bonus bad writing: All blame is placed on the heroic characters for being unable to see how ‘traumatized’ the villainous character has been.
So now that we know what a redemption arc is not, how do we write a good one?
The four steps to a solid redemption arc: