Build a Character Arc | Barbara Vance | Skillshare
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11 Lessons (1h 9m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Defining Character Arcs

    • 3. The Change Arc

    • 4. The Growth Arc

    • 5. Fall Arcs

    • 6. Shift Flat Arcs

    • 7. Stories with No Character Arc

    • 8. Choosing the Right Arc for your Story

    • 9. Supporting Characters and Antagonist Arcs

    • 10. Plotting a Character Arc

    • 11. Class Project & Final Thoughts

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About This Class

This course is designed to help you write an engaging, thematically-relevant, believable character arc for any of the characters in your story. Often, we spend a great deal of time planning who our character is without considering how that character will develop over the course of our story. The result of this is often a character who does not change sufficiently, or who changes a little until we reach the end, and then goes through a change spurt that leaves the reader scratching his head.

To avoid this, we must be intentional about the changes we want our character to go through and how, specifically, we will manifest these changes in our writing.

Topics include:

  1. Central elements of a good character arc
  2. Positive character arcs in which the character improves over time
  3. Fall arcs in which the character declines
  4. Stories in which the character does not change
  5. Supporting character and antagonist character arcs
  6. How to actually write character change in your story

This class comes with downloadable notes and a worksheet that you can find on the laptop/desktop version of Skillshare. Simply click on the tab below the video that reads "Projects and Resources", and you will see on the right-hand side of the screen links to download these resources. These are not available on the Skillshare app or mobile versions.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Barbara Vance

Author, Illustrator



Barbara Vance is an author, illustrator and educator. She has a PhD in Narrative and Media, has taught storytelling and media production at several universities, and has spoken internationally on the power of storytelling and poetry. Barbara’s YouTube channel focuses on illustration and creative writing.

Her poetry collection, Suzie Bitner Was Afraid of the Drain, which she wrote and illustrated, is a Moonbeam Children’s Book winner, an Indie Book Award winner, and was twice a finalist for the Bluebonnet Award. Its poems are frequently used in school curricula around the world.

