Shelley Widhalm

Catching onto Character Arc

In 52 Writing Topics, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on June 3, 2012 at 11:00 am

As a story unfolds, so does the identity of the characters playing a part in the telling of that story.

The unfolding from the story’s beginning to the middle and to the end is called the arc, or the line of the story. The scenes within the arc build to the top, or the moment of highest tension, before sloping back down into some kind of resolution.

The story arc includes one or several character arcs, depending on how many main characters there are.

The character has to want something, or she already has what she wants and loses it.

The character arc is the line of movement in the story as this character faces her flaws, fears and limitations and overcomes them to get what she wants – or, in some cases, needs but does not initially recognize or acknowledge. The inner (or outer) journey she undergoes along the way causes growth and transformation of who she is.

In my novel “Changing Colors,” my main character Kate wants to replace her lost things from an apartment fire, but her obstacle comes in the form of antique stores and flea markets that don’t have anything except for a teddy bear, not enough to restore her sense of home.

Kate faces setbacks and forces of antagonism up until the crisis event, or climax. Those setbacks thwart her desires and trigger her fears.

As she is tested, her motives increase, giving purpose to her actions. She becomes more determined to overcome her problems and obstacles. At the climax, or her moment of truth, she will have to stay with the status quo and suffer the consequences or change to get something better. What that is for Kate, I haven’t yet figured out.

But I do know that as soon as Kate, or any main character, gets her want or need met, the story is over.

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  1. Excellent, informative stuff as usual.A sunday tradition no matter where i am. Thanks for posting.

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