The Character Evolution Files, No. 2: What Are the Three Types of Character Arcs?

Three_Arc_Types

Welcome to the Character Evolution Files! This monthly column focuses on character arcs, from the elements that create or enhance a character’s inner journey, to techniques that writers can employ to strengthen character arcs in their own work. Today we continue the series with File No. 02, which discusses the three types of character arcs.

We launched the Character Evolution Files last month by defining the term “character evolution,” explaining why character evolution (specifically character arcs) is crucial to a story, and listing the stages that align a standard arc with the story plot. Logically speaking, the next step would be to start exploring the journey through the arc, right? Well… not quite.

Here’s the catch: More than one type of character arc exists. Our characters can change for better or worse. Or, perhaps they might not change much, except in strength of resolve. So, how do writers determine what kind of arc a character is following, or which arc fits our story best?

That’s the purpose of File No. 2. We’ll go over the three standard types of character arcs and how they differ from each other so we can understand how they function. Plus, we’ll review an example of each arc from published literature, and end with how to determine which type of arc will work best for your character. Ready?

Arc #1: The Positive Arc

Also known as a “change arc” or “the hero’s journey,” the positive arc is the most common type of character evolution. Sometimes the change can be radical, such as a deeply flawed protagonist learning to become a better or more moral person. Other times, it’s a more subtle growth, where the character becomes more well-rounded after overcoming an internal weakness. Regardless, positive arcs resonate most with readers by giving us a character to bond with and root for during the bumpy ride to come.

Positive arcs typically include the following:

  • In addition to having a story goal, the character carries a false belief, or an untruth she believes about herself or the world at large.
  • The character suffers from an emotional wound that’s tied to the false belief and has plagued her since before the story began.
  • The external conflict challenges the character’s pursuit of the story goal as well as her false belief, and the character resists initial efforts to change how she thinks.
  • The character’s choices drive the internal conflict. Those choices typically align with the character’s goal and impact her hold on her false belief. Also, not all of those changes will be positive in nature or outcome.
  • The third plot point (a.k.a. the Dark Night of the Soul) shows the character making a (typically) positive final choice concerning her false belief, usually by learning that she needs to let go of that false belief in order to achieve her goal.
  • The ending shows the character shedding her false belief, adopting the opposite truth, and (in most cases) achieving her goal. By then, she’s no longer the person she was in Chapter 1. More accurately, she has changed for the better. The character’s world may also change as a result of her actions.

As mentioned earlier, this is only meant to give a basic understanding of how a positive arc works. We’ll discuss false beliefs, emotional wounds, and the other elements listed above in later Character Evolution Files.

HP7-1-FP-0484 
DANIEL RADCLIFFE as Harry Potter in Warner Bros. Pictures’ fantasy adventure “HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART 1,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

It would be hard to argue that Harry Potter’s arc is anything but positive. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling introduces our 11-year-old hero, an orphan who knows nothing about his origins. He also doesn’t remember his parents, and has to live with obnoxious, neglectful relatives. Finally, the lightning-bolt scar on his forehead is his only proof that he survived a killing curse from Lord Voldemort, the world’s most notorious wizard.

Yet during Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry embarks on his first year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, learning about magic and the world he’d been kept ignorant of. He starts filling in the blanks about his childhood, acknowledging that he misses his parents and finding friends (Ronald Weasley, Hermoine Granger) and a mentor (Professor Dumbledore) who fill the emotional void. With his newfound knowledge and supportive relationships, Harry does the unfathomable when he discovers that Lord Voldemort is attempting to regain his powers: He tries to put a stop to it, once and for all.

What’s unique about Harry’s arc is that it’s not contained to a single novel. Instead, it’s spread out over seven, each one acting like a mini-arc as Harry learns more about himself and the world he lives in, including Voldemort’s personal history and the true story behind Harry’s parents’ sacrifice. By the climax of the last book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry is equipped with all the external (magic) and internal tools (wizard knowledge, mature emotions) he needs in order to defeat Voldemort – and you bet he puts them into practice.

Other Examples of Positive Arcs: Bilbo Baggins (J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit), Tenar (Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Tombs of Atuan), Karou (Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone)

Arc #2: The Steadfast Arc

Perhaps you’re familiar with what’s known as a flat arc. A steadfast arc is the same thing, but looks as the concept from a different angle: Instead of showing a noticeable and positive change in character, a steadfast arc shows a growth in resolve. In other words, the character sticks to her convictions and comes out stronger because of the obstacles she overcomes. That resolve drives the character through the external conflict and helps her achieve her goal. It also allows readers to connect with that character, since they may be inspired by the character’s persistence and dedication.

