By: K.M. Weiland
Choosing your character’s arc is every bit as important a decision as choosing the right plot. Get it wrong in the beginning, and, at best, you’ll be facing massive rewrites. Some stories will pop into your brain with an obvious character arc already in tact. But other stories will require a little more forethought. Fortunately, picking the perfect character arc for your story requires nothing more than the answers to three questions.
What’s Your Genre?
Genre won’t always be the deciding factor in the type of character arc you portray, but it should definitely be a consideration. As Harold Crick learned in Stranger Than Fiction, stories follow certain patterns: “Tragedy you die. Comedy you get hitched.” Positive arcs get happy endings. Negative arcs get sad endings. In The Moral Premise, Stanley D. Williams goes on to explain:
“Genre films create certain audience expectations for the protagonist. Often the protagonist’s arc is known by the audience before the movie begins. Such expectations about the construction of the genres may predetermine how the protagonist reacts to the story’s moral premise and conflict. This is because, as Thomas Schatz explains in Hollywood Genres, genre movies deal with fundamental cultural conflicts that can never be ultimately solved but yet offer a solution, if only temporary and idealistic.”
Broader “umbrella” genres such as fantasy, westerns, and historicals can tell just about any kind of story. But most romances, for example, are going to require a positive or flat arc.
Where Does Your Character’s Arc Begin?
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