What if Your Story Has No Character Arc

What if Your Story Has No Character Arc?

Can you write a story with no character arc? Is that even possible? And, if it is, will the story be doomed to drabness in comparison to those that do feature rich character arcs (of the positive, flat, and negative varieties)?

Creating Character ArcsThese are questions I encounter frequently, and they’re absolutely valid. We often think character arc and story are synonymous—but then we go looking for the arcs in favorite stories, by trying to find the character’s Lie and Truth, and we sometimes come up short. Are we just blind to the arc the author intended? Or could it be that such a (gasp!) soulless thing as a story with no character arc actually exists?

Let’s take a look.

Is It Possible to Write a Story With No Character Arc?

In a word: yes. Totally possible. This is fiction after all. Anything’s possible!

Character arcs are centered on moments in people’s lives when they’re changing their mindsets, their worldviews, their personal paradigms. But lots of interesting things can happen without radical personal growth having to along with it.

One of my siblings’ favorite stories of our growing-up years is how’d we’d play The Great Escape. I’d always get to be Steve McQueen (hey, I was the oldest! I got to pick first), my brother would always be James Garner, and we’d always make our little sister, despite her protests, be the “other” American. (Don’t remember him, do you? We didn’t even know his name, so we called him Mickey Brown.) She’ll never ever let us forget that.

The Great Escape John Sturges James Garner Judd Taylor Steve McQueen

Sadly, I’m unable to report any personal growth involved. Still, it’s a good story!

What goes in real life goes for fiction as well. If you have a story in which stuff happens and it’s interesting—but there’s no character arc—that doesn’t mean you might not still have a rip-roaringly grand tale on your hands.

Character Arc = Story, No Character Arc = Situation

In his Writer article “A big-city cop moves to a small coastal town…” (September 2013), Jeff Lyons differentiates a story from a situation, using the following four criteria:

[1] A situation is a problem or predicament with an obvious and direct solution. [2] A situation does not reveal character; it tests problem-solving skills. [3] A situation has no (or few) subplots, twists or complications. [4] A situation begins and ends in the same emotional space that it started in.

Number Two is especially important. A book with no character arc will still be about a protagonist who wants something, has a goal to gain that thing, and meets up with opposition that gets in his way. He’ll no doubt learn a few facts and perhaps skills along the way. But he won’t have to undergo a fundamental personal change in order to defeat his antagonist. Whatever Lie may be present in his life won’t be challenged by the events of this story.

By Lyons’s definition, Raiders of the Lost Ark (or is it Arc?) is a situation, not a story. Indy has no character arc. He’s the same guy at the end of the movie as he was at the beginning. Did that harm the story? Not at all. Nobody (including Spielberg, who was convinced while he was making it that it was B film) would accuse it of deep thematic grist. But it’s a timeless and innovative romp that continues to charm audiences.

Harrison Ford Indiana Jones

How to Tell the Difference Between No Arc and a Flat Arc

Flat character arcs involve no personal inner change for the protagonist. So how is that different from a story with no arc? And how can you tell the difference?

The key is that flat arc stories still incorporate a Lie/Truth. But unlike in change arcs, the protagonist already possesses the Truth and is able to use it to change the characters and world around him. By contrast, in stories with no arc, there will be no battle between a Truth and a Lie.

Arc-less stories tend to show up predominately in the action/adventure genres, where the emphasis is on the physical journey/survival of the characters. At first glance, we might want to lump the whole action milieu into this mix. However, many stories of this ilk do incorporate comparatively shallow Lies and Truths, making them flat-arc stories.

For example, Jurassic Park (to return to one of my favorite examples) is essentially as much of a situation as is Indiana Jones, even though it incorporates a positive change arc in a subplot. But, unlike Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park presents its scientist protagonists as flat-arc characters trying to use the Truth that “life won’t be contained” to protect and change the dangerous world in which they find themselves.

Jeff Goldblum Ian Malcolm Jurassic Park

 

This type of Truth isn’t going be as thematically deep as Hamlet’s existential “to be or not to be” variety, but it can still bring an added dimension even to stories that, on the surface, don’t seem to require any type of arc.

Should You Write a Story With No Character Arc?

And now we come to the big question. Should you ever consider writing a story with no character arc?

