Discovering & Refining Your Character's Evolution

Discovering & Refining Your Character's Evolution
"Remember: Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations. Plot is observed after the fact rather than before. It cannot precede action. It is the chart that remains when an action is through. That is all Plot ever should be. It is human desire let run, running, and reaching a goal. It cannot be mechanical. It can only be dynamic. So, stand aside, forget targets, let the characters, your fingers, body, blood, and heart do." - Ray Bradbury

Every story is a tale of change. At the heart of this development is our character. They navigate through a myriad of experiences that shape them. Whether you meticulously plan out every twist and turn or allow the narrative to flow organically, understanding and mapping out a character's arc can add to the depth and resonance of your story.

The Essence of Character Transformation

Before you start to craft or refine an arc, it's worth understanding the typical character arcs in storytelling:

  1. Positive Growth Arc: The protagonist overcomes both internal and external challenges to mature and succeed.
  2. Tragedy or Negative Arc: The protagonist, weighed down by their flaws or outside pressures, meets a downfall.
  3. Flat Arc: The character remains largely unchanged but influences change in the world or characters around them.
  4. Redemption Arc: A journey from a negative beginning to a redemptive end, with the character acknowledging mistakes and seeking redemption.

Crafting or Discovering the Arc Outline

Initial State

Whether you're planning ahead or reflecting on what you've written, determine your character's starting point. Who are they at the beginning of the story?

Challenges & Conflicts

Identify the pressures, both internal and external, that shape your character's journey. If you're a discovery writer, what challenges have naturally arisen in your story?

Transformation Moments

Identify key moments that mark the change in your character. In discovery writing, these moments may already exist, or they may be areas to develop in revisions.

Final State

Define the end of their journey. How has the narrative shaped them?

Harnessing the Arc for Revision and Refinement

For discovery writers, mapping the arc after writing can be enlightening. By plotting existing scenes or ideas against the stages of a character's arc, you can identify potential gaps in character development. This map serves as a guide, highlighting areas that might benefit from further exploration or revision.

Does the transformation feel real? Are there points that need more emphasis or moments of growth that need to be explored?

In short, whether you're a planner or a pantser, understanding your character's journey is crucial. It adds layers to your narrative and creates an experience that readers will cherish and remember.