Characters in stories are important and need as much attention to push the plot forward. There are times when new writers create stories with a ton of character arcs, but they become weighted down by the plot. Meaning the plot ends up moving your characters around rather than the characters provoking the action. Your protagonist needs to be doing the heavy lifting in your manuscript. I will list 3 tips that will push your characters arcs!
1. Drop the hook.
So, how do you start your stories? Does something exciting happen at the beginning? How are your characters introduced? All these questions are valid when deciding the central theme of your story. It sets the tone of what’s to come and will keep your readers interested.
Give your main character immediate actions they have to take, showcasing what their worth under pressure. A taste of the protagonist better qualities or lack there of. You can also show action by starting the story in the middle of your narrative, It’s called the in medias res. . Your hook doesn’t have to start with an action scene to be effective as long as you start your story with information that gets people asking questions.
Even if your characters have passive aspects about them, having a good mystery behind them will keep those pages turning. Make sure you reward that persistence! Readers don’t like to be baited without a payoff.
2.What’s the Goal.
After building out the back story of your character, they need a central goal, something that keeps the pace up through the middle of the story. It’s the slow burn of an character pressing to achieve their ends. If your protagonist lacks motivation and allows the plot to move them, it makes the character feel blank and empty. You want your characters to feel like they have choices of there own and for them to act on it. That means putting them in situations of high stress because they choose to. It means your characters need to make impossible decisions that forever change who that character is.
Their goal needs to leverage between sacrifice and safety as the narrative builds to it’s climax. We want to see what character your does in many emotional situations to build relatability between them and the reader. We want to see the failure, the strive, the awkward situations, the fear, and defiantly triumph (the characters triumph doesn’t always have to be at the end) as they work toward their goal.
3.Define the Character’s Lie
Every Character Arc starts with and exterior desire (The Goal that progresses the characters’ actions in the plot.) and the internal desire (The goal unbeknownst to the reader that the character struggles to achieve.) The internal desire being the more important aspect of our character. Because the internal desire will reveal our character’s flaw, The Lie the character believes that keeps them from achieving their over-arching goal.
The characters lie is important because it defines the reason why they struggle. It’s something that should be tested and reinforced in every step of their goal. Usually the Truth is relieved right before or during the climate. Making the character decide between rejecting the lie they carried on their journey and excepting the truth. Or fall pray to the truth and clutch their lie. For example: In Hunger Games
Katniss Everdeen personal internal arc was:
Katniss’s Goal: Keep her sister safe.
Katniss’s Lie: It’s not up to her to ignite a revolution; all she has to care about is her family and sister, not all the other districts.
Katniss’s Truth: Caring about others can ignite a single spark and set fire to global change.
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I hope these 3 tips help you on developing your characters and become more impactful in your narrative. Our protagonist, antagonist, and side characters deserve to be complex and action orientated. Let me know if I missed anything or if things can be explained better. Other wise, keep writing!