How to Arc Characters?

In the dark times before Youtube, there was a website called Homestar Runner. It was written all in flash, with pages for characters, games, toons, etc. The character page introduced each of the characters you could find in the games and videos on the site. Every character had a thing they wanted, something that stood in their way, and a flaw to work on.

Of course, characters never got what they wanted or worked on their flaws much because then the stories would’ve stopped. Much like how Spider-Man can never learn how to be responsible, Clark Kent can never figure out how to relate to humanity, etc. without their respective comics ending.

That’s why marrying Lois Lane should have been the culmination of Superman’s arc and the end of his story, but that’s a topic for another day.

Anyway, I’ve been watching Brandon Sanderson’s awesome Youtube videos in which he talks about how to write fantasy and science fiction novels. I haven’t gotten to the lecture on characters yet, but he’s been mentioning characters throughout and the importance of character arcs.

Having characters that change, that learn something, or fail to learn something, and the consequences of that. It’s what stories are really all about: The human condition. Who we are, how we became who we are, and what we will do to become who we want to be.

And it’s just that process of becoming which I struggle with as an author. How to portray that? How do I portray change in my characters effectively? So far, the characters in my book have been mainly static. There have been hints at ways they should change, but I’ve struggled to actually show them changing. Why is that?

I know for myself, it’s hard for me to see my own progress as a writer and as a man. I’ve come a long way in life. Plenty of people can see it. But I couldn’t tell you because I don’t see it. I feel the same at 36 as I did at 26 and 16, more or less. It’s hard for me to see my own growth, so I’m not sure how to portray growth in my characters.

How do you writers portray this character change in your own novels? Send me a link to your writing or leave a comment/advice in the space below. I’m eager to hear what you have to say. Maybe it’s less complicated than I’m making it sound.

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