Steadfast arcs can be confused with positive arcs, since both usually end with the character’s success (thus leading to a happy ending). They share other similarities, too:

  • Both arcs show characters pursuing a story goal.
  • Characters in either arc typically suffer from an emotional wound.
  • The character’s choices drive the story’s internal conflict, and those choices may be positive or negative in nature or outcome.

Now, let’s see how a steadfast arc differs from a positive arc:

  • Instead of a false belief, the character carries a truth she believes about herself or the world at large. That truth is later confirmed by the story’s events.
  • The external conflict challenges the character through obstacles she must overcome en route to her goal, and by doing so reflects the truth that the character believes.
  • The third plot point (a.k.a. the Dark Night of the Soul) shows the character making a final choice based on the truth she believes.
  • The ending demonstrates how the character’s stronger resolve leads to success, with the character achieving her story goal and defeating the outer antagonist / external conflict. She comes away believing in the truth even more than she had previously. She may have also acquired new skills along the way, but she hasn’t changed much since Chapter 1.
  • Even though the character doesn’t change, the character’s world changes as a result of her actions.

Jennifer Lawrence stars as 'Katniss Everdeen' in THE HUNGER GAMES.

One could argue that Katniss Everdeen from Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy has a positive arc. However, if you study Katniss’ arc more closely, you’ll see she’s more of a steadfast character than one who evolves.

Let’s take the trilogy’s first book, The Hunger Games, as an example. Like most of her fellow citizens of Panem, Katniss views her country’s Capitol as cruel and corrupt (truth), a belief that’s validated during her participation in the violent Hunger Games (external conflict). Yet, despite the horrors and setbacks, Katniss never wavers from her goal of surviving for her family’s sake. This leads Katniss to defy the Capitol (final choice) with a controversial tie between her and fellow tribute Peeta Mellark (ending = stronger resolve), thus changing her world by planting seeds of revolution that take root and grow in the later books.

Katniss herself isn’t much different in the end, though. She’s still the somber, clever girl she was when The Hunger Games began; and she hasn’t shed any flaws like her stubbornness or causticity. In fact, the final chapter shows Katniss confused about her feelings for Peeta and wary of the political consequences of her decisions. Therefore, she hasn’t arrived in a “better place” because of winning the Hunger Games – but she’s more certain than ever about the Capitol’s oppression.

Are steadfast arcs a form of character evolution? If we want to follow our working definition of “character evolution” from File No. 01, the initial answer would be “No.” However, steadfast arcs can still create compelling stories and characters. Learning how to craft a strong steadfast arc can only add more knowledge to a writer’s toolbox. So, expect to see more about steadfast arcs here in the future.

Other Examples of Steadfast Arcs: Steve Rogers / Captain America (Marvel franchise), Alanna of Trebond (Tamora Pierce’s Alanna: The First Adventure), Karana (Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins)

Arc #3: The Negative Arc

Not every story has a happy ending. Such is the premise of a negative arc. Perhaps the character is disillusioned by naivety or ignorance, and discovers a more tragic truth once she outgrows those traits. Or, maybe the character refuses to let go of her false belief, thus setting off a chain of events that leads to her downfall. Or, perhaps she rejects the truth for a more “favorable” false belief that eventually corrupts her. No matter the route, a negative arc is never pretty and often downright depressing. However, when crafted correctly, it can be as gripping and heart-rending as a positive or steadfast arc.

Just as the steadfast arc shares common elements with the positive arc, the negative arc features these traits that you’ve already read about:

  • It shows a character actively working toward a story goal.
  • Its focal character may be afflicted with an emotional wounds.
  • The character’s choices steer her internal conflict.
  • The external conflict challenges the character’s pursuit of her goal.
  • False beliefs and truths are crucial to a negative arc, though they play different roles than they do in positive or steadfast arcs.

