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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The Character Evolution Files, No. 03: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 1 – The Trigger (Inciting Incident)

CEF Trigger Banner

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 begin our Journey Through the Character Arc with File No. 03, which focuses on the Trigger (a.k.a. the Inciting Incident).

A character’s evolution doesn’t ignite on its own. Like a firework, it needs a spark – something that catalyzes the plot as well as the protagonist’s arc – so the story can take off. This is the moment where your story truly begins. In story-structure land, this is known as the Inciting Incident. For the purposes of the Character Evolution Files, however, we’ll give it a different name: the Trigger.

This first stage in our journey through a positive character arc is the subject of Character Evolution File No. 03. We’ll discuss the important elements of an arc Trigger, the role that untruths or “false beliefs” play in arcs, and how this arc stage aligns with the Inciting Incident. Also, we’ll study two examples of Triggers using well-known fictional characters, both of whom we’ll follow during our journey through the positive arc. (Hint: Check out the banner above to guess who will be featured.) Oh, and there might be a downloadable goodie for you at the end. 😉

Shall we begin?

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

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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 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?

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