Michille: Character Arcs

graphic_stonesI talked about the first course in the McD program last week. One assignments in the last class (a McDaniel Romance Writing Workshop) was an analysis of 4-5 characters’ arcs. I’ve used that analysis again since then and found the same thing in other manuscripts that I found in that one. . Some of my characters don’t have arcs. In fixing this, I’ve looked at Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation & Conflict (one of the Justine’s favorite texts) and a post on Elizabeth Spann Craig’s blog detailing K.M. Weiland’s 10 Ways Plot Structure Influences Character Arc.

For my current WIP, I looked at each character’s internal and external Goal, Motivation & Conflict as described by Dixon and completed her chart for four of my characters. The one thing that I need to add to this is Jennifer Crusie’s conflict lock between the characters. That is, how do each character’s goals directly block the others goals? Separating the internal from the external also helped me see the action (external) versus the emotion (internal) more clearly. The internal is crucial for making the external believable for each character, that is, it gives the reason why the character chose to take that action at that time.

The thing I really liked about Weiland’s 10 Ways was her “The Lie He Believes” approach to story. The character starts the story with a Lie he believes. His/her mindset is defined by this. As the character moves through the story, the Lie sets up a battle between “The Thing He Most Wants,” and “The Thing He Needs.” By the end, he has to reject the Lie for a new Truth in order to get the thing he needs. By the end of the story, he knows he has to reject the Lie for a new Truth in order to get the thing he needs.

I’m off to fix an arc. I’m starting with what I believe will be an easy fix because it’s a minor character who isn’t in a lot of scenes. We’ll see.

3 thoughts on “Michille: Character Arcs

  1. The cynical part of me says, “Or he trades it in for a new lie.” We are so good at fooling ourselves, and this makes a lot of sense. We all believe stuff that just ain’t so, and sometimes that makes life very difficult for us. We’re thinking inside the box of lies that our cultures or our parents or our work cultures construct for us.

    (Just to be clear, there are a lot of lies that do make living a lot more comfortable, especially in the short term. If that wasn’t true, we wouldn’t believe in lies.)

    I think one popular lie is “there’s only one way to get success, and this is it.” That’s used very effectively in a lot of stories. When the hero/ine figures out there is another way, and it isn’t as costly (it may be harder, but it’ll be better) as the One “True” Way that everyone else believes.

    I’m going to have to think about that more.

  2. Pingback: Elizabeth: What would your characters give for Christmas? | Eight Ladies Writing

  3. Pingback: Elizabeth: Characters and Christmas – Eight Ladies Writing

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