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1. Introduction: Hi, everyone. My name is Barbara Vance, and welcome to this course about how to create a character arc for your character for your stories. Often we can spend a great deal of time sort of planning. Who are character is going to be thinking about? What do they look like and what are their trades? And we might spend quite a bit of time. Also, I'm thinking about our plot and what do we want this story events in our plot to be. But what's often not spend enough time on is actually thinking about how is my character going to grow incrementally throughout my story. If you've watched any of my other courses, you know that I firmly believe that character and story are intimately connected. You cannot separate the two. So while we are looking at, how do we develop our character incrementally over a plot in this course? What you're going to see is that figuring out those incremental changes also actually helps you plot your story. So in many ways, this is a plot course as much as it is a character course. Stories are basically presenting a character with a series of challenges that that character has to overcome. And when we think about a story on, we talk about the character. Overcoming those things that character comes into some kind of a conflict has to figure out a way to resolve that. And then they come into another conflict and another conflict, and these events build up to what is the ultimate climax of the story. And then there's a day name wa. So what we're doing is saying, How does my character go from point A The beginning of the story to point B at the end of the story, And how am I going to get the character there in between all of that? What you want to avoid is knowing where you want your character to begin, where you watch character to end, and then have your readers get to the end of your story and go. I don't understand how Sadie ended up the way she did. You want to believable? You want it rial, which means that you have to choose plot events that are directly related to the character growth that you want me to see. That's what this course is all about. This course is going to look at what are some of the central components to a character arc . And then we're going to look at the different kinds of character orcs that exist growth character arcs, sort of flat character arcs, declining or negative character arcs. We're going to look at all of those things. Were going to address things like, Does your character have to have a character arc? Should supporting characters have a character arc? Hominy characters should have a character arc in your stories. Lots of little things that I have worked through with my students. Over the years, I have had the great fortune to teach creative writing and creative content development to a wide variety of artists across a tremendously varied mediums. And so this will apply to you whether you're wanting to write a short story novel, screenplay, creative nonfiction, even a narrative poetry, anything that's dealing with character, this will help you. I'm so excited about this course. I hope it sounds of interest. If it does, let's get started 2. Defining Character Arcs: all right, I want to preface this class by saying that this class is all about getting you to think very independently about character development. What I mean by that is that I don't want you just getting married to a set of rules. There are a lot of resources out there that will very specifically say this percentage into your story. This needs to happen by the second chapter. This needs to happen, and then this, and then this. Those rules can be very helpful. They are particularly Jermaine if you're writing Sean Ra Fiction because genre fiction is based on a formula, Romance has a bit of a formula. Westerns have a formula. Science fiction has a bit of a formula. It doesn't mean that you can't break with that formula as you are working through it. But by definition, when you're writing in a genre fiction, you are adhering to certain formulaic tenets that make it part of that genre. That's not a bad thing, if that's what you're trying to write. Just like if I were to say I want to write a sonnet while the sun it has a certain form, it has a certain meter a certain number of syllables per line, etcetera. There's a form toe, a sonnet. So if I'm trying to write that, then yes, I want to adhere to the form. So if you know you're writing a specific genre fiction, watch this class because it will help you. But then, absolutely, if you want to seek out resources that arm or codified and specific about what needs to happen to your character, exactly when seek those resources out and use them as you see fit. This class is not going to get into that much detail. We are going to address things that are quite pertinent, just kinds of certain genres of storytelling. But we're also just really, I want you to start to think more holistically about your character and how you manifest that character in your writing, and that's what this course is designed to do. While those formulas can be helpful if you Onley learn the formulas, that's a bit like learning a math equation, and you can run the equation, but you don't know how to use that equation. In real life, you don't know its practical application. You only know how to work it out. So I want you to move past just adhering to rules and more understanding how and why these rules apply and story that puts you in a great deal more the powerful position As a writer having said that, let's look at this certain aspect off a character arc that, generally speaking, are there in some capacity. Now remember that the story is basically taking a character through a series of obstacles and by virtue of going through these obstacles, and through these challenges, the character becomes a different person on the other side. So that's the design of this ark. Now there are stories that don't have much of a character orc change and that arm or just based on events for the wonderful stories to, and we will address that later in the course. But since the courses character focused, that's what I want us to look at right now and forgive me if I look down. If you've watched my courses before, you know, I take from notes. So what I want to go over are basically common elements of a character orc, and really do keep in mind as we go through these that not all plots and not all character arcs will possess all of these things. But it's still good for us to go through them. By the way I have for you class notes that I recommend that you download because those notes you will be able to follow along with everything we go through in the course and make your own notes on them. If you want to get the most out of the course and retain the most information, riding things down and taking notes will help you tremendously. So if you've not gone and downloaded those, please go to the class resources. If you're not sure where they are, I have that listed for you in the descriptions for this class. Go look at those, download those and then follow along with me. All right, so elements of the character arc the 1st 1 is the story truth, and this is essentially the theme or one of the main themes of your story. A story, generally speaking, has at least one theme, and then even if it has multiple themes. One of those themes or two of those themes of the primary ones and a theme is short and sweet. It's It's a your sort of truth statement about how the world works. So a theme could be that, you know, good wins out over bad. That's a very typical theme with sort of a heroic narrative. Good will defeat evil. That is a theme most of the time. A theme is positive, but a theme can certainly be negative now. How does that story truth apply to your character? Very often, the character might not realize this story truth in a typical growth character arc, which is the most common form, and I will get into that into more detail. But in a typical growth character arc, the character has things he or she needs to learn things he or she doesn't know or believes that the character has or doesn't have. So, for example, your narrative theme might be that doing right and doing good is important. It's the right thing to do, even if it feels like, and it looks like it hurts you personally. Your main character might believe in the beginning. I have to look out for me and my own, um, and so it hurts other people. That's too bad. It's not like I want to hurt other people. But if that's what have to do to take care of me and my own, if I have to do sort of the wrong thing to take care of me and my own, then that's what I'm going to do. Very self preservationist. Think of Rick in the beginning of Casa Block, I stick my head neck out for no one. So Rick has to go through the events in the story of Casablanca's to sort of return to the previous pre movie version of himself where he was the Freedom fighter. Wary, he's stuck his neck out for people, but he's jaded when we see him at the store to the story, so he has to go through things to learn this other truth. He's operating on a different truth. Which brings us to the second element of your character organ. That is the lie that your character believes. Now again, all of these things are most true in grand transformative change