character arcs

I’m starting draft 4. The goals of this draft:

  • all major characters to have interesting character development arcs
  • all characters to behave in ways that are realistic and human, not just in ways that are convenient to the plot
  • smooth the writing some more, fixing all garbled or weird bits.

OK, so let’s talk about character arcs. Here are my thoughts:

  • Gamma : none: cryptic oracle through-out
  • John : done w fighting –> warrior for the Cause
  • Max : none: bloody minded throughout
  • Blue : calm, conflict averse –> willing to stand up to Max
  • Duncan : happy go lucky, no attention span –> coding to help win the fight
  • Mike : working alone –> restraining ego and working in a team
  • Javier : none: mentors Mike throughout
  • board members : unsure of need for war –> agreeing with Mike
  • Darren : playing both sides –> picking the rebels
  • Darcy : none: supportive of Mike through-out
  • Ewoma : none (minor: “own restaurant someday” –> “food cart today”
  • Hugh : beta male wimp –> asserts self through fighting for leftism
  • Louisa : XXX ???
  • Selena : loyalty to her leftist friends –> join expats
  • Fournier : merely pissed at Mike –> actively fighting the Revolution
  • Restivo : fighting for Earth –> wrong side
  • Linda Haig : loyal party operative –> decides to undercut president, run for office

I’ve got most of the characters reasonably fleshed out (given that I’ve written 272,071 words across two novels, I’d damned well better have!), but not all of them are “real people”. Actually, it’s worse than that – in fact, many of them are real people, by which I mean they have random motives, they meander through life, they do things for reasons that are inscrutable. Real life is messy. We read literature and watch movies because we what real life doesn’t give us: order. We want to see archetypes come up against challenges, behave in ways that are in congruence with their core values, and learn and change.

So my challenge isn’t really to make my characters real, it’s to make them simultaneously simple (in motivation) yet complex (in expression of that motivation).

I’m reviewing the chapters from Jennifer’s “The Coffee Break Screenwriter”, and I’m going through and adding big chunks to every major character’s character sheet:


  1. in public always:
  2. later this is applied when:
  3. entertaining result is:
  4. later character breaks rule when:
  5. in personal life always:
  6. later this is applied when:
  7. entertaining result is:
  8. later character breaks rule when:
  9. in private always:
  10. later this is applied when:
  11. entertaining result is:
  12. later character breaks rule when:


  1. how is he helping people or creating greater good?
  2. besides hate, what does he feel for character X?
  3. who does he love?
  4. what is his greatest skill?
  5. what is his biggest weakness?

This is hard work.


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