From there, the negative arc diverges from the other two arcs in these ways:

  • A negative arc can manifest as one of the following:
    1. Harsh reality, which is a positive arc in theory but the discovered truth is less optimistic than the false belief
    2. Tragic downfall, where a character rejects the truth by remaining steadfast to the false belief instead of the truth, therefore spurring her undoing
    3. Corruption, where a relatively good character lets go of the truth and adopts a false belief that leads to her (usually permanently) embrace of the dark side
  • How the external conflict challenges the character depends on what kind of negative arc is at work.
  • The third plot point (a.k.a. the Dark Night of the Soul) shows the character making one of two final choices:
    1. A final choice that is positive in nature because it means the character will reject her false belief (harsh reality)
    2. A final choice that is negative in nature, since it ultimately leads to rejection of the truth in favor of the false belief (tragic downfall, corruption)
  • The ending ushers in a character change that leaves the character with a sense of disappointment (harsh reality), or in a worse position than she was at the start of the story (tragic downfall, corruption). That worse position can range from increased immorality, to insanity or a deteriorated mental condition, to physical illness or death.

la-et-the-hobbit-battle-five-armies-movie

Not everyone will agree with this choice, but I’m willing to defend why Thorin Oakenshield of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit has a negative arc. His pride as well as his goal of reclaiming Erebor from the dragon Smaug lure Thorin into thinking that wealth and power trump alliances, friendship – virtually all else in life (false belief). Once Thorin becomes entrenched in this lie, he holes himself up in the mountain and refuses to lend Erebor’s wealth for rebuilding Lake-town (external conflict), even though he’s partly to blame for the town’s destruction. Thorin’s long-standing grudge against the Woodland Elves and his violent lashing-out at Bilbo before the Battle of the Five Armies also push him farther away from salvation.

Based on his choices and overall trajectory, Thorin’s journey could fall under the “tragic downfall” or “corruption” negative arc. The difference, however, is that Thorin redeems himself before the end. Instead of sinking with his false belief, he rejects it in favor of the truth (alliances and friendship matter more than wealth). Thus, Thorin leads his company and joins the Elves, the Men of Lake-town, and the Dwarves of the Iron Hills for the final battle (final choice). He pays the ultimate price in the end, but he still achieves his goal and gains a more positive insight on life before then.

For a more traditional example of a negative arc, we can look to Dorian Gray from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Handsome and narcissistic, Dorian values his looks above all else and is convinced that sensual fulfillment is his life’s pursuit (false belief / goal). When Dorian sees his portrait for the first time, he wishes for the painting to age in his stead so he can remain eternally youthful. He pursues a life of hedonism, destroying friendships and chances for love along the way (external conflict). He never ages over 20 years, but he’s fascinated and horrified over how his portrait changes to reflect his corrupted soul (internal conflict). It takes Dorian until the end to realize how his poor choices have made him who he is. But when he rejects his false belief and destroys the painting (final choice), it’s already too late.

Other Examples of Negative Arcs: Heathcliff (Emile Brontë’s Wuthering Heights), Nick Carraway (F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby), Cersei Lannister (George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire saga / “Game of Thrones”)

Do All Stories Follow These Arcs Exactly?

Not really. The outlines above show the standard path for each type of arc. But if you search through the stories you’ve read, you’ll find myriad examples of character arcs that deviate from these standards. We’ve already mentioned Thorin Oakenshield of The Hobbit. How about Eddard “Ned” Stark from George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones? He travels either a “harsh reality” negative arc as he clings to moral integrity in King Landing’s political morass, or a steadfast arc with a tragic ending for the same reason. And in Veronica Roth’s Allegiant, Tris Prior and her love interest Tobias Eaton both undergo positive or steadfast arcs – and while their actions make their world a better place, neither character ends up truly happy.

How Do I Know Which Arc I Should Use in My Story?

First, it will depend on the kind of story you want to tell. If you want a triumphant ending, your best bet might be a positive or steadfast arc. If you’d rather see how low your character can sink, try one of the negative arcs. Or, as we discussed in the previous section, you can deviate from any of the standard arcs just as other writers have. My current WIP pushes the protagonist through a positive arc. However, because the character is her own worst enemy, the impact of her final choice could make her either a heroine or a villain. So, you could say it’s a positive arc bordering on a tragic downfall. Sounds twisted, right? 

Second, you need to know your character as deeply as possible before determining the most appropriate arc for your story. Start by asking as many questions as possible about your character, and be willing to probe the darkest corners of her psyche. What are her positive traits and flaws? Her childhood, past history, and her goals for the future? What is her greatest fear, the thing that would cripple her if it became real? When you’re done, imagine different story scenarios where your character could grow or change in positive or negative ways. Which scenario intrigues you the most? Maybe that’s the direction you should take.