arcs. They can be very much less true in literary things, so don't don't take these old bank, but there's a lie that your character believes, and basically that lie is a misconception of himself or the world that contrasts with the truth of your story. So you have a story. Truth. Your character has a lie or a misconception that he believes that conflicts with that story . Truth. So again to go back to Casablanca. Your story. Truth might be. We have to make personal sacrifices for the greater good. But the story the lie that Rick is believing is I don't have to stick my neck out for anyone. It's self preservationist world. That's the lie that he believes and this lie it. It's preventing him because it prevents him from seeing the truth. It prohibits him from either obtaining a goal that he wants or being a complete person in a holistic, positive way. So even though, say, Casablanca, Rick doesn't necessarily have this goal. And I really pushed back on story, you know, plot and story advice that says, OK, you're character has to have a goal. There is just so much literature where that characters might have little goals throughout, but they might not have this massive, overarching goal for the narrative. And when we meet Rick in the beginning of that film, he doesn't have a goal. I mean, his goal is basically to take care of himself. I mean, if you want to say that's his goal, his goal is to run a good bar, you know, Sash Saloon. And, um, you know, look, look out for himself. Take care of himself. That's his his ultimate goal. And so his beliefs, this lies telling himself, are keeping him from being that self sacrificial herro that he can be that he is at the end . So the lie that the characters telling is something that's hurting them. You know, that's that's still I and the underlying story is all about How does your character overcome or grow out of that lie into the truth that your character might very well be. Leave more than one lie in a story. Sometimes your character will be leave a lie, and then the story will go on, and the character will see the truth in that. But then they have another lie that they're believing, and they have to see the truth in that, so there are a lot of different ways you can do it. There might be one overarching live that the character sort of works himself out of in the case of Casablanca. But if you find that no, you know, for my plot, it's not working in that. I sort of see that he discovers little truths along the way. That's fine, too. When you're thinking about your story, don't go. Oh my goodness, I have this other plot in my head and it's not matching this formula that Barbara or a book gave me. I have to rework it and my but my story into this don't do that because that's what ends up with cookie cutter stories. It's all right if your character sort of discovers multiple truths along the way. What you want to remember is that there are sort of two levels to your story. There's the surface story that are the plot events that are happening, but below that level aural, the character changes that are related to this plot events. They're both going on simultaneously, and they both influence one another so that keep that in mind. Now we've talked to K. There's a story truth. That's your belief. There's the lie that the character is telling himself or herself that generally conflicts with that story. Truth. They're also character wants and the character wants. It's a goal. It's with the character desires in the story, and this can be something very solid, like a promotion I have. I want a promotion that's my goal, or it can be something abstract like I want respect. But there's generally some way that you can sort of say, This is something that they want. This is something they want and the reason that you're usually able to identify something like that, even when it's more literary. And it's not this obvious thing like, well, I want to defeat the dragon and take over the castle. Um, you know, it's still somewhat there because we all have. Once we all have things we want, even if my most immediate want is to go get a cupcake down the street. It's a want, but we all generally have larger things we want, whether that's meaning in life or good relationships. They're all kinds of wants, so you should be able to identify something that your character wants. Now. Why is that important for this story? Because again, the characters taking actions that are driving the plot forward and you want your characters internal state to be deeply connected to the plot events themselves because that's what brings about cohesion. You're not telling me a story just of a girl who goes and she was a princess, but someone took overthrown, and now she's living is a commoner. She's got to figure out a way to build an army and get back into the palace and take back over the city so that the evil despot is no longer in control. We have a plot in it, lots of audience. They're going to happen there. But but dial back and say OK, plot events. Girl gets crowd taken from her girl becomes poverty. Girl meets friends. Girl grows on Army girl, get some weapons. They take a tactic castle and there's a dragon. And suddenly she's there. These events, right? But what's happening internal with those events? Because that's what makes this story rich. Remember, I want to connect with your character and I will connect with Herm or if I see challenges internally and changes internally happening in her. So you have to say, Well, what specifically related to this story is going to manifest change in my character that is most Jermaine to that? Is this a story about a young girl who was pampered and because of that she had expectations And she didn't treat people properly so that when she lost her crown, she wasn't treating people properly and she had this lie. She believed that. Well, of course, everyone needs to just adore me because I am my ideal. And she has to learn to be more humble, to act with humility, to appreciate others, to give other people deference, and in doing that, come up with a new truth about how you treat people when she comes to this new truth is when she's starting to be able to actually find success in taking back over her crown. In that situation, you have a girl whose internal growth is directly connected to the activity that's happening in the story. If we take that same plot structure, we could say, All right, well, my theme is actually more about family, so I'm going to have more scenes in which this is a girl who didn't appreciate family, and she was very much a loner and didn't look to her family for happened. Did not appreciate her parents, but Then there was this attack and she lost her crown and her parents were killed. And now she's having to do without this family support structure that she always thought she had. And little Miss I'm so independent is now feeling like I guess I'm not as independent as I thought. I waas and now she's going to have to then go on on her journey to get back. To get her crown. She might come in contact with different people who have different family environments. And she learns things about family because of that, so that when she gets back into her crown, um, and she falls in love with a boy. Long way, of course. And, um, you know, starts to have a family of her own. She's found a new identity with this family. Do you see what I'm saying? How each one of those themes and goals and wants and lies, characters are telling themselves, is going to result in different characters and different scenes on that surface story. So all of these things matter very much now. Story, truth, liar, character believes, character, want character, need character. This is what the character needs and generally it's basically the truth. Most often, what the character really needs is the truth. The character might say, I want to get my crown back and that's great. And as a reader, we hope she does get her crowd back. But what she needs is to learn that difference. Learned that humility or learn those lessons about family. That's what she needs. The need is more of an internal thing that helps her to be holistic. Thea. Other thing, that very often you will find in a character arc, particularly a positive one, is some kind of internal character wound. And this is the reason that your character believes the lie that she believes it's something that's rooted in her backstory. And very often it's something negative, but it can be positive, so you might have a character who's really cynical and bitter, and the root of that wound that's made him that way is that he was abused as a child. But you could have the wound be something positive, for example, are vain in selfish princess that is about to lose. Her crown was constantly praised and pampered and spoiled and loved on so much, never told, she was bad, and that hurt her that wounded her. That wasn't a good thing. So what is the thing that made the character believe the lie that is now hurting him, the lie that is now hurting her? And finally, the thing to think about when you're developing your character arcs is the starting point. What is the normal world for this character at the start of the story? So for our pampered princess, it would be a supportive family who loves her and praises her. And she has servants and everything at her beck and