Great Article, enjoy 🙂
Characters are not robots, and they need to have emotions if we are to identify and invest in getting to know them. A character arc is where the character grows or transitions. Fundamentally, they are about how our characters change. While writing a book doesn’t necessarily mean you need a character arc, many great stories do include one.
Personally, I love watching characters evolve, and some of my favourite books and movies have a strong character arc.
I have read the book and watched the movie, and this is one of those that managed, in my opinion, to do a great film version too. Although the story was far richer in the book, I enjoyed the whole steampunk aspect the cinematography and so forgave the movie some of its flaws.
It’s a great story for many reasons, one being that the baddies are so unashamedly depraved that you want to reach into the book and kill them slowly and painfully.
The main reason I like this story though, is because of the hero’s character growth.
So what happens to the main character? Well the hero begins his journey by being thrown (as usual) into a great big vat of conflict. He comes from a wealthy family, has a position of standing – good prospects is probably an understatement. Then his family is killed, brutally, he escapes.
So that alone is pretty game changing. He has been ripped from his idilic, coveted life, and cast out into the unknown. He is taken into an underground world, where he needs to fight to survive, and has to prove himself to be accepted.
He becomes their leader.
He becomes the catalyst to bring about their freedom.
He becomes something more than an ordinary man.
This is not a new or original journey but it is a powerful passage, and one that I enjoyed. There is something very spine tingling about the end of this – where he becomes the ‘one’ who is something more than others. It was a very similar transition for Neo at the end of the first matrix – you feel a sense of pure condensed ‘awesome’ when Neo finally kicks the agent’s butts.
The same in Dune, only possible more so. He was the rich kid – turned rebel – turned rebel leader – who ended up more than human. It felt to me at the end as if he had almost become a God (anyone who can kill his enemies with a thought is pretty damn impressive as far as I am concerned!).
In short I loved the emotional journey that he went through, and the culmination of this journey when he finally becomes all powerful.
Down side? or just something different?
For me I do like to see a shift in values of my characters. In Dune the hero was fundamentally good – bad stuff happens – he overcomes it – he is still fundamentally good.
What about someone who is not so good at the start? Maybe a little reluctant? Partakes in dubious activities? Who by the end of the story is a bonafide hero? I am, of course, referring to Han Solo, and another great example of a character arc. Ok, so he didn’t turn into a God who could nuke people with a word – but his was still a powerful transition.
Great article on the subject of You Need More Scoundrels in Your Life
Like this topic? More on The Hero’s Journey
If you need some fresh writerly inspiration, here is a list of things you can do to help generate new story ideas and rework old ones.
It’s the most obvious one, and it’s still the best. Reading can provide a bounty of ideas to use in your own work (..but maybe not plagiarise!)
It’s a great way to pick up style tips too!
Walking releases your mind to wonder off in the same way that your body does.
It doesn’t matter whether the route is new or familiar, either will help to set your mind free to explore new concepts in an unstructured way.
Loading up with a few key ideas just before you leave can inspire more detailed outlines for anything from a scene to a book.
Tip: Always take your smart phone / pad with you so you can jot any notes down as you go.
This may sound like the worst thing a writer can do, but shows and movies can really generate a plethora of lovely new ideas.
Music can inspire us in so many different ways.
A strong beat can really kick-off an action scene.
A new track can generate an entire story skeleton.
And of course, music can greatly influence the mood of our writing if we listen to it while we write.
Newspapers and articles can spark little gems that often turn into a juicy story concept.
They can also help us to research a specific scene.
People are the ultimate story inspiration.
I’m not suggesting you take you’re best friend’s relationship disaster and use it for book fodder!
But people are inspiring, and it can often happen in subtle or subconscious ways.
Taking a holiday somewhere new, joining a club, and generally embracing new experiences are all awesome for discovering new perspectives.
Our minds and our thoughts are only as good as the information we put into them, and opening ourselves to new experiences is a great way to generate surprising and intriguing ideas.
I have been working on my current WIP for many years. I first had the idea for the story back in 2004, at least that is the first rough sketch of it, and my first recorded version. I parked it for years, dabbling in other ideas and stories but never taking them much further.
In 2013, I moved to my present house. It was this move that brought back my love of writing in earnest, and my writing room, which I love, that inspired me to do more than just dabble, and to finally finish and then publish the book.
I have said often that life is not always about writing, sometimes we need to live and to be in the real world for a time, but if you are a writer at your core, you will always come back to it once the opportunity arises.
It has been three years since I decided to finish and then publish the book.
It has taken me a lot longer than I thought.
I am still not quite there yet, BUT, the end is in sight.
My book turned into a trilogy, and this was much of the reason it took so long. I wrote the first book, and then realised that I needed to finish the rest for two main reasons:
- It would never really be a stand-alone, and although I re-wrote the ending of book one, and did to some extent close it, there was always going to an obvious next step in the story.
- I needed to be comfortable in the complete series and its conclusion. Whether you are a book planner or not, the story is never really sealed until that moment when you close off the last chapter of the book and you know that it is done. I learned an awful lot by completing the whole story, and I am so glad that I did because I needed to make adjustment to book one, and once you publish that’s a lot harder to do.
I have many reservations about it not being a stand-alone book. Perhaps it was an over ambitious story. I hope not. If I was to start over I would certainly think about the marketability of trying to launch a series as an unpublished author, and perhaps with hindsight I should have let this one rest longer, until I had a few single books under my belt.
As the saying goes, it is what it is. And it is a learning curve, and one that I have thoroughly enjoyed.
There was a great level of satisfaction in finishing that last chapter of the third book, and in seeing all the plot points come to a conclusion.
In going through the process, I have gained greater confidence in my writer’s voice. It has evolved over the three books, along with the characters and the story. I feel like I have joined my characters, and that we have all transitioned together into something more than we once were.
So, I am ready now to publish it. I am ready to start writing something else.
I am now planning out a 6 month marketing plan, and aim to launch it around December time. Book 2 and 3 will need professional editing, and that always takes time. I need to start thinking about book covers and formatting, and reviewers and all those other things that will hopefully get the book noticed. And I need to think about where and how I publish it.
After December, I guess I will enter a whole new game. When you have not yet been published, you look at published authors with a sense of wonder, and look at the process with a sense of fear.
Publishing my book is definitely a step outside my comfort zone, but as the other great saying goes…if you never try you’ll never know 🙂
“Writing: Somewhere between torture and fun.”
All you need is a coffee and a kindle, or two 🙂
Wishing everyone a happy reading and writing week wherever you are.
Why writers need a whole lot of perseverance.