There’s no black or white answer to this. You can write a story without a character arc, and, what’s more, you can write a fabulously entertaining story. If you have a story that works well based on its situation alone and you don’t want to mess with an arc, go for it.

However, I’ve yet to meet the story that couldn’t be improved by a thoughtful character arc, even if it’s as slight as the flat arc in Jurassic Park. As Lyons says in his article:

Situations entertain us; stories entertain and teach us what it means to be human.

Weigh your options. What would be the pros and cons of excluding an arc from your current story? Listen to your gut–but never include a character arc just because you feel you have to.

Tell me your opinion: Do you think a story with no character arc can be as good as a story with an arc?

What if Your Story Has No Character Arc?

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website.

Comments

  1. Very insightful! Although I think the best of fiction tends to have character arcs, I still like that you give a positive analysis of fiction that doesn’t. I find it interesting that your two examples of stories that focus less on character arcs are both films. Although film can be just as good of a medium to have compelling character arcs as a novel can, I feel that film can often work better without arcs while it’s harder for a novel to. Prose in a book can be stylish, and some authors take it further by playing with fonts and incorporating drawings or photos, but generally speaking books are first and foremost about story. Film, on the other hand, inherently relies on technique and style and can be a success for succeeding in those areas alone without strong plot or characters.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I usually use films for examples simply because I watch more popular films than I read popular books, so my film experiences offer more widely accessible examples. However, I agree. The interior nature of the novel is inherently more about character than the visual nature of film. Still, many novels don’t offer character arcs.

  2. thomas h cullen says:

    Just on its own legs, without flavour of the personal, the situation of The Representative still toweringly stands up:

    Yet to give it even more height though, The Representative does have special personal flavour.

  3. spacechampion says:

    I’d argue that situations include the main character’s relationships and roles in the story, as those allow exploration of a character’s identity. So a change in role-situation is part of an arc, even if it occurs as the initiating event, like that ex-cop moving to a small town.

    For Raiders, the situation could be Indy’s rivalry with Belloq. Belloq’s thievery of ancient artefacts creates the need for Indy to retrieve artefacts first before Belloq can get to them, thus helping define Indy’s identity. The rivalry ends with Belloq’s death, and that arc ends. I don’t think the series ever recovered from the lack of rival in Indy’s story thereafter, but that’s probably more to do with execution. Indy’s relationships in Temple of Doom with the kid Shortround, and the night club singer Willie are not as interesting, but comprise the situation arc for Indy. In Last Crusade, his relationship with Henry Sr. is the situation arc.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      This is a good point. But the dramatic arc and the character arc aren’t one and the same thing. All stories have a dramatic arc – in which the dramatic question is posed and answered. But it’s possible to have a story (or, rather, a situation) that offers a sound dramatic question with no Lie or Truth to be negotiated on the way to an answer.

      • spacechampion says:

        I see what you’re saying. I was thinking in Dramatica terms, Raiders has a Relationship story and an Objective Story, but no real Main Character story, so you’re right no Lie or Truth. Nor an Impact Character story it seems.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

          Right. If you’ve got an impact character story, you know you’ve got an arc. If the impact character is the protagonist, it’s a flat arc. If the impact character is in a supporting role that influences the protag, it’s a change arc.

  4. ” Listen to your gut–but never include a character arc just because you feel you have to.”

    How timely this article is – because I keep re-re-reading your book, “Structuring Your Novel”. My MC in my WIP has a set goal: to get revenge against the people who killed his father. There isn’t a character arc. He feels guilt, but not regret. He worries that he may go ‘down’ as opposed to ‘up’ on Judgement Day, but the goal is worth it. Also, my MC doesn’t have a “lie that he tells himself”. The ‘lie’ is with others; he always knew his father was murdered, didn’t commit suicide. That’s his journey, avenging his father’s reputation. Of course, there’s more to the story, but ….

    Is REVENGE a no-arc story?

  5. Thanks for this post! It not only reminded me of how important character arc is to get to the heart of a story, it also reminded me how helpful situations are to add some fun to a story that may be devolving into soap opera.