See what happens when you try this exercise, or the one outlined in my Character Arc Themes Worksheet. Then, come back in late September for File No. 03, where we’ll start our journey through character evolution with the Trigger / Inciting Event.

Speaking of Which…

As we journey through the character arc, I’d like to use an example from published literature to illustrate each stage. A well-known character with a positive arc would be ideal. (Separate articles on the journey through steadfast and negative arcs would follow later.) Who would you like to see? Maybe Aragorn from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings? Tris from Divergent? Or should I continue with Harry or one of the other examples listed in the Positive Arcs section?

What other literary characters do you consider examples of positive, steadfast, or negative arcs? If you’re working on a story, what kind of arc do you think your protagonist is following? Do you think any of the three arc types are more difficult to craft than the others? 

64 thoughts on “The Character Evolution Files, No. 2: What Are the Three Types of Character Arcs?

  1. Interesting you’ve come up with three major divisions. But do you really think these are the whole story? Or do people shoe-horn stories to try and fit the paradigm after the fact?

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    • I’m not sure I understand your question. If you’re asking whether writers should try to force their character arcs to be a perfect fit to one of the three shown above, my answer is “no.” And that’s the point I bring up in the section “Do All Stories Follow These Arcs Exactly?” The three arcs listed are the most common ones found in literature – but there are plenty of examples that deviate or border on two different arc types.

      In the end, I think having a strong understanding of how character arcs work can help writers craft stronger stories. But it’s also important for writers to a) recognize that not all arcs fit these three to a T, and b) use creative license on their part to do what they think is best for their character’s development. My plan is to explore this more as this column continues.

      I hope this answer helps in some way…?

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  2. Another fantastic article in the series, Sara! I love it. I would personally like to see you continue with Harry/Aragorn, or some other character that has been adapted to a movie, as well… at least that way, it’s easier to relate to the story (I have not read Tamora Pierce, for example, so couldn’t follow along there).

    It must have taken so long to get this post together! But it reminds me that I need to do the next Archetypes post. It’s sort of fun to see the two series (yours and mine) side by side. They really compliment each other! 🙂

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    • Thanks, Alex! 🙂 This did take some time to put together, and I had to delay finishing it so I could complete my DIY MFA coverage of Writer’s Digest Conference in a timely manner. But once I put my head down and really focused on it, everything started coming together. I’m also surprised by some of the details I found along the way (especially finding common elements between each arc).

      I’m already 99% sure I’ll use Aragorn as an example. 😉 Not only will a lot of readers be familiar with his story, but he’s just a great example of a positive arc. Not to mention Aragorn is awesome, anyways. 😀

      I love your Archetypes series and look forward to the next installment! And I have to confess, the quiz on the Archetypes site is SO ADDICTING. I did it not only for myself, but also a bunch of the characters from TKC. *lol* Did you take the quiz for yourself as well, Alex? Where did you fall?

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  3. I vote Aragorn (that was probably predictable).
    This was a great post Sara 🙂 I agree completely about Thorin, by the way.
    I feel like in Mockingjay, Katniss takes a part-way negative arc, which is never resolved (I have angry thoughts about that book-still-and I’m one of the five people who aren’t big Katniss fans anyhow, so I’m probably biased, lol), though I agree that her arc is more steadfast in The Hunger Games.
    And can you believe that I’ve never even seen that Archetypes site (feels new addiction coming on).
    I look forward to reading more of these!

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    • Thanks, Rebekah! I’m already pretty sure that I’ll use Aragorn as an example for the upcoming “journey through the arc.” Like Alex and I were saying, he’s known well enough by most readers (well, mainly the demographic of this blog) that most everyone should be able to follow along easily.

      *high fives* Thorin was the first character I thought of to use as a negative arc example. Of course, he made things difficult by not following the “typical” path (hence the Dorian Gray example afterwards). I wasn’t sure if other readers would agree with me about the nature of his arc because of how he redeems himself, but I’d be hard-pressed to call it positive.

      I agree with you about Katniss’s arc in Mockingjay. While it’s more steadfast in THG and Catching Fire, it’s definitely not in the last book. And… yeah, you’re not alone with feeling dissatisfied about how it ended. I came away from that book thinking, “What… just happened?”

