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Thursday, August 11, 2011


I tweeted for help with this, but I'm going to blog it too. Because that's how much I need help.

*tries to think of something snappy to lead into the problem*

*no cookies in the house*

*can't think of anything snappy*


There. I said it.

No matter how much I research and/or tweak and/or re-read and/or revise, my character arcs are always the last thing, the very very very last thing, to come into being. Ordinarily, having one thing that always must be done last isn't a bad thing -- but this one is. Because of the sheer amount of time that is wasted while wrestling with those bleep bleeping arcs.

In my head, there are certain detailed character arcs through a book:

1) Introduction of the Character (usually the first few chapters of a book)

2) First Emotionally Distressing Event (wherein the character encounters what should be the first event in which you see a change in his/her normally delightful persona)

3) Character Leveling (wherein the character regains composure and implements his/her new slight emotional depth into his/her normally delightful persona)

(2 and 3 can repeat a few tiny times)

4) Second Emotionally Distressing Event (in or near the climax of the book wherein the character encounters The Event that the whole book has been working toward and should, in theory, change the character for the better. Or the worse, if you're into that kind of thing)

5) Character Release (wherein the character accepts all the changes that have happened -- whether or not he/she consciously makes that decision -- and becomes the ultimate and well-rounded person we come to know and love)

Easy, right? Once you see laid out all pretty?


For whatever reason, I cannot get my characters from 1 to 3 in a smooth, believable arc. My character arcs are more Character Death Roller Coasters of Doom. And then they get nauseous and I get nauseous and everyone gets nauseous.

So my questions are: how do you get from 1 to 3 and 3 to 5 without making everyone involved in the process nauseous from all the jumping about? How soon is too soon for a character to accept his/her Character Leveling? What are your tricks for smoothly inserting a new, more fully-formed persona into your character by the end of the book?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go get my characters some Pepto. Why they continue to put up with me, I'll never know.


Jill Hathaway said...

This is my weakness, too! I think it's more about refining, though. In the two books of yours I've read, your characters are definitely developing! It might just be a matter of going back and fine-tuning?

Dara said...

When you find the answer, tell me. I have major issues with this too. Maybe because I never really followed the pattern and they just kind of go all over the place...

Jake Henegan said...

I have this exact same problem. (Well, I didn't put it in a neat list like you, so I couldn't define it in the same way, but regardless, it is very much alike)

Maybe the key is to put in smaller distressing events in which there are small changes in the delightful persona, but not big enough to cause nausea. Sort of like having small turns at the beginning of the roller coaster (of doom or not) to let the passengers get used to the idea of the carts not moving in a straight line.