    I definitely saw a couple of action movies this past summer that seemed to be trying so hard to create character arc that they failed to really bring it when it came to fun, inventive situations. And the movies fell flat for me. But I hadn’t been able to put my finger on why until now. It also helps explains some problems with my own projects. Very helpful.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I saw a couple of those myself. :p And it’s a shame, because a really fun, inventive story can shoot into the stratosphere if it also aces a strong character arc.

  6. I think you’re wrong about Indy not having an arc in Raiders. I base this on how he acts in respect to the Ark from the beginning of the movie to how he respects it at the end.
    Granted, I base this from listening to a podcast that tears apart the entire movie and examines the character from beginning to end. The podcast is called Scriptnotes, and the one you want is episode 73.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      You could definitely make an argument for the Lie being based on a basic disrespect for the ark’s power. But I see any change there on Indy’s part as being extremely shallow. Unlike Belloc, he shows comparative respect for the importance and power of artifacts right from the start. It’s true he learns new facts about the ark as he goes, but this adds more to his knowledge and problem-solving skills than his personal growth.

  7. I agree that readers engage with characters that change over the course of a story. As a YA Contemporary author, I hope that my readers will grow with my character and understand some of the “message” or moral that I try to teach through my character’s development. But other authors write stories purely for entertainment purposes, and there isn’t anything wrong with that. My husband and 13-year-old son love action movies because of the fight scenes and the explosions. They could care less that the characters aren’t growing or changing their minds of fighting a moral dilemma.

    • thomas h cullen says:

      A character need not necessarily “change”, in order to be gripping:

      Croyan, the titular figure of The Representative, doesn’t change in the slightest, yet I’m of the certain knowledge of his most profound nature.

      Can a writer think of an engaging situation in no requirement of a changing character – that’s the question.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Though I bet they don’t mind at all (and maybe even appreciate it) when they get solid characters thrown into the midst of all those explosions!

  8. Interesting post. I’d always had the mindset that a story NEEDS a character arc, but considering it from this perspective totally changes that. Raiders of the Lost Ark is an awesome movie and one of my favorites. Jurassic Park was also tons of fun, both the movie and the book. The more I think about it, the more stories I recall that don’t result in an inner change for the protagonist but are still fantastic.

    Thanks for the new perspective.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      It is important, however, to remember that just because the protagonist doesn’t change, doesn’t necessarily mean the story is arc-less. He could be following a flat arc, in which he doesn’t change, but the world around him does. The key to figuring out whether a story has an arc or doesn’t always comes down to whether it features a Lie/Truth or not.

  9. A variant of this may be the character that knows he needs to change but refuses or is unable to no matter what the situation throws at him. Now for the mind-bender: isn’t that inner strength or stubbornness, as the case may be, character driven, and if so why do we need to dismiss it as “no arc”? Personally, I find it far preferable to let the characters do their thing than to pre-analyze and design their behavior.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      A character who knows he needs to change and doesn’t is probably following a negative arc. If he’s displaying a positive character trait and it changes characters around him, he’s probably demonstrating a flat arc. But if the positive trait doesn’t instigate change amongst other characters, that’s a sign of an arc-less story.

  10. robert easterbrook says:

    Hi I do believe my short story Aestralus 13 does not possess character arcs. Is this something emblematic of the short story, I wonder?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Yes, short stories are very often situational, so it’s not uncommon at all for them not to possess the complete arcs we usually find in novels.

  11. I think a good example of stories without character arcs are those by P.G. Wodehouse, such as the Drones Club as well as Jeeves and Wooster stories. I would go on to argue that character arcs are incompatible with theses stories as changes in characters would block writing new stories with the characters. For example, if Bertie ever go married, a common dynamic (or should I say trope?) of Bertie getting engaged without wanting or meaning to, then getting “rescued” by Jeeves would be impossible. This isn’t to say other humorous adventures couldn’t be written about Bertie after that (such as the stories about Bingo Little before and after his marriage), they could, they just wouldn’t be Jeeves and Wooster stories.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I’ve yet to read the Wodehouse stories, but based on what I know about them, this is sounds exactly spot on.

      • Pradeep K says:

        If urge you to read Wodehouse. When I was a teenaged, I had stumbled upon “Pigs have Wings”, and then I couldn’t stop till I had read every other one available in the library!