      Ohhhhhhhhh the quiz on Archetypes.com is wonderfully dangerous. Like I said to Alex, I did it not only for myself but also for Eva and other characters from TKC. Then I realized how much time had passed. 😄

      Here’s the link if you haven’t found it yet: http://www.archetypes.com/

      Also, you might be interested in Alex Hurst’s series on Jungian archetypes in fiction here: http://alex-hurst.com/tag/jungian-archetypes/

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      • I found the site . . . thanks (I think?)
        I checked out Alex’s site as well and it’s pretty neat – thanks for that 🙂

        Yes, Thorin is a complicated character, and in some ways, he’s almost the “reverse Boromir.” Not that he ends badly, per se, but he has more of a downward spiral, while Boromir has a slow downward spiral that shoots back up dramatically 🙂

        And Mockingjay . . . I sort of stared at the book thinking, “That’s it? I just wasted hours and hours reading this whole series, and that’s all I get? I’ll just go back to ‘Brave New World,’ thanks.”

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      • Agreed on the Thorin / Boromir bit. Actually, I read an essay somewhere that argued that Thorin and Boromir have more in common than Thorin and Aragorn do. It was in response to people calling Thorin the “Aragorn of The Hobbit,” which I didn’t agree with and neither did the essayist. Here it is: http://thorinoakenshield.net/2013/01/09/legacy-of-the-people-the-burdens-of-thorin-oakenshield-and-boromir-of-gondor/

        *lol* Yep, that sounds a lot like how I felt after reading Mockingjay. Just curious, but did you ever check out the Divergent trilogy?

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      • Really? I also read the entire Divergent Trilogy – and I thought Allegiant was one of the worst books I’ve ever read. Not for the reasons other people loathed it (in other words, not the ending). I reviewed it earlier here earlier this year… in April, I think?

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      • Hahahaha. First off, the Divergent series is like a B-movie. It’s not art but it’s a fun ride. Hunger Games, well, I expected much more because it was better. At first.
        I read your review (& it was good, by the way). It’s complicated. HG really hooked me, and I felt like it went downhill from there. I read Divergent for reviewing, forgot it existed until Insurgent (which was a long and boring mess), and then forgot about it again until the hubub that was Allegiant. Allegiant was not a good book (if well written and lasting = good), but I felt like Roth was true to her characters and ideas (even if she didn’t deliver!), and ended her book the way she planned. Collins, on the other hand, started a book about one person in a bad place, proceeded to a revolution, slipped into “all fighting and war is equally bad regardless of reasons,” & then ended with a jarring, soppy, slapped on ending.
        So to me, though Allegiant was way too long, and though Tobias and Tris are basically the same narrative, the ultimate themes were consistent. And I liked the ending. I thought that the ending was more authentic than the entire rest of the book, & it was different. And I read it after Mockingjay, 😉

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      • You know, even though I don’t totally agree with you about Allegiant, I can see where you’re coming from. Tris and Tobias do act “in character” throughout the book, and the story’s themes are consistent with those from Divergent and Insurgent. I just think I was so appalled by the sloppy writing that I stopped caring about everything else. I don’t know how to describe except a fog-like domino effect; if enough aspects of a story bother me after a while, they bother me so much that it’s hard to see its highlights or strengths. :/

        I also wonder if seeing Insurgent right before reading Allegiant impacted my thoughts on the book. (Nutshell version: I did NOT like Insurgent the movie, which was hugely disappointing because I enjoyed the book.)

        “Collins, on the other hand, started a book about one person in a bad place, proceeded to a revolution, slipped into “all fighting and war is equally bad regardless of reasons,” & then ended with a jarring, soppy, slapped on ending.”

        *nods her head* I couldn’t have worded my thoughts on Mockingjay better than you did there.

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      • Disagreement is one of the spices of life, in my humble opinion. Hive brain scares me.
        Also, since I just floated through the entire Divergent trilogy without being really engaged, I don’t think I cared enough to have much of an opinion overall 😉

        That’s why I don’t usually like book-to-movie adaptations unless it’s been a long time since I read the book!
        -R

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      • ^^ Agreed. If everyone felt the same way about everything, the world would be a much less interesting place. 😉

        I did get your email about Graceling, btw… But I’ve been so out straight that I haven’t had time to respond. :/

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  4. This was a great post! A lot of thought and work went into it. I like all of the examples you used too. My choice: Aragorn or HP! 😀 I’m guessing from the comments that it will be Aragorn, hehe. 🙂
    I agree about Thorin too. It’s mostly negative, then quick transforms into a positive, which was cool to see. I’m glad it ended with him being positive. It would have been too tragic otherwise.
    My WIP falls into the positive. And like HP it spans several books.:) Will your TKC span several books too?