coal, and she really doesn't have a lot of problems the way that we would see problems more often than not. When you establish the story world, you'll take your character out of it, just like photos. Normal World was the Shire, and he's taken out of it. Harry Potter's normal world in the first book is the ders Lee's house, and he's taken out of it are pris princesses in her palace, and she's taken out of it. That can also be a metaphorical kind of change where we stay in the same environment, but the environment shifts in some kind of way say a family moves into a house and everything's wonderful and hunky Dorry. And then a week later, they start to hear voices and creepy things start to happen on Bears. Writing on the walls were still in the same place, but now it's become a dangerous place, so it doesn't necessitate a shift in environment. But generally, something changes around the characters that helps facilitate the journey that she must then go on to become the person that she will be at the end of the story. So those are just certain defining aspect of a character arc again. You may or may not really address all of these, but going down this list as you're planning your character arc, and these are on your worksheet for you to sort of work through. But going down and asking these things of your character is going to help you brainstorm and figure out and think up what you want that character arc to be so rather, do take some time to go through these, because it will help you when you're designing your your development of your character through the stories. All right. In the next video, I want us to talk about positive character arcs, which are the most common kind that you see in writing 3. The Change Arc: as I mentioned, positive character arcs are the most common kind of character RGC in literature, and this is one in which a character improves over the course of this story. They're deficient and lacking in certain areas, and by the end of the story they have overcome those challenges to become a better, more complete human being. And within this, generally, people and myself included, would break it down into two different types. There is a change arc, which is tends to be more dramatic or hero's journey. Mythology, uh, just a large change happening over the course of this story. And then there are growth arcs, which are more subtle, and growth arcs are what you Seymour in literature proper in sort of quote unquote literary novels. The 1st 1 that I would like for us to address is that change arc Now. This coincides a lot with the hero's journey. If you're familiar with Joseph Campbell, who came up with this idea of the hero's journey and he mapped out based on mythology, sort of the step said a hero goes through now, I will tell you I'm ambivalent about that because I think it really can result in people coming up with extremely formulaic stories. I think there is a place for the hero's journey, and it's a worthwhile thing to know, especially if you're interested in writing epic or mythology, etcetera. But I would not be married to it. But the transformative change aren't that we're looking at is a tremendously rewarding 14 readers. We love a good story in which someone just becomes infinitely better, better over time, and we even love it in small sequences. You know we love the Cinderella story, the rags to riches story if you've ever seen the film Pretty Woman. One of the most popular scenes in that film is when she goes shopping and in the space of two or three minutes she goes from wearing sort of street close to very beautiful clothes happens very quickly. It's one of the most popular scenes in the story, and the reason is that it just feeds are inherent love of watching someone transformed rapidly and become something that we think is better Now. There are certain steps that frequently happen when we are looking at a hero's journey when we're looking at a story which the character goes through a grand, sweeping change, and these we essentially went over in the last video. Those character issues that once the needs, the lie that she believes the truth that she needs to attain. All of those things are very often present in this kind of a story. You will very often have a situation in which you have a character who is in need of development. He or she lives in a quote unquote normal world by circumstances. She is pulled out of that world very often, uh, doesn't want to be pulled out of that world, But she is forced out of that world into a new situation. She has been there for some kind of goal it might be to get back into her old situation. It might be like photo where it's to get the ring to more door. It might be Harry Potter, Harry Potter's unique because it's a Siri's. He has a different goal in every book, but he has an overarching goal of defeating Voldemort. Essentially, that character has a larger goal. Achieving that goal is hindered by a full speed leave. The character has to basically overcome the false believe and accept the truth and reject the lie. Embrace the truth and none of that's going to happen without all of the external conflict. The external conflict that that character is dealing with is going to hinder his or her goal. But it's also going to hinder the false belief that she has. So my goal might be to get the ring to more door by false belief is I'm just a hobbit. I can't do this. And there are these antagonizing forces coming at me. Those antagonizing forces are keeping me from throwing the ring into Mordor. What they're also doing is keeping me from continuing to believe I can't do this, because what happens. I keep doing it for auto thinks I'm just a hobbit. I can't do it. And yet he escapes the night riders and he fights these people. And he does this and he does that. And the more and more and more he achieves things, the more that false Billy that I'm not good enough doesn't hold up so again that external force challenges my false belief. It challenges my external goal and it often in this kind of ah, in kind of a development we don't see the change. Suddenly it's a big transformative change, but we won't see it right away. What we see is that the character keeps trying to hold on to that false belief. They might say, Well, I didn't really defeat the night riders. It was these people with me and well, that was just luck and, well, maybe a little bit. But I really I I might be able to do these little things, but I couldn't do that. You know, it doesn't happen overnight. What we see is a slow development, a slow development in which it's challenged. Maybe I shift my perspective a little bit, but that's challenge. So I shifted again a little bit. I don't have to accept the truth overnight. It can be that you have a lie that you believe that lies challenged. You learn to reject the lie. But that doesn't mean you have embraced the truth yet. So if my lies that I'm not good enough to go on this journey, maybe eventually through the story plot events I stopped believing that I'm not good enough , but maybe the truth. I need to believe it's no, I'm actually be person to do this. I am. You know, fate has deemed me the deliverer. Well, okay, I no longer believe the lie that I'm not worthy to do this. But I don't believe the truth that I am the only one who can do this. There can be a space in between not believing the lie anymore and believing the truth. And we will often see that in this kind of transformative behavior when you're trying to design a character arc of this nature, which you want to ask yourself is What is my characters Goal. What is my characters external goal that he or she wants? When is the lie that he or she believes about the world or about herself? And who does she become? I have to know who she is at the beginning and who she is at the end. It's like in a painting. You establish your darkest torques and your lightest lights and then you feel everything else in. You need to say, This is my character. The start of my story. This is the character of my end of the story. There's a big transformation that happens in between that now I need to figure out the story events and within each of those events, very specifically what the character learns and how she grows in each one of those poise so that she becomes who she does. We will talk about this and how to do that in more detail later in this course, examples of this hero's journey as we mentioned things like Harry Potter photo in Lord of the Rings, the Children in the Norn ius stories. All of these are that kind of epic growth. In the next video, I want us to cover more of a growth art that is more subtle and tends to appear more in literary works. 