  12. Hey, the first Harry Potter book had about as flat a character arc as you could have with a character who just learned he’s a wizard. Little difference in Harry between the beginning and the end of the book. Now the series had an arc, but the book that started it all didn’t.

  13. I would disagree that the first Indiana Jones movie has no character arc. It has a very good one. At the start of the movie we see Indy willing to do ANYTHING to get the goods. He’s after the golden idol and he brings down a temple to get it. (We also get introduced to his antagonist in the scene–a very good set up for the conflict to come.) We also see that Indy doesn’t really believe in supernatural stuff. He’s all about what you can touch and hold.

    At the end of the movie, Indy has an opportunity to pay back his nemesis–he threatens to blow up the Ark instead of letting Belloq have it. But he can’t. He changes in that moment. And when it comes to the Ark being opened, Indy is the one to tell Marion to shut her eyes and keep them closed–he has moved from being a man who only believes in what he can touch to someone who knows there is more.

    It’s not a huge shift but it’s there, and it’s one reason why that movie stands out and above all the other Indiana Jones movies. The other movies never quite pull off that growth shift and we get more of the situation you describe. But that first movie–it’s brilliant for a subtle and strong character arc which makes the story arc so very satisfying.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Good points. As in almost any story, there are always going to be shifts of *some* kind within the characters. And you could definitely make an argument (as you have) for a subtle change arc. But the fact that there is no prominent Lie/Truth within the story still makes this an arc-less story in my book. But it’s definitely open to interpretation.

  14. Shannon Donnelly, that’s an intriguing argument and I’ll have to think about it next time I watch Raiders of the Lost Ark. Even if what you say is evident though, I think Katie makes a good point that Indy’s arc isn’t super developed (from what I can remember watching it once).

    ChemistKen, good point, but like you said the series has an arc which I think makes up for the lack of arc in the first book. If his change at the end of the series came at the end of the first book, the rest wouldn’t be very interesting.

    Katie, I think you should try reading the Harry Potter books if you haven’t already. They are a lot of fun and if you do, you can say you have an informed opinion on one of the most popular book series ever, good or bad. It would make for a very interesting blog post in my opinion.

  15. Thank you for this article and for breaking the subject down for me. This is an issue I continue to struggle with. I believe my struggle began with my half-butt attempt to understand the dynamics of Dramatic Pro. From my understanding of Dramatca, my story, a legal thriller, stars a protagonist who, remains steadfast in her resolve, rather than a protagonist who undergoes a significant character transformation arc. Dramatica helped me see the protagonist as similar to Dr. Kimble, in The Fugitive, who doesn’t go through any major transformation, but rather remains steadfast in his resolve to prove his innocence and bring his wife’s true killer to justice. Dramatica further describes the steadfast character as one who remains true and steadfast, “holding onto their nature or attitude against all obstacles.”

    Because every other article, book etc, that I come across stresses the importance of a meaningful character arc, I’ve attempted to give my main character a truth/lie/fault/wound character arc and can only hope that I haven’t taken my manuscript from a story with a protagonist who grows by remaining steadfast in their resolve to a flat character arc story.

    I also agree with the comment above about Raiders of the Lost Arc. Didn’t Harrison Ford’s character undergo some sort of change or growth? In the beginning of the movie, Indiana Jones wants the arc, but for different reasons than everyone else. To him, it is nothing more than a treasure, something to give him bagging rights, another conquest, a trophy on his shelf, but by the end of the story, when the Nazi’s open the arc, he is forced to choose between opening his eyes and seeing what the arc can do or keeping them closed out of respect for the arc’s spiritual power. When he chooses to keep his eyes closed, doesn’t it tell us something about his growth? He spent the entire movie wanting to know what was inside the arc, but when finally given the opportunity, he keeps his eyes closed. I think that one decision shows his change – it is no longer just a quest for treasure and he has learned to respect the objects he pursues for more than their monetary value. Maybe I am reaching, but it seemed like a change to me.

    Thanks again.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      The “steadfast character” is often one that displays a flat arc–which *is* an arc and which I talk about more in these posts. The difference between a flat arc and no arc is that the flat arc story still involves a Lie/Truth. But, unlike a standard change arc, the protagonist already knows the Truth and uses it to enforce change on the world around him.

