Character Arc Progression

Character arc is the changes your character goes through from the beginning to the end of the novel. It is how they grow and learn, or change. Take a good look at your manuscript or outline. Is your character arc strong enough to help carry the novel? It should be just as strong as the plot, if not stronger, depending upon your genre. Not every genre will have such a powerful character arc and that’s okay, they aren’t all supposed to. But if you write character driven fiction, that character better be strong and their arc needs to be evident.

Think of a novel you read recently that had a really good character arc. How did that character change from the beginning to the end of the novel? What about them did you like in the beginning, middle, and end? Readers celebrate with your characters, be it an achievement, revelation, or growth. Without those elements in your characters the reader doesn’t get as attached to them and therefore doesn’t care, which means they may stop reading. 

To make sure your character arc is strong enough, do an arc sheet at the same time you do an outline. Map out the changes, growth, hardship, and setbacks you want your character to go through. They should end up in a completely different state than they began the novel. Not an outlining kind of person? That’s okay, jot down notes about what your character is going through personally throughout the novel. This method will reveal whether or not you have fully developed them to the point where the reader will be satisfied. 

Guest post by Heather McCorkle, freelance editor, graphic designer, and acquisitions editor with City Owl Press. She has generously provided the attached character arc sheet below.

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