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    • Thanks, E.! It was a lot of work, but I’m really proud of how this article turned out. And ha ha, you guess correctly. 😉

      “I’m glad it ended with [Thorin] being positive. It would have been too tragic otherwise.”

      Agreed. It also wouldn’t have been as endearing, I think. Especially in the film version of The Hobbit, since they fleshed out Thorin’s character more and gave the audience reasons to care about him. The book does, too, but not to the same extent as the movies.

      I purposely haven’t talked much about “life after TKC” yet… but the overall plan is a trilogy. TKC is the first book; the other two will also contain arcs that will help Eva overcome other false beliefs and emotional wounds from her past. In other words, TKC only tackles part of her “baggage” (that sounds terrible, but I couldn’t think of another collective noun to describe it *lol*). There is also a larger external storyline, and the events in TKC will catalyze the events of Books 2 and 3. That’s all I can say for now… except that I already know how everything is going to end. 😉

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  5. This is a really great post. ^ ^ I’ve never heard of steadfast arcs, but this is good to know about! I’d personally like to see some Aragorn but he’s one of my favorite characters ever so I’m biased. 😄 I tend toward positive arcs at least with my main characters. I like seeing a character triumph at the end.

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

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    • Thanks, Tori! 🙂

      I wanted to address flat / steadfast arcs since I’d read about them on other writing websites. But I didn’t agree with the name “flat arc.” Even though the character change isn’t as noticeable, the plot tests the character’s resolve to the point that the character is forced to believe in herself more than ever in order to reach her goal. She becomes more dedicated, persistent, courageous, etc., but not necessarily a different person. So that’s why I decided to call it a “steadfast” arc instead of a “flat” arc. Do you think it makes sense?

      Gee, Aragorn is a rather popular choice. I wonder why. 😉

      So you’d say that Subsapien and Red Hood feature mostly positive arcs for your main characters?

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  6. Hi. Great post. I realized now that I tend to create Steadfast arc characters. I like more determined characters who carry their own traits and ways of thinking but also dynamic enough to find and learn new things about their surroundings. I tend to play with “what happens if this character put in the same room with that character? What kind of conversation would happen?” I also like negative arc character like Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. That guy’s awesome.

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    • Hi, Ilham! That’s awesome that you were able to identify which arcs you tend to write! 😀 And steadfast arcs (and characters) are great to explore. They may not change as much as positive or negative arcs, but they’re endearing and inspiring in their own way. I think I have a slight preference for positive arcs, but I’d never be opposed to trying the other two in future stories.

      Also, I like your brainstorming method for your stories and characters. It sounds like a guaranteed way of keeping things interesting. 😉

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. This is a really interesting article. I’m going through a phase of trying to learn (and put into practice) this kind of thing, so I think this series will be useful. 🙂 Thank you for doing it.

    I vote Aragorn as well. 🙂

    I think that, for me, positive arcs are the easiest to write because I’m most familiar with them. It tends to be how my mind works as well. I’m looking forward to the next article. 🙂

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    • You’re welcome, Phoenix! 🙂

      One of my goals for the next article is also to debut some kind of chart / image that shows the arc stages side by side with their corresponding story structure terms. That way, readers can see how the two correlate and keep the plot in mind as well as the character’s arc. I’ll also make points about that in the body of the article, too.

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  8. Love! ❤ Wonderful job, Sara! I love how you pointed out that there's more than one type of character arc–we tend to just focus on the positive arc. It's funny because I was just thinking about the negative arc because one of my main characters goes downhill instead of uphill so to speak haha. The examples were so helpful too! Definitely saving this for when I start ironing things out in my second draft! 😀

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    • Thanks, Kaitlin! Yes, it’s important to remember that there are other types of arcs out there, not just the positive one. Your comment about your story makes me curious, too… Do you that particular character’s journey fits any of the three negative arcs? Or does he/she still manage to come around before the end?

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  9. Can I just say how incredible you are, Sara? Seriously, I’ve learned so much from this Character Evolution series already, and I cannot wait to see what you come up with next. I especially loved your shift in perspective from a “flat arc” to a “steadfast arc” in this post. I’ve always thought of a flat arc as a bad thing, but you’ve completely changed my way of thinking there!