4. The Growth Arc: like the change arc. The growth arc is also a positive transformation. What's different about it is it's a much more subtle change. You still have a character who generally wants something whose beliefs are being challenged by external events in the world. But in many ways, that character is quite the same person at the end as she was at the beginning. But she just might have a different perspective, or she might have improved in a skill. Or she's improved a little way over here, it's It's just far more subtle that change is happening. But it isn't a huge transformation that we see with a change park on arc of this nature works extremely well for secondary characters who you want to assign an ark to because you'll give your protagonist in Maine transformative arc. And then you can have your secondary characters have these more subtle changes. Example of this would be Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island Gym is a brave young man at the store to that story. He's a brave young man at the end of that story. How does he grow in between it? He absolutely does. He's a little sadder but wiser in that story, and he's just a little bit stronger. You know, he's He has a more nuanced sense of the world and of people of right and wrong, because he's had a lot of interaction with Long John Silver. And while he thinks Long John Silver isn't a good man, he also kind of likes him and long. John Silver has helped Jim, so Jim matures a great deal in understanding the nuances of people and people's motivations than he did it start. But that's predominantly an adventure story, and it's far less about character development. But the character development is there. It's just more subtle. You could have a book like Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, and in that one there is change that happens in the main character, whose name is Scout touched. A little girl who lives in the South in the United States, and she does change and she changes in in railways. But it's not this transformative change that happens when you look at that story a scout and she changes in multiple ways. So if you go back to what I was saying earlier, you can have different ways that your character changes you do not have to just pick. Well, my character is going to do this one big change, and that's the change. Now you character can have different changes, and they can occur at different points in the story. It's definitely that way with Scout Scouts starts the story much more volatile. She's ready to fight back if she feels threatened, or she feels slighted. She's just far more pugnacious, Um, and we see her grow. Over the course of that story, we see her emotions develop. She becomes less volatile. She becomes less combative. She's more willing to not have her way. You know, in the start of that story, it's she doesn't want to be told what to do, and she doesn't want to do things she doesn't want to do. But later on in the story towards the end, she has to go to this dinner party at her aunt's. This is not she doesn't see very often. It's an art she does not like, but she has to go to the party and she has to wear a dress. She hates wearing dresses, but she has to wear a dress, and the book says that she goes, and she really remembers how much she hates to wear dresses, how much she dislikes her aunt, and basically, she wants to be anywhere but there. But she acquiesces and she goes, and she basically plays along with her aunt's attempts. Teoh kind of make her into a lady, basically. And then there's this wonderful line in that story that when her aunt, they learn about Tom Robinson's death. And it's very pivotal in that story. And Scout says, If anti could be a lady at a time like this, so could I. And this really shows scout, recognizing the quality and other people's behavior and recognizing you know what, It's not always about me. If my aunt can be so lady like in the face of this talk kind of news, I can I can shoulder up and be more elegant myself. It's a much more mature attitude. It's dramatically different than she was in the beginning. We also see her mature in her perspective and treatment of Boo Radley. In the beginning of that story, she and her brother, Jem and Dill are trying to get Boo Radley out of the house. They're trying to see him and in a way that kind of tormenting that man. They don't mean to be. But they are. And it isn't to later in the story at the end that she recognizes his personality. She calls him by name. She understands he really likes the Dark, so she gives him a chair in the corner of the room, away from people. She's being much more sensitive to him. She's not trying to make him uncomfortable it again. She was trying to make him uncomfortable before, but her own need to see him superseded her thinking about his needs. By the end of that novel, because of these story events because of the truck trial for Tom Robinson and the reactions that the town has and the conflicts with Bob, you will that they go through. She's much more mature, and she sees life like Jim Hawkins and Treasure Island in a more nuanced way. In many ways, Scout is still scout at the end of that story, but she's a much more mature version of Scout. And so this this is again It's it's subtle, is literary. There are numerous little changes that she goes through. It's not some sort of big, heroic thing. It isn't as though Scout has this one big, overarching goal that she must achieve. It's not that way, but she still has growth. And another example of this would just be Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, who just learns to not be so stuck up. She thinks other people are stuck up and she has to learn that actually, she has a fair number. Um, a bit of a fair bit of stuck up in this in her as well. So that's the growth narrative. What I'd like to do now is look at sort of negative character arcs in which the character starts better or and starts in one place and gets worse. 5. Fall Arcs: while growth arcs ticket character and improves him over time. Negative character arcs, full arcs, tragedy arcs, take a character and have them go into decline. And this can be a decline of a new number of things that can be decline of morality. It could be a decline of sanity. It could be something that leads to death. There are all kinds of declines that can happen, and it can be that the character starts, has a really great character and then goes downhill. It could be the character starts the villain and just becomes more villainous. So there are a lot of different starting points, just like in growth narratives. You want to say, Where is my character starting and where do I want them to end? That's going to help you build in the proper steps in between. Otherwise, what happens if you don't sort of establish that and you don't have to? If you're not a planner, you don't have to. But you're going to have to be aware of this as your writing because what can often happen is that a character might say, and this goes for growth or negative orcs, but they don't plan where the character going to end up, they just know where he is. So then they start writing and they start to write that decline, decline, decline, decline. And then they realized that their stories almost over And then they think, Oh, actually, I want my character. My character was here. I want now he's here and I've got a few chapters left and I need him to be down here. And so there's this sudden character change and the readers what just happened? Same is true of growth. Like who My character was here growing, growing, growing, growing. Oh, my were at the climax and my characters here, and I wanted her to be up here so it doesn't work. That's why when you design the whole thing, you can design the proper steps in between. So you want to make sure to do that with full arcs as well. Um, and, like a change arc negative arcs. Generally, the character still has a goal. The character still believes a lie. The difference is that rather than becoming a better person who acknowledges the lie, embraces the truth and then goes forward from that in a negative character arc, they they might acknowledge the lie, but then they will either just choose to still live the lie or that lie will leave them disillusioned or jaded or insane or coming to some other unattractive end. You think of the inspector in the miserable and and he is tracking Jean Vanier all this time, hunting him down, hunting him down, hunting him down. And then at the end, he realizes the truth and that he's basically been in the wrong and he can't deal with that . So he gives himself. That's a decline arc. He realized the truth, accepted it in the sense that he saw it but rejected having to live in it, he said, I know I can't live in this truth and he kills himself because that's it's that kind of that kind of decline. Examples of this include Walter White in Breaking Bad Where We See Him, I mean in that first episode ever in the Siri's. He's a sympathetic character. He is not a sympathetic character at the end of that story at all. He's really gone downhill, and so and he knows it. He acknowledges it, and he acknowledges that he chose it I chose that route and so that that's one. Huppert Huppert in Lolita. I've mentioned this book in some of my other classes. Humber Comfort is a pedophile. What's interesting about that? Because he is the first person perspective. So he is the main character, and Nabokov sets you up to be, in some ways, sympathetic does pedophile. Now I read that book. I cannot be sympathetic to him. He's a pedophile, but nonetheless, you see where literarily speaking. He is the sympathetic character in some ways in this story. But he is going downhill. He has fallen in love with this young girl, Lolita, and his pursuit off her is his demise. His pursuit of her is his undoing. Emma Bovary. In the Damn Bovary she goes in this decline. She is vain. She's selfish. She's not a likable person to begin with, and she spends and spends and getting