Show me a great book, and I’ll show you great characters! Would the Game of Thrones be any better without the humour of Tyrion Lannister or Arya Stark’s evolution from an unsuspecting kid to an assassin who avenges her family’s murder? We love them, hate them, and despise them; they’re the ones that make stories special. And what makes characters memorable? It’s the flaws that shape them and the hurdles they overcome despite those flaws; their growth arc, so to speak. But how does one write a character’s growth arc that’s believable and relatable? Fiction writing is about connecting the dots, justifying actions through motivations, and motivations through character flaws and temperament. Read on to figure out the essentials of character development and growth.
Profile the Characters before You Start Writing the Book
Draft a rough outline for each prominent character in your story before you start writing the book. This “outline” aims to decide in advance each character’s flaws, appearance, motivations, quirks, and temperament. Doing so, in turn, determines the characters’ reaction to situations they are to face moving forward. It’s the flaws that shape characters, remember!
Plant Long and Short-term Milestones in Your Novel Outline
Planting milestones concerning characters’ growth arc in the novel outline is a very industrious way of keeping the reader engaged. A “reluctant hero” undertaking a challenging mission, for example, may overcome minor conflicts in the run-up to the final showdown. Planting “milestones” keeps the story moving at an urgent pace and “shows” the character’s gradual progress to the reader.
Highlight the Character’s Progress through “Foils”
In fiction, a “foil” is something or someone that makes others’ qualities more noticeable—for instance, a polite and docile friend alongside a loud, rude person. Adding a foil to the story can have multiple benefits:
A) They offer contrast and make the character’s flaws more apparent.
B) They provide aspirational value, giving the character someone to look up to and emulate.
C) They work as a parameter for gauging and highlighting the progress made by the character.
A Well-Written Fiction with Amazing Character Arcs Needs Brutal Setbacks
The road to progress is planted with ordeals and brutal setbacks; your hero’s journey should be no different; it’s fiction writing 101. Adding failures and setbacks adds narrative suspense to the story while making the character’s transition more fascinating, convincing, and varied.
Take, for example, the story of a boy who aims to become a legendary swordmaster but loses his ability to see in a tragic accident. Obviously, his most significant disadvantage would be lack of sight.
Keeping the growth arc uncertain helps maintain intrigue throughout the story, as the readers would want to know if the character overcomes the odds or not.
Pro Tip: Finish the arc on a high. The path must be rocky as hell, and the reward well-earned.
That’s it- “The Stages of Writing a Character Growth Arc.” Let us know how you feel about this post by leaving a reply in the comments section. Also, check out our article on “Developing the plot- Tips for plotting a gripping novel.”