Today we welcome one of my oldest indie author friends, Travis Simmons. We are in the Fostering Success group together, and have tossed ideas back and forth for the last year or so, with some other great indie authors in the group. He’s going to give us his ideas on building character arcs.
Hi there, my name is Travis Simmons, and I’m honored to be part of Jennings’ blog while she’s on vacation. Today I would like to talk to you about something I feel all of us constantly work on, and that’s character development. Because there are so many possible posts about character development, I chose one that isn’t as well touched upon: character arcs.
Every character has a story, and every story should have an arc. When we talk about a story arc, what we are saying is the flow of story from beginning to end should arc. It will start with the beginning and slowly build up to the climax, and then taper down to an end. This arc should include all story-lines that take us from point A to point B. Story arc help your book flow properly instead of meander around in a jumbled mess. When you are writing a character, they should grow, and they should also arc. This is to say, their stories will have a beginning, a middle, and an end that flow well together in a seamless whole.
Think of a time in your life when something happened that changed you. How did you grow? Was the person that came out on the other side of this event different from the person you were when you went in? That’s how your character should grow as well. Take a normal person facing some horrible event, for instance the so popular zombie apocalypse. This person could be an average home maker: PTA meetings, soccer meets, Scout meetings etc. Suddenly they are over run with a zombie infestation (or something not so fantastical, maybe the death of their only child) and they are forced to rethink how they work, how they live.
This arc will show the person now, happy, carefree (or however your character is at the start) and then it will show them plunged into this event and they are scrambling to figure out how to live now. They will eventually cope with it (maybe) and come out on the other side a changed person. This doesn’t mean your character has to become a stronger person. If you like to write the darker side of humanity, maybe this person will become a mess at the end, jumping at shadows and truly insane. That’s still a character arc. The important thing is you show us, beginning to end, how that person became what they are.
It wouldn’t hurt to draft your character before this event and after the event, that way you know the person they are when they go in, and who they become through the story. Take some time to communicate with your character, how they feel about things. Maybe they will tell you in detail how they became who they are at the other end. Jot all of this down. Form a plan of attack, research if you have to. One of the things I did in my book DESOLATION was research the stages of grief. People didn’t really understand this. They were upset that Asher didn’t act like they thought he would, but you know, I think Asher acted like a real person going through the stages of grief would. I know this, because (while my partner didn’t die) I went through it myself.
The main thing you want to do is make sure your character isn’t just a character. Make sure they are a real person readers can relate to. This will pull your readers in, and make them love you. If you want to take it a step further, you can arc all the characters in your book, but I feel they live and change on their own without much help.
Creating arcs for your story will keep the main goal in mind for you, and it will create a nice flow of events through the book and the life of your character. When the reader gets done, they will be so much happier for the smooth scenic route, instead of the bumpy, windy back roads.
Travis is the author of The Bonds of Blood, the first book in his epic fantasy series The Revenant Wyrd Saga. He has also written a young adult novel called A Lament of Moonlight which is book one of his pre-apocalypse series The Harbingers of Light. He is currently seeking publication for the first book of a third series, a zombie novel called Desolation. When he isn’t writing he is helping his family and trying to live a normal, under the radar life. His interests lie in cooking, gardening, green living, and human rights advocacy. He is a huge supporter of the Trevor Project and all agencies that seek to preserve natural resources and protect pets from abuse.
His books are available on Amazon: