What is a character arc: It is a journey the character experiences where they start in one place, and end up in another. This place can be a state of mind, a belief, skill, or relationship.
During this journey they will go through a change and when the arc is over, they will have a new perspective. Many times, the them has an impact of the desired change the occurs.
Character arcs are a great way to take someone along for a characters personal journey. After all, we go through similar journeys ourselves. We all have desires.
But should really get what we desire most?
Have many times have we believed that if we got something we wanted, that we would feel complete, just to feel as hollow as we did before.
Your story is going to be filled with all kinds of events and conflicts that will shape and morph your character.
Most of the time the things that take place help us understand the character as we go along, but after big moments, your characters might change.
They don’t always have to, but think of all of times you changed. Small things like doing poorly on a test don’t matter very much compared to the loss of a loved one or being in a tragic accident.
The same can be said about your characters.
Types of character arcs
Positive Changes: The character goes from a place of being bad and gradually changes into a place of good. The character starts with a need in the beginning. They must overcome their flaws or obstacles around them to finally achieve this need and therefore become a better person.
Negative Change: The character goes from a place of good and changes to a place of bad, or they have a need and they do not get that need satisfied by the end.
Bittersweet Change: The character does and does not change in the way they needed
No Change: Literally nothing changes. Stuff happens and there is conflict, but the characters in the story do not change or succeed/fail at their goals and needs.
Good Will Hunting character arc example:
In this character arc, a flaw is presented blocking the protagonist from having a better life. The arc is his journey to overcome it.
- Will Hunting is an extraordinary genius that was beaten as a kid and now believes that change results in emotional pain.
- Will uses defense mechanisms (though unaware to them) to justify his inactions.
- Wants to live his simple life of working lowly jobs and hanging around loyal but immature friends, which allow/prevent him to not grow up.
- The inciting incident that propels the story begins when Will is arrested and forced to help math wiz.
- As part of the deal, Will must see a therapist who tries to get him to overcome his flaw, along with his friends, and new girlfriend.
- The people he grows to care about force him to see his flaws and defense mechanisms, he is holding himself back from a great life others can only dream of.
- The story has a happy ending as Will finally overcomes his flaw and decides to take his best friend and therapist’s advice, to follow the love of his life to Stanford in California where he has a high level job in mathematics