A new exercise from my course – Character Arcs!

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been working on my exercises assignments from the express editing course I am attending.

Primarily it’s to do with character arcs. Sounds easy, so it shouldn’t be a problem. I mean, I created the characters. Therefore it only stands to reason that I being the author, should know their path.

Within almost two hours after starting one for my main protagonist, I was in panic mode. Was the protagonist in any pressure scenes, did they advance his growth, are there enough said pressure scenes? Pulling the brakes on my mouse and keyboard, I started asking myself just what exactly constitutes a pressure scene? Diving to great depths in the ocean certainly creates pressure. But that’s not the kind of pressure I needed or one that even worked in my story. Ah-ha! I cried out. Action scenes that’ll do it, Well almost. Unless your hero is like mine and is comfortable in such scenes. Unfulfilled and knowing my wake up alarm for work set to go off in just under five hours, I heaved an exasperated sigh and shut down my PC for the night.

Pressure tends to make great stews and meats or turn coal into diamonds. However, as I said, that’s not the pressure I need so it is not just about pressure per sae. My characters aren’t meat nor are they coal. They are real (in a fictional sense) with values and desires whether they are one dimensional or multi-faceted. Um, does that make them a diamonds? Okay, moving on now.  My characters should have had something happen, either by physical action or some form of emotional content guiding them and the reader through to an understanding of who or what they are.

The second attempt was soon following the dark path of my first. But on the third attempt, a small, yellow-skinned creature with large goggles screamed out, “illumination!” when I had a light bulb moment.

I looked closely at the planner I had recently drawn up. It lists all the chapters broken into scenes with key points written for each those chapters and scenes. Kapow! It was as if I’d walked into a wall. The revelation was both painful and enlightening. Why is that? Well, you try walking into a wall instead of turning down the hall. Seriously people.

Now for my revelation. In fact, it was pretty simple, all it required me to do was divide up my manuscript into three main acts. Yes, yes, I know for all you seasoned writers it’s a relatively obvious thing, but remember this whole manuscript writing is kind of new to me. Now having separated the book into three parts I could look at each characters journey and what pressure points they went through.

So by the end, I discovered my main protagonist goes from feelings of failure and disillusionment to achieving what his heart and soul wants. The antagonists rise to a point and have the rug pulled out from under them. Another minor character goes full circle finishing his last scenes in a personality similar to when he was introduced.  One of the secondary protagonists discovers he can offer his loyalty to someone new and be able to accept and follow that person into battle. Which by the way is not something the character sees but is something into which the reader should be able to see. (I hope)


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