re: Clueless About Character Arcs

posted 9/20/11

Dear Editor…

I say I have a character arc, but editors say I don’t. Clearly I’m clueless about something. Help!

Thanks,
R.M.

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Dear R.M.…

Your character’s transformation isn’t drastic enough. You need a more seriously flawed protagonist from the get-go— someone with oodles of room to grow. Don’t be timid with him. Even likeable, “normal” people are messed up and make decisions that blow. Make him muck things up quite steadily, even as he tries to fix whatever needs fixing. Only when he’s in dire straights will he be ready for the epiphany or idea that propels him to success and a new awareness about himself or the world. Test it: When he reaches The End, extract him from that last scene and drop him back onto Page 1. He should handle himself so well that you wouldn’t even have a story if this were the guy to really start it.

Happy writing!
The Editor

P.S. For more on this topic, read Characterization
posted by: The Editor
under: Characterization
Comments to "re: Clueless About Character Arcs" | Add a Comment
    1. Amy L. Sonnichsen wrote (on 09/20/11 at 8:05 am) :

      I remember you giving us this advice at the 2010 SCBWI LA conference. It really changed the way I looked at my books. Thank you!

      Amy

      [Reply]

      The Editor replied (on 09/20/11 at 11:23 am) :

      Goodness, Amy, I’m lucky just to remember the names of my sons by the end of the day. I’m glad to hear the advice was so helpful . . . and still with you. 🙂

      [Reply]

    2. Bill wrote (on 09/20/11 at 8:24 am) :

      Oh see easy to understand and oh so hard to actually do. At least for me. But always important to think about.

      [Reply]

      The Editor replied (on 09/20/11 at 11:28 am) :

      I hear ya, Bill. That’s a quandary for so many things, as I experienced just this morning while walking past See’s Candy shop: “Don’t go in, don’t go in, don’t go in.” So easy to say, so hard to actually do.

      [Reply]

      Bill replied (on 09/27/11 at 11:34 am) :

      I say, GO IN. GO IN!

      [Reply]

    3. Carol Riggs wrote (on 09/20/11 at 10:20 am) :

      Great points. I have an arc in one finished novel but I need to take a better look at how my MC progresses in my WIP. Thanks for the reminder!

      [Reply]

      The Editor replied (on 09/20/11 at 11:24 am) :

      Good luck with your WIP, Carol!

      [Reply]

    4. Laura C. wrote (on 09/20/11 at 6:35 pm) :

      This answer couldn’t have come at a better time for me because the arc I’d visualized for the mc in my WIP just isn’t working. I don’t want her so flawed that she’s unsympathetic (which I fear she is), so I have to come up with something flawed-but-appealing. *sigh* I’ve been pondering for 2 weeks, now. I hope I come up with something soon…

      [Reply]

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