The Character Evolution Files, No. 7: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 5 – The Revelation (Midpoint)

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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 journey through the stages of the character arc with File No. 7, which focuses on the Revelation (or the Midpoint).

Every stage of a character’s evolution is important. However, the previous four stages have been building to the story’s halfway point. All of the protagonist’s mistakes and choices so far come to a head now, forcing the protagonist to realize that things aren’t going according to plan – and his behavior is the reason why. This fifth stage of our Journey Through the Character Arc is what we’ll call the Revelation.

Thus, the Revelation is our topic for Character Evolution File No. 7. We’ll cover the emotional and psychological aspects that will put the protagonist in a state of “tug of war” between his false belief and its opposite truth. And, we’ll see what happens when our two example characters from literature are confronted by their respective Revelations, and how they change from a state of reaction to a state of action. Continue reading

A Screenwriter Gets Schooled in Novel Writing (A Guest Post by Heather Jackson of WriteOnSisters)

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Today is the second half of a guest-post swap I’m doing with WriteOnSisters. My article on high fantasy vs epic fantasy is already live at WOS. Now, it’s one of the “Sister’s” turns to post here! Heather Jackson lives in Canada and writes YA novels as well as television and video game screenplays. In fact, she began with screenplays before tackling novel-writing. Here’s what Heather learned during that transition.

I started my writing career as a television screenwriter, but my first love has always been books. So, after screenwriting for what seemed like an eternity to my young self (though I’d only been making a living at it for five years), I decided it was time to write a novel. Being a “seasoned professional,” I estimated I could develop a book idea and write a first draft in one year. After all, I already knew how to craft great stories. Novels simply used more words to tell those stories, right?

Oh, the naiveté of inexperience. I soon learned that more differentiates novels and screenplays than the number of words.

But let’s start with the similarities. I wasn’t totally wrong; many screenwriting skills do transfer to the process of writing novels.

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The Character Evolution Files, No. 6: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 4 – The Struggle (Act II, First Half)

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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 Journey Through the Character Arc with File No. 6, which focuses on the Struggle (or the first half of Act II).

Now that we’ve passed the Point of No Return, it’s clear that the protagonist’s life has changed forever. That, however, doesn’t mean that the protagonist has also changed at this time. In fact, she’s bound to kick, scream, and deny her new circumstances. She’ll struggle to accept her new reality even though she has a clear story goal to work toward. However, she’ll also start to show her potential to change for the better. This back-and-forth wavering is the soul of Stage 4 of our Journey Through the Character Arc.

And so the Struggle will be our focus for Character Evolution File No. 6. We’ll learn about the contradicting forces that must be at work to propel the protagonist toward her story goal and wrestle with her false belief – and why the Struggle is one of the “meatiest” periods of character evolution. We’ll also continue following Aragorn of Lord of the Rings and Tris of Divergent as they lurch through this stage in their separate positive arcs. Continue reading

Plontser: The Happy Medium Writer (A Guest Post by Victoria Grace Howell)

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Please give a warm welcome to our first guest blogger, Victoria Grace Howell! Tori is a fellow speculative fiction writer whom I met last year through the monthly Beautiful People link-up. I was thrilled when she suggested today’s topic, since it immediately resonated with me – because like Tori, I’m not a plotter or a pantser, but a “plontser.” Never heard of a plontser before? I’ll let Tori explain…. 😉 

When I first started writing, I discovered pretty soon into the game that there are two types of writers: plotters and pansters. Plotters like J.K. Rowling plan out each event meticulously and know everything that happens in their stories before they write them. Pantsers like Stephen King know hardly anything about the story when beginning to write and discover as they go. My first choice was a panster. I liked seeing where the story took me, but as I soon came to realize, in my spontaneous writing my story lacked structure and a secure plot.

At this point, I was torn. I had to choose one, right? Wrong. Continue reading

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

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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 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. 1: What is Character Evolution, and Why Is It Important?

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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 kick things off with File 01, which explores two important questions: “What is character evolution?” and “Why is it important?” 

So many elements comprise the art of novel-writing: plot, voice, setting, characters… The list goes on, and it’s impossible to say that one element is more crucial than the other. However, when I think back on some of my favorite stories of all time, many share one common element: a clear character arc. Perhaps the protagonist grows as a result of his journey, or he learns something because of his endeavors. Either way, he’s not the same person at the end of the novel that he was in Chapter 1. This kind of evolution can create a truly memorable story that sticks with readers long after they finish it.

So, what exactly is “character evolution”? What launches a character arc? And, why is it important to begin with? Before we dive too deep, let’s define our terms and ensure we have a solid foundation for building this series.

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