The Character Evolution Files, No. 14: Aligning the Protagonist’s Character Arc with the Story’s Plot, Part 1

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Welcome to the Character Evolution Files! This 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 our studies with File No. 14, which serves as Part 1 of our examination of the parallels between story structure and character arcs.

If you’ve been following the Character Evolution Files, you may have noticed that the story’s plot and the protagonist’s character arc are tightly connected. But how do we ensure this connection exists? How can writers “time” the arc’s stages precisely so that they occur in tandem with the plot’s events? The answer lies once again with the protagonist and her response to those events – because they’re going to change her life, and who she is, forever.

Today, in Character Evolution File No. 14, we’ll start a two-part study on plot-arc alignment. We’ll learn a dual strategy for creating and maintaining this connection between a story’s external and internal elements, and why that connection exists in the first place. Then, we’ll begin a Journey Through the Character Arc “recap” that examines each stage with our new strategy and poses questions we should consider each time. If this sounds a bit weighty – well, now you know why I split it in two. 😉 Continue reading

New DIY MFA Article on the Act I Choice, Plus a New Worksheet!

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After my recent DIY MFA post on themes arising from the inciting incident, I wondered whether other major plot points could also reflect a story’s heart. So, the newest installment of my Theme: A Story’s Soul column does just that. Today we look at the pivotal choice that ends Act I, or the “Point of No Return” that was covered in the Character Evolution Files.

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The Character Evolution Files, No. 5: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 3 – The Point of No Return (End of Act I)

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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 our Journey Through the Character Arc with File No. 5, which focuses on the Point of No Return (or the end of Act I).

So far in our journey through the positive character arc, we’ve covered the Trigger / Inciting Incident (Stage 1), which sparks the protagonist’s arc; and the Comfort Zone / Act I (Stage 2), where the protagonist struggles with how the Trigger affects the life he knows. However, we haven’t touched on the end of Act I yet. This scene is a major plot point on its own – it signals the moment when the protagonist leaves his Comfort Zone for good and becomes fully engaged in the main conflict, while knowing that things will never be the same. It is, in essence, the Point of No Return; and it’s significant enough to have its own stage in character evolution.

During Character Evolution File No. 5, we’ll discover why the end of Act I is so pivotal for the protagonist by discussing the stage’s key elements and its impact on false beliefs. We’ll also encounter the Points of No Return for the two characters we’ve been following on their journeys through their respective arcs. Hang on, because the road to change is about to get bumpy.

Don’t forget to follow along with our journey by using the Story Structure & Character Arc Alignment ChartClick here to visit Worksheets for Writers and download the chart.

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The Character Evolution Files, No. 4: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 2 – The Comfort Zone (Act I)

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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 our Journey Through the Character Arc with File No. 4, which focuses on the Comfort Zone (or Act I).

Once a protagonist’s character arc has been triggered, nothing can stop the impending change. That change usually doesn’t come right away, giving the protagonist time to linger in the world she knows, the life she’s grown comfortable living, and the false belief she clings to. You might already recognize this as Act I of the three-act story structure. And for our journey through the positive arc, this second stage of character evolution is ironically called the Comfort Zone.

Why is it ironic, you ask? You’ll find the answer to that question as you read Character Evolution File No. 4. We’ll cover the keys to creating a Comfort Zone that flows logically from the Trigger / Inciting Incident and reflects the character’s false belief. And like last time, we’ll follow two well-known fictional characters through their separate Comfort Zones and see how they demonstrate that, even though they’re not ready to change yet, they have the potential that will make their evolution possible.

Remember that you can follow along with our journey through the positive arc by referring to the Story Structure & Character Arc Alignment ChartClick here to visit Worksheets for Writers and download the chart.

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