What’s a story?
Most people would say it is a series of events that happen. Plot. Conflict. Climax.
You know, all that Freytag’s Triangle stuff from middle school language arts.
But writers know a story is about the internal challenges of a protagonist and how that character develops and changes from page one to The End.
The book title is linked to Amazon.
Creating Character Arcs The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story Structure by K.M. Weiland, Helping Writers Become Authors Paperback, V7 – October 28, 2016. 282 pages.
K.M. Weiland is a multipublished author who also writes books under the publishing name, HELPING WRITERS BECOME AUTHORS. Here’s a woman who believes in paying it forward.
This book is a great place for a novice fiction writer to begin–or for someone who is finding something missing in his or her Work in Progress (WIP) but can’t quite figure out what it is.
Weiland asserts that there are three different types of character arcs: the Positive Change Arc, the Flat Arc, and the Negative Change Arc.
Given that most protagonists are written as Positive Change Arc characters, Weiland devotes a substantive amount of this book to helping a writer develop a this type of arc in his story.
She takes the writer through each beat of plot structure–if you haven’t heard of beats yet, this would be a great place to begin.
Like most good stories, a character must begin with some false assumptions. Up until the story begins (hopefully in medias res, which means in the middle of things) this protagonist has lived life filtering her experiences through her own point-of-view.
And so, she has wants and needs, things that haunt her, and things she mistakenly believes are life-truths.
With all of this baggage, she walks into the normal world of our story. And that’s when things don’t seem to be staying the same for her. The status quo is upended.
What I love about this book is the step-by-step structure of the chapters that lead the writer through the step-by-step structure of plot and character arc–each dependent on the other.
Considerably less space is devoted to the Flat Character Arc and also the Negative Character Arc because they are not as frequently employed by writers.
The Flat Arc is just that–it indicates no significant change in the protagonist. He starts the story knowing the score, and then uses his knowledge to thwart external conflicts as he goes merrily along. And while some writers may do such a character justice, it would still be some trick to pull off for a newbie. Still, for those who want to try their hand, Weiland provides an excellent guide to assist in developing such a character and plot.
The Negative Character Arc is common in Shakespearean tragedies and other classic literature. Macbeth would be a great example of a character who changes for the worse and drags others down with him. Well, Lady Macbeth did the dragging, but you get the point. If you want to write the next great depressing tale of great literary merit, then have at it. Everything you need to build a tragedy is in this book.
Another great feature of this reference book is Weiland’s use of consistent examples taken from books and films, so most likely all readers of this book will be familiar with at least a few for each type of arc.
Finally, Part IV of this book provides FAQs for writers who have various questions, concerns or who wish to apply this information to series or specific genres.
This book is well worth a purchase as a pre-writing or a character/plot development resource OR if you have a draft that just isn’t quite there and you suspect characterization is a problem.
There is gold in these pages.
Susan J. Anderson
Foxy Writer Chick