gets into debt and takes on affairs, and she goes downhill till the end until she dies. So that's another one. Now I want to address the picture of Dorian Gray because I've heard a lot of people put the picture of Dorian Gray in this category, and I pushed back on that. And here's why. Uh, Dorian Gray. Dorian goes on in the story to do a lot of egregious things. He does a lot and a lot of egregious things, but what's different about that story is he really hates it, and he feels very trapped, and he doesn't want to do those things for a while. He does, and then he just doesn't. And he grows to hate himself more and more and more until he eventually in attacking the painting that represents everything he hates about himself, kills himself. So in some ways, yes, we're watching him go through a decline that ultimately kills him. But there is this moral seed of hating what he's doing and wanting so badly not to do it, that in some ways there's a redemptive nous to that story. So it's hard for me to totally categorize that as a decline. All right, having looked at those, I just want to talk about it. There's a variety of negative oryx, but typical ones that just you might want to be aware of the typical full. It's just he was a great person. Now he's not. There's also a kind that's disillusionment. And this is when a character learns the truth. That truth makes him more bitter at the end. Um, you could argue that's a growth arc, that they become sort of sadder but wiser. But, um, basically, they end the book within more negative state of mind. This would be somebody like Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby, who sort of sees things glittery and positive, and then by the end of the story, hey just is very disillusioned about the people he's been around. So in situations like that disillusionment, you have a character who believes the lie they get past the lie and they see the truth. But that truth is a tragic truth, and it just leaves them jaded. And then another one would be corruption, in which a character changes for the worst but embraces that change. They embrace the change. Voldemort would be one who embraces the change. Walter White, in Breaking Bad, embraces the change so you can have people who decline, and it's sad, and they didn't necessarily want it. But they declined anyway and didn't realize it. Who'd have people who chose it actively and wanted it? You can have people who really aren't villainous. They just end up jaded and disillusioned there. Other forms. But those are three of the big ones. What I'd like to address in the next video, our shift arcs or flat arcs in which we really see very little character change, if any. 6. Shift Flat Arcs: all right, we've seen character arcs in which a character gets infinitely better. Over the course of the story, we've looked at character arcs in which a character gets worse over the character story, but one about characters that maybe change a little but really remained steady through a lot of the story. This can absolutely happen. Glad arcs or shift arcs are still stories about change. It's just that rather than that change being internal in the character in which he or she overcomes some kind of large interior battle, the character remains very solid, and they they create change in the world around them. So they have a driving force belief that they believe firmly and and they the rest of the world doesn't believe it. And they corral the world to believe something. So you say you had a civil rights story in which you had a character who said, I believe in civil rights, and here they are in a very racist South environment where everyone else thinks that no, this racism, we have a spine. And then you have this one character who, by virtue of his beliefs and his strengths, elicits a change for the good in the environment. The changes happening. It's just happening around the character. This doesn't mean that your character can't have struggles. This doesn't mean that your carriage can't have some kind of internal wound. It doesn't mean your character doesn't go through some of these changes. It's just that those internal struggles, etcetera, aren't holding him back as a person from achieving the goals he needs to achieve. For the story again, character development is related to story. So you could still have a character in a flat arc in this environment in which he's championing getting past racism. And he still might be a character with a temper problem. Maybe he's just got a bad temper. But that temper isn't holding him back from achieving his goals. For the sake of this story about racism and equality, so you can still have a character who needs to change, still have a character with issues they're just not holding back plot wise. If you are writing a Siri's, very often that first book will be change arc. Subsequent books will be more of shift parks. We sort of see this in Harry Potter. Harry changes a lot over all of the books. But Harry goes through a lot of change in that first book and then sort of incremental, shifting changes happening throughout. But Harry's also eliciting a lot of change in the world around him, so keep them in mind. If you're writing a Siri's, you don't have to have every book where the character coast through these dramatic changes , it can sort of become a shift dark as we go along in the next video I want us to address. Can you have a story with no character arc? It'll 7. Stories with No Character Arc: many stories focus on characters, and they are character driven and knows the stories in which we want to see those arcs happened because that helps us connect with the character, their worldviews, air challenged. Their minds are being changed, learning new skills. There's a lot of personal growth happening. That being said, there are fabulous stories out there that, really the character does not change. They are plot focused stories, not stories focused on character development. Thes can still be wonderful stories. Um, Treasure Island. Yes, it's a change arc. Jim Hawkins grows, But in many ways that's just a rip roaring adventure story. It is far more focused on plot books that are sort of thrillers or actions. Stories are very often in this category they are all about, you know, like James Bond is James Bond at the beginning and James Bond at the end. There still can be really fun, but he's the same, and he's the same from book to book. So we're not looking at that kind of character development. Indiana Jones Indiana Jones is really Indiana Jones throughout all of those, but it's just an exciting, fun adventure story, so you can absolutely have stories in which there's really not much of a character arc to speak of at all. What you want to do is when you're doing that, it's going to be important for you to make sure that your character has really likeable characteristics. You still want a character who has fears. You still want a character who has a goal who has needs. But you're just not showing any kind of real internal development from all of that. Indiana Jones. He's afraid of snakes. He always got a very clear defined goal, whether it's to get the arguer to obtain the Holy Grail or something, he's got something. He's got fears that hold him back. He's got character traits that may get in his way or not getting his way. He has skills. We just don't see him dealing a whole lot with internal problems. Now, does he develop? Over time? He does. I mean, if you look at the film, uh, which one is it? Uh, it's not Raiders of the Lost Ark. It's all the Temple of Doom, Last Crusade, Last crusade that wouldn't has more character development than the others because he sort of comes to terms with his father. They try to put little character development in that one. Temple of Doom really doesn't have character development. Raiders of the Lost are No, really, But in The Last Crusade, we see a little bit of it happening. But even in that one, he is so much like his father, earthy like he is so much like he was the beginning of the end. There's just not a lot of change happening, but I wanted to address that. You can absolutely have a story if you're watching this going. I don't want to think about all the things. I just want a really fun adventure story. That's just fine. You can do that and it will still be a great story. All right, in the next video, I want us to touch briefly on how you choose the right arc for your character story. 