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Monday, May 14, 2012

This is a blog post

And I am WRITING IT. Because I promised I'd blog more and be more entertaining and other such nonsense.

As of last Friday, I am currently working on edits for SHUTTER, SHUDDER (Ghost Book). Nothing super massive (as in, I am not yet ready to pull all my hair out and run around my apartment screaming "YOU WIN. YOU WIN. DON'T EAT ME PLEASE."), but one of the things I am adding is the one thing that I always, always, ALWAYS suck at. Always. I am now so aware of my suckiness at this that I expect it with every book, and wait with growing dread for someone to say this simple sentence:

"*insert MC's name here* needs more development in his/her personal character arc."

Character arcs. Oh, character arcs. I did a post awhile back about my struggle with character arcs. In it I tried to dissect the parts of character arcs in order to make it simpler in my head. It didn't help.

BUT, this time around, Sophie (Ghost Book MC) has an emotional struggle that I at least could put a name to: grief. And we all know those famous steps that (supposedly) everyone goes through whilst in the throws of grief. So I decided to apply them to character arcs too and found --

It kind of worked.

I'm trying not to get too excited with this discovery (we'll see if I can apply the same principles to my next book), but guys -- I HAVE MAPPED OUT SOPHIE'S CHARACTER ARC. I have never, in the history of writing, been able to sit down and map out a character's emotional journey before. It was always a barrage of "She did this -- and then -- oh wait, that happened too, so that first -- but with this other guy -- on a hilltop -- and then over there -- "

Until neither I nor anyone I tried to talk it through to could figure out what was wrong with this character. But now, I have a MAP. I have something to FOLLOW. And, dare I say, it might even be GOOD.

So if you're struggling with character arcs, give the Five Stages of Grief a whirl. Or, in more applicable terms, the Five Stages of MC Emotional Roller Coastering.

1) Depression. A common lead-in, I think. A lot of MC's start the books off a little rundown by whatever emotional problem they have. It's usually something they've been dealing with for awhile/their whole life, and when we meet up with them, they're cresting the point of Don't Know How To Fix It.

2) Denial. Usually the next step, when the MC is forced to confront whatever problem he/she has and they are so fed up with having said problem that they deny it, fight it, struggle with accepting it.

3) Anger. Towards the middle of the book -- the MC's problem is definitely surfaced by now, and they are forced to face it. Forced to in such a way that they're still wanting to deny it, unable to, and thereby pissed that they have to actually deal with it.

4) Bargaining. The MC realizes how dire their situation is. They also know what they need to do fix said emotional problem, but as a last resort, they throw caution to the wind and have a mini-breakdown of "I'll do ANYTHING else BUT that."

5) Acceptance. The climax -- the point where the MC realizes what he/she really has to do and does it. Emotional baggage is unloaded, hearts are mended, confetti is thrown.


Michelle D. Argyle said...

I like this! It helps so much to have something to follow and start from, even if it changes later.

J.R. Johansson said...

This is awesome, Sara! I really like it. I think it's a great blueprint to start from and evolve as needed. Very cool. :)