    Thanks again an awesome post, Sara. I can’t wait for the next one! Oh, and I vote Aragorn or Harry. They’re both such great characters! 🙂

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  10. Pingback: Time Flies!: August 2015 | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

    • Thanks, Vanessa! 🙂 I’m glad you found it helpful. The next article starts our journey through the character arc stages, so maybe you’ll find that one interesting too. I’m hoping to have it out before the end of this month.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: The Character Evolution Files, No. 03: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 1 – The Trigger (Inciting Incident) | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

  12. Thanks so much for this; it makes me feel so much better about something I’ve already written! I was worried that my heroine had no real character arc — most of the changes I’d intended to have happen to her didn’t end up flowing logically and got discarded — but now I see that with some tweaking in the rewrites (if I ever have time for rewrites) I can give her a “steadfast arc” built around her desire to live up to her father’s legend. Though there’s a point where she starts doubting he was really her father, so is that sort of her beginning of Act III point? (This is actually a whole series of novels, so it’s hard to say where it is in the overall percent of story covered. Probably at about 60% of the way through, on the current versions…)

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome! I’m glad this post was able to help you. 🙂

      It’s hard to say whether your MC’s doubts about her parentage mark the beginning of her Act III without having read the story, to be honest… But it’s definitely an interesting twist, and doubt of any kind is bound to surface as she strives to live up to her father’s legend.

      A character’s overall arc during a series can be tricky, though. Sometimes writers stretch out a single arc over an entire series; other times, writers give the MC a separate arc for each book. And if it’s the latter, the type of arc (positive, negative, steadfast) can change from story to story. So… I think that’s going to depend on what the writer wants to do with his/her protagonist(s). And maybe the idea of character arcs in a series is something to explore during a future Character Evolution File. (Though with what I have planned so far for this year, that might not happen for a while. *lol*)

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: The Character Evolution Files, No. 4: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 2 – The Comfort Zone (Act I) | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

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  15. Pingback: The Character Evolution Files, No. 5: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 3 – The Point of No Return (End of Act I) | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

  16. Pingback: The Character Evolution Files, No. 1: What is Character Evolution, and Why Is It Important? | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

  17. Pingback: Happy New Year – and Here’s to 2016! | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

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  19. Pingback: The Character Evolution Files, No. 6: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 4 – The Struggle (Act II, First Half) | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

  20. Pingback: The Character Evolution Files, No. 7: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 5 – The Revelation (Midpoint) | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

  21. Pingback: The Character Evolution Files, No. 10: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 8 – The Aftermath (Act III, First Half) | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

  22. Pingback: The Character Evolution Files, No. 11: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 9 – The Moment of Truth (Climax) | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

  23. Pingback: The Character Evolution Files, No. 9: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 7 – The Dark Night of the Soul (End of Act II) | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

  24. Pingback: The Character Evolution Files, No. 8: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 6 – The Charge (Act II, Second Half) | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

  25. Pingback: The Character Evolution Files, No. 12: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 10 – The Emergence (Resolution) | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

  26. Pingback: The Character Evolution Files, No. 13: Answers to Lingering Questions About the Journey Through the Character Arc | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

  27. I just stumbled across your blog for the first time in Pinterest tonight. I must say I haven’t heard of the flat arc depicted as “steadfast.” It’s genius! I’ve never fully understood how it effects the protagonist inner conflict before. It always felt like the “lazy arc,” as bad as that sounds. This opens up a whole new passage of thought to explore… Thank you!

    Oh, I must confess my curiosity over your last name. Are you, by any chance, related to R. G. Letourneau of Letourneau University?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Elizabeth! 🙂 I wanted to give the flat arc a different name because a) I wanted something that gave a more accurate indication of what happens during that type of arc, and b) the term “flat arc” is a contradiction, wouldn’t you agree? 😉

      Anyways, I’m really glad this post helped you look at steadfast arcs from a new angle. Next year I’m planning to dive in and study them in depth just as I did this year with positive arcs. So if you’re interested in learning even more, stay tuned!

      *lol* As far as I know, I’m not related to R.G. Letourneau of Letourneau University. But my dad’s side of the family is HUGE (he has several aunts and uncles who married, and over 50 cousins), so it’s possible that we’re distantly related without knowing it. 😉

      Thanks very much for stopping by!

      Like

  28. Pingback: The Character Evolution Files, No. 14: Aligning the Protagonist’s Character Arc with the Story’s Plot, Part 1 | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

  29. Pingback: Looking Back on 2016… and Looking Ahead to 2017 | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

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