At the beginning of your project you may have had a clear direction of where you wanted your story to go, but now it has shifted and taken on a life all its own. Perhaps you were vague on the details, but had a general idea floating in your head that has come together through the process. Either way, you've been so immersed in your story of late, that it's time to take a step back and see the overall picture; specifically as it deals with the transformation your character has made from the beginning of the novel to this point, and will make from this point to the end. This transformation is often termed the "Character Arc," and deals with the character's emotional development throughout the story.
|Photo Credit: Sarah Lucas|
|(Does anyone else wonder how a group of lines shooting every which way can be considered an "arc"? Just thinking out loud here....)|
Point 1 - Your character at the start of Act I
- This is where we meet your character and learn what normal life is like. We should have a clear idea of how good (Fun with Dick and Jane) or bad (Cinderella) things are for her - understand where she is emotionally - so as to appreciate the changes that are about to come into her life.
- Here you will introduce the character's flaw which threatens to be her undoing by the end of the story.
Point 2 - Your character at the End of Act I/ Beginning of Act II
(AKA: Act I Turning Point, Plot Point 1, First Doorway of No Return, or Entrance into the Exotic World -- the myriad of names is one of the biggest reasons it can be so tricky to understand story structure!)
- Now something has occurred which has shifted the character's status quo and forced her into a new reality. Whether this change is pleasant (unexpectedly falling in love) or painful (finding out a spouse is unfaithful), the character is going to need a bit of time to adjust to this new normal. What is she feeling as she faces these changes?
- This is the point at which we begin to see the character's back story and understand why she behaves the way she does. Oftentimes we will realize that the character's flaw comes from some past experience that she has not yet overcome. Character arc is all about revealing how a character overcomes (or fails to overcome) a significant flaw that is preventing her from obtaining her goals.
- For more on Points 1 and 2 revisit my previous post Day 5: Turning Points
Point 3 - Your character at the Midpoint
(AKA: End of Act II, Part 1 or Temporary Triumph)
- Notice this is the point in the "arc" which spikes upward. This is the high point for the character where we see she's accomplished, or is well on her way to accomplishing, her goals. Whatever little difficulties she has had to overcome to get to this point felt pretty big to her; she's probably pretty proud of her ingenuity and her ability to get what she wants despite the odds. However, we know she hasn't yet overcome her flaw - she hasn't learned her lesson - and thus, we suspect the triumph cannot last.
- For more on Temporary Triumphs see my post on day 18
Point 4 - Your character at the Reversal
- No matter how bad things were for your character before, this is climatically going to be the hardest point for her within your story. She is at her lowest, couldn't-get-any-worse-than-this moment and she's feeling it! Despair, agony, defeat... all of those hackneyed and melodramatic words come into play here. (Not sure if you actually need to use those words... what with it being better to show than tell and whatnot).
- For more on Reversals see my post on day 23
Point 5 - Your character at the End of Act II, Part 2/ Beginning of Act III
(AKA: Act II Turning Point, Plot Point 2, or Second Doorway of No Return)
- This is such an awesome point in the story. Here your character has had time to reflect on how things got so bad in the reversal, and she finally admits to herself that she needs to change if she is going to ever truly succeed. This anticipation of this turning point is what has been driving the story from the beginning. Without a realization of her flaw, and a desire to overcome it, she will not have any character arc.
- For more on Second Turning Points see my post on day 27
Point 6 - Your character at the Climax
- I haven't spoken about climaxes yet and that's for the simple fact that we haven't come that far in our 30 day journey. A brief explanation: this is the point where we get to see the character - oozing maturity and coolness from all of her new-found, hard won, wisdom - put into practice what she has learned along her journey. She is going to be confronting her antagonist in a final showdown, and if she hasn't figured out how to overcome her flaw, she has no chance at success.
Points 7 and 8 - Your character either succeeds or fails
- Succeeds: Show the new person your character has become now that she's proven to herself and the world how she has changed.
- Fails: Though your character may not reach the goal she hoped to attain at the start of the story, she has learned and grown through her experiences.
For more on character emotional development see this fantastic article.
MY DAY 29: Nothing unusual to report. I just kept at it and made slow progress.