8. Choosing the Right Arc for your Story: just a few questions you want to ask yourself as you're trying to make sure you're picking the right arc for your story, you want to again ask yourself, What is my character in the story? The story. Who is my character at the end of the story? And you want to ask if you're riding in the specific genre. If you're riding in a specific genre, you want to make sure you're investigating that genre. And considering the kinds of character change that are sort of Jermaine to that formula, you also want to ask yourself when you're looking at that. If you see a really big change and you say there's something heroic about this, then then embrace that If you're finding there's not a whole lot of shifting and changing happening, then you can say all right, this is a growth narrative. There's going to be a little bit of change, but not a lot of change and and go forward with their now there. Don't feel like you have to force it into one of these categories. There are gray areas in which it can seem like character arc false into more than one. Just one of the helpful reasons for sort of defining this for you. It's not. It's not so that the reader can not go well, this is a growth arc. This is about helping you write the story. If you know this is a dramatic change story, then you are going to have to build that change injury. Pack that punch into each one of your seats. If this is a subtle change, if you say to yourself Well, actually, I've come up with these three ways that I want my character to sort of have changed. But it's subtle, then, Okay, you Now you have to take those three changes and say, Where do these changes really manifest themselves? Where am I going to show these changes in the story? And how long is it going to take to build to these changes? Do two of them happened more at the same time? Do I space them out? Sort of like happens in To Kill a Mockingbird. What does one of the subtle changes. You know, Scout has this change with Boo Radley. Jesus, change with this other maturity at the end, we're saying Scout is more mature, but we're showing it through these specific changes in her character. You want to kind of identify what these things are so that you can then go about mapping it out. You're going to map your drive from one edge of the coast to the other. You're going to have to know where you're going to know you're starting and know where you're going before you can choose a route. The same is true character arcs. So knowing where you're starting, knowing where you want to go and knowing is this a subtle literary changers is something sort of bigger and epic is going to help you plan your route. It's going to tell you. Do I take the back roads or am I taking the major highways? So keep that in mind in the next video, I want us to touch briefly on character arcs for minor and supporting characters and the antagonist 9. Supporting Characters and Antagonist Arcs: I get a lot of questions about which characters need character arcs. How prominent should those character arcs be? How depth should they be? Can I have character arc as subplot? So I want to take this video and kind of just dress all of the's non protagonist character arc questions. Now you can absolutely have character arcs for other characters besides your protagonist. Unless you have a very small cast of characters or you're designing sort of family soap opera Matic soap operatic drama Siri's. You really are not going to be able to have character arcs for all of your characters, and indeed you would not want to. You need to be very selective about character arcs, because the more you have, the more you're pushing into your story that can make your reader feel overwhelmed and confused and hard to track everyone. It makes it hard for your character to focus in on any one person and form an attachment, so you want to be extremely choice when you pick who gets character orcs. Prominent minor characters benefit from a character arc, but they do not have to have this fully developed arcs as your protagonist again. they would benefit more from a small growth arc where we see slight shifts as opposed to big transformative change. Basically, these minor characters are going to get more condensed versions of the full character. Arc. Phil gets some growth, but not dramatic change. So for these, you want to ask yourself still, does this supporting character have a goal? And if they do, I mean for sporting character that Golden needs to be pertinent to the plot. You've got to keep it Germaine to your plot. Are those calls met with obstacles, and is there some sense of resolution? Do they have a goal? Is that Gold met with obstacles? Help! Obstacles? Is there some sense of resolution? If you intend on writing all of those things into your story in a way that is completely Jermaine to the central plot, then that character might be a good candidate for some kind of growth arc. The more in depth you go on a character arc for supporting character, the more that character is going to matter and should matter to the overarching plot of the story. All the other character arcs that you design are built around that protagonists arc, which means you do not design any other characters without considering how they relate to the protagonist. I have a course about this and about character relationships and making sure that you do exactly this. I haven't linked in the class notes. I haven't linked on your class project worksheet. I highly recommend that you take a look at that because that's going to get into that into more details, so I'm not going to get into it here. Touching on the antagonist the antagonist is often a reflection of the protagonist. Not always, particularly in transformative stories, is often the case. The protagonist and the antagonist sort of play off of one another. In some cases, there's sort of an opposite effect in which, as the protagonist grows and improves, the antagonise declines and gets worse. But the antagonised can also just sort of have a flat cork in which he adheres to his own truth and even if its destructive tomb, he's going to adhere to it. But you're antagonise connect absolutely have an ark, and he can get more powerful or get less powerful or happy leafs and have those beliefs challenged. But he refuses to change and clings to them. So keep that in mind. What you want to avoid is giving your antagonised truly sort of fleshed out character arc that matches the protagonists because you're going to end up with his ambiguity is going to make it much harder to see the themes in your story. If you want me to really signed with that protagonist, you want to be careful how much character development you let me see the antagonised. That should be an active choice, Um, and the character art at Arc as a subplot, right? So you have all of these characters. Will people want to know? Can I have a character that has an arc? But it's not the main point of this story. Yes, that gets to what we were saying earlier about flat arcs and adventurous stories. Basically, in some stories thrillers action, Siri's You might have some character development, but it's really not primary. The action is primary, and we have just a little bit of character development happening, like Indiana Jones, his relationship with his father, Um, so in that case, it just becomes a subplot. It's a more shallow, it's less defined. The other situation that can happen is you have some character development happening. It's just not terribly connected to the plot. It's just not as it necessary for the plot sequence events itself, so it can be there. But it's just not the primary point of this story as it would be in a character driven story. All right, what I would like to do now, now that we've defined different kinds of growth, are ex Platt org's declining arcs, sub characters When Now that we kind of know that you sort of can say, OK, well, this is what I want my arc to be How do you actually go about plotting that into your story ? 10. Plotting a Character Arc: When we write stories, we are frequently thinking in terms of plot points. This happened and this happened, then this happened, then this happened, and that's absolutely fine. But what's important is that you want to make sure that the way you write those events addresses the underlying character development that's occurring as we talked about earlier . In the course, you have a top layer of events that are your action sequences, but you have this underlying layer that is, your character change that is happening. And you want to make sure that the sequence of events in that service story coincide with our fleshed out are influenced by those under girding changes in themes that are being challenged and grown in the story. What this means is that as you consider what story events take place, you need to be able to answer. How does the character change based on these events? So you want to ask yourself things like, what has she learned from this specific scene? What has she learned about herself? What has the reader learned about the character in this scene? So what is the character learned in this scene? But what has the reader learned about the character in this. See, how has the character grown or not grown from this scene? You might have a character who's going to go over a big transformation over the course of this story. But in this first scene, she doesn't grow. She digs her, heals in. She believes the lies still and she doesn't really grow. That happens what's happening in this scene? What did she learn? What did she not learn? What, you want to sit there and say This was the action of the scene? But how did my character change from the beginning and the end of this scene or my character did not change in this scene? And the reason you want toe ask that if you end up with a lot of scenes where your character isn't changing isn't changing, isn't changing. That's a red flag, particularly if you are trying to write a character driving plot a big transformative plot . Well, if you're writing a big, transformative plot, you only have so many scenes. We better see some transformation happening in these scenes, so you want to make sure that's happening. Are these changes