This week’s video discusses the problem of making a character react without logic and why this decision becomes the most important part of character arc. And, after you’ve finished watching the video, be sure to drop by Roz Morris’s site to read about the music that inspired my recent fantasy novel Dreamlander!
Character and change. That’s what story is all about. We take a person and we force him onto a journey that will change him forever, usually for the better. This is your character’s arc. He’s going to start out in a less-than-fulfilled, probably personally stunted place. He’s going to have certain beliefs that are holding him back from what he needs, from the thing that will cause him to change into this better, more enlightened, more empowered person. To get him to overcome this mistaken belief, we have to not just put his feet onto the journey’s path, we have to use that path to take him to the single most important point in his character arc.
And what is this point? Well, it’s going to happen roundabout the three-quarter mark in your story, right as the third act begins. This is going to be your character’s low point. This is where the author mercilessly crushes the poor, unwitting character. It’s rough, but if we want our character to ever shed his misconceptions and weaknesses and rise, transformed, from his own ashes, we gotta be more than a little mean to him.
This moment is going to force your character into a place that’s basically do or die. Life’s going to look pretty bleak. Everything he loves, everything he’s hoped for is falling to pieces around him, in spite of all his best efforts. And the key—the reason everything he’s tried up to this point has ultimately failed—is that he has to yet to face his deepest fear or doubt—whatever it is that’s holding him back from finally transforming himself into a new person. This is where he has make his stand mentally and emotionally. He has to decide that facing down the antagonistic force is worth sacrificing himself to his own fears. After that has happened, we can charge into the third act and the climax with him finally ready to act upon—and thus prove—his new view of life and himself.