martedì 9 febbraio 2021

I’ve been doing some teading about character arcs recently and I’ve realized that my protagonist starts the story *years after* her negative character arc occurs. In the story, she finds the support and acceptance necessary to improve but she doesn’t really change. Is this too weak of an arc to support a novel? Do I have to write her negative character arc or is it ok to have her story be about her living with it all?

When Your Character Doesn’t Change

Hi there! Thanks for writing, and sorry for the late response. What you’re describing to me sounds like a flat character arc. I talk a bit about this in my book, but basically flat character arcs happen when the main character doesn’t really change in the course of the story. At first glance, this might sound like a big story no-no, but it’s actually more common than most people realize. Sherlock Holmes, Katniss Everdeen, and Wonder Woman all arguably have flat character arcs. A lot of the examples of flat character arc come from heroic type stories, where the character holds fast to their values in the face of obstacles or adversity, and in the end we end up feeling good about their choices. In literary fiction, it’s more common to see a character who holds fast to their values in a way that we come to view as tragic, such as in The Great Gatsby.

But it sounds to me like your story has more of an opportunity for a character arc than you may realize. You say that your main character finds the support and acceptance she needs to change her life, although this change doesn’t actually happen during your novel. Which leads me to believe that she spends least part of story either looking for that support and acceptance and not finding it, or refusing to look for it at all. It’s possible that the character arc you want for her may be hiding within that conflict. What comes between her and finding that support, and how does she have to change in order to get it? If the obstacles are purely external (e.g. all of the therapists she’s called have a waiting list), you may still end up with a fairly flat character arc, and that’s fine. But if your character is battling with anything internally (she fears asking for help, being vulnerable with others triggers too much shame, etc.), there is a lot more opportunity to create a positive arc if you want one.

Hope this helps, and good luck with your story!

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