settle? Are these changes big? Some scenes will be more subtle change than others. But this is where you go, OK, what set change? What's the change? What's the change? If you have that character change goal in your mind as you're writing, then say you write your scene. If you get to the end of it and say, Whoa, I don't actually see that change here. That's a hint for you to go back and do some rewriting. I have courses I have seen outline. I have a great scenes mega course that helps you totally right scenes. I also have a rightist scene outlined course that will also help you consider some of these questions. So I'm not going to get into total detail on those but going and making sure that you consider seen by seeing the outcome for your characters on an individual personal level, it's what's going to help you. Make sure that you're balancing that change out, growing the grand tension of your story while having small tension and release points throughout that are Jermaine to that internal character change you want to remember, you can only show a small fraction of the events that occur in a given story So you're just you are. You're cherry picking scenes. You are choosing the things that are thematically relevant to the character change that you want to have take place. That's what's going to make sure there's a thread of cohesion throughout. You could say a lot of different things that your character was thinking about an altercation or a difficulty, but you're going to choose the ones you're going to say No, I know I could say a lot of things but my famous family, and so we're going to focus on those thoughts. That's why you want to think about your themes. So you want to cherry pick those scenes based on the character change you are looking to have take place based on the theme of your story in the lies that she or he believes to give another example. Say you have a story about a girl and she escapes from an orphan edge and she procures work for herself. She becomes this great business owner, very entrepreneurial. Makes all this money is very successful at the end. Okay, well, that's your plot sequence, but under that, there are so many ways you could tell that story Is this a story about a girl with career Dr who is trying to prove herself as a woman and prove that women can do the same things men can do career wise? Or is this a story about a girl who longs for family? She never had one. She was in an orphanage. And so, you know, this is all about how child services helped her succeed. Now, despite those challenges, she made it, and it's found family through the people who helped her. There are different interpretations. Each one of those is going to dictate the events that you select the scenes you choose to tell for your story again. Character development totally, totally related to plot. Remember that story can have its specific events, but your voice, your choices. It's like we're putting on a pair of spectacles and we're viewing it through that lens. What is the lens that you want me to view this through? And again, you want to make sure you realize when you plot this out. If your character has numerous truths that she's going to learn, that's okay again. It happens in to Kill a Mockingbird, but what you want to do is assess your story se. Okay, these are the truths. I'm starting here. I'm moving here. I know. I need to build tension up. Where am I going to make my big tents? Points? Where am I going to have my big learning? Ah ha. Moments appear. If my character's going to realize the truth, I should probably build in some scenes where that truth is challenged. I should probably build in some scenes where she doesn't accept the truth. Right way. I should make building these scenes where we're in between. Like we talked about where she's rejected the life. She believes what? She hasn't accepted the truth of it yet and make her work to find that truth. Baby, she gets the truth. But now she doesn't know how to implement that truth in her life properly. So it's just like learning to ride a bicycle we might not be able to do right away. We might be clumsy with the truth. Our princess, who has to learn now that Oh, you know what? I should have some humility and deference. She might not well know how to treat people nicely and kindly. At first, she might be kind of rusty and bumble at that at first, and then find her way. Don't make your character succeed too quickly. If you will take the time to write your scenes and plan your scenes based on both the story events and the character change, you want to have happen. You will have that tight story that this means if you have your story events more planned out in your head, start there. Start there. Put the story seen down scenes down that you really think you know. You probably don't have all your scenes flushed out. You probably know some of them. And again, if you are not a planner, start to get a sense of what you want. See where it goes but can constantly go back and assess, Assess, Assess. Is this working properly? But if you if you have more of your plot planned out, plan that out and then take the scenes, you know, and start to assess where you think you want your character to be at those points that's going to tell you. Oh, okay, I know I want my character here thinking these things for this one plot point. I've come up with. So in between these two plot points, I have what needs to happen, what other scenes and plot points have to happen so that my character is going through that change. If you have a story that you actually know more about the character change, you want to have take place than map that out. Map on outline. Your character changes, you will start to pull in scenes. If you say well, I really want my character to be challenged to be less selfish here than I'm like. Okay, how can I do that? What can take place? Who can she interact with That's going to have her learn to be less selfish? You can do it either way. Make sure you're working with them together and it will build itself out. So that's my advice there in the next video. I just want to talk a little bit about the project for this class 11. Class Project & Final Thoughts: I hope this class has been helpful. Before we dive into the class worksheet, I would just ask that if you've enjoyed this course or any of my courses, could you please take a moment and leave a review? That's tremendously helpful for me. It truly is. You might think it isn't. It is the big do when you take a moment to do that. So I would thank you very much if you would again. I have some of the courses that I really recommend. They relate to this. They tie into this and they will help you achieve what we're talking about here. They give you more detail. So take a look at the list. Of course, is that I provide for you on those class notes and on the worksheet to help get further instruction. Now, I do have a character arc worksheet for you that will help you map some of these things out . This, combined with some of the scene outline worksheets and character development worksheets I have in my other courses, will help you have a fleshed out character. What you will see with this worksheet is is going to ask you a number of the questions that we have discussed throughout this course as well as a number of other ones, use this worksheet as a brainstorming tool. What you don't want to do as you work through this is think that whatever you write down is exactly what it has to be. That's not true, that that is what holds people back and a lot of why people end up with writer's block. If you have several ideas, put him down, brainstorm it, write down anything, anything you're thinking when when you get that on paper. Now you have something to work with. Then you go back and you work through the worksheet and start to winnow away the ideas you don't like and and then make tighter and more cohesive the ones that you do. So the work she just designed to do that this is all about brainstorming. The last thing I would say is that you have the opportunity here to post and to leave comments and and get help from me. I'm watching those things. If you post something in the class project, you don't have to fill out the whole worksheet. Maybe you fill out just a little bit. Maybe you write a paragraph based on the worksheet. That's okay if you have sort of designed some some character arc issues or you've answered a few of the character arc questions. But you have other questions you'd like to ask me about this. Go ahead, Do port of the projects submitted for me to look at and make sure to indicate the things you'd really like me to address, you know, fill out Well, this is my character, arc, and I'm thinking this, but I'm not really sure about X Y Z. That helps me go in and really make sure I'm focusing on the things you have the most questions about. Take advantage off submitting something for me to look at. You don't have to fill out this whole worksheet and then submit that welcome to submit just part of what you think your character arc is and getting something back from me. I do hope all of this was helpful. It is a joy to be teaching you and I thank you very much for your kindness, your reviews, your support for watching, as always, I hope you're having a wonderful day, and I wish you the very best of luck with your writing. Five