Fun with Character Arcs

CharacterArc  A character’s life is never easy.

My next step in my NaNoWriMo prep plan is to get the arcs for all my characters planned out. This is actually one step in Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method that I’m adopting because it’s helping me make sure everything fits together and that every one has a purpose and a role in the story. I’ve decided to work this out for six characters: the romantic interest, the mirror character who shows the error of the main character’s original view of the world, two secondary characters who contribute significantly to the plot, and two antagonists. The main character isn’t in this list because the whole plot has already been constructed around her character arc, so I don’t need to go through this exercise for her.

For each character I am giving the following things (loosely based on what Ingermanson describes in his system:

  • A one-sentence storyline summarizing the entire arc.
  • The character’s motivation (what he/she wants in an abstract internal sense)
  • The character’s goal (the external, plot-related things he/she wants to achieve)
  • The character’s internal conflict (beliefs that prevent him/her from reaching the goal)
  • The external complication (people and situations that block him/her from reaching the goal)
  • The character’s epiphany (what he/she learns through the course of the story that causes a significant change and allow him/her to achieve the goal and resolve the motivation) NOTE: some characters won’t have an epiphany and will not change, but they should have a moment when they can see their options laid out, make the choice not to grow and change, and suffer for that choice. This will highlight the positive change that the main character makes, allowing his/her growth to be more meaningful.
  • A one-paragraph summary of the character’s storyline.

I’m supposed to have this all done by tomorrow, but probably won’t. Yesterday was the last day of classes and I’m in crazy end-of-semester grading mode. I won’t be more than a day or two late, though. I expect to be able to catch up with my deadlines after next week, when all the final grades are in and I’m really done. I am SO looking forward to that moment!

How about you–how do you develop your characters? How to you give them stories of their own within your larger story?

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