      I haven’t seen The Fugitive for years, so my memories aren’t very precise. But I believe Gerard, the cop, is the one who experiences a change arc as he is impressed by Kimble’s Truth and comes to believe in Kimble’s innocence.

      As for Indy, this is a valid point that several other commenters have also made. But I’m still going to stick by Raiders of the Lost Ark as an arc-less story, since it offers no blatant Lie/Truth and any shift in Indy’s personality and viewpoint is extremely understated. Still, this goes to show how easily this *could* have been a story with a strong character arc, if it had been given just a little more fleshing out.

  16. Thanks for sharing this. I loved it. It’s so very interesting and something I’ve never really thought about.
    I always enjoy your posts 🙂

  17. I love it when characters undergo changes within a story. I can connect with the character, and see that it is possible to work through hard situations and come out a better person. I am not much of an action / adventure gal, I like to be able to empathize with characters.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I adore action stories, but I *always* like them better when there’s also rich character development going on.

  18. The only story I can remember without a character arc was Forever Amber written by Kathleen Winsor in 1944. It was a fascinating insight into seventeenth century England and there is no doubt that she brought the culture and the history alive. Amber, the main character, was quite the personality, but she didn’t grow. Over the course of the book, which might have been twenty years, give or take, she didn’t change. There was no growth, no learning from the experiences she had – except in the way she became more savvy in her dealings with people and politics. But as for her character arc, no. It was an entertaining read, but it did leave me quite dissatisfied at the end, I have to admit.

    Having said that, the idea of characters without arcs could very well work for the project I’m working on right now. My protagonist definitely has an arc, but the love interest may not necessarily need one, nor the character who is the mentor.

    I won’t make a definite decision on that, but it’s worth my while bearing it in mind. 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Haven’t heard of that book, but I’ll have to check it out. I actually had a hard time coming up with books to exemplify this post.

      • K.M. — I think no-character-arc is pretty common in mystery novels. I always think of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot stories as not having character arcs. Then there are all the “men’s adventure stories” (particularly the long running ones), like The Executioner, which also tend to lack anything like a character arc.
        — Fritz.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

          There’s an argument to made there (depending on the story) that the detective protag is actually undergoing a flat arc, in which he knows some Truth that the rest of the characters don’t. So that’s always something to be aware of.

  19. OMG you just explained something I have tried to explain to others and couldn’t. I’ve always heard the James Bond example, but you’ve made it clear how these “arcless” characters work and can be quite compelling, too.

    THANK you so much!

  20. I actually went back to find this post – struggling with my hero’s character arc at the moment. I’m halfway through the book and the poor guy doesn’t have enough to do. So now I’m going back to the basics and doing a character sketch of him and trying to figure out how to make him more heroic . . .

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      When in doubt, give him some conflict! Throw obstacles between him and his goals. Make him make hard decisions.

  21. Your resources in character development are invaluable. But I have a request, will you please write in some details about personal demons. What are they, how to write and portray them. (Since I always get stuck there in you character interviews sheet)

  22. I struggled with trying to find my characters arc. I read and reread the posts on this site bought books trying to figure it out. I have swore off trying to find the arc I let the story come and if there is an arc great if not I don’t worry about it anymore. I am only writing about one moment in my characters life, a situations and I watch them work it out. Life maybe a lie that we believe or don’t, a lie we struggle with daily whether we change or figure out that lie has yet to be seen. Whether I can produce a gripping fiction novel without a clear arc is also yet to be seen. I do thank you Ms. Weiland for clearing explain what arcs are.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Every story is its own adventure with its own needs and challenges. Best of luck with yours!

    • thomas h cullen says:

      That was a kind of relief Melissa, to read. The Representative was never about trying to find an arc, just instead showing the reader the whole and natural procession of a single situation.

      You can tell the exact story you want, without having to include components such as character arcs; in such case, the essential thing lies in the knowing how to scale the story .

  23. There are people after Indy in Raiders of the Lost Ark as well as the other movies, and you usually think about is he gonna make it, which is often the question of the Indiana Jones franchise.

  24. Hannah Killian says:

    K.M, this might seem completely unrelated, but if someone were to give their villain a redemption arc, how exactly should it be constructed so that it’s believeable?

  25. I am not sure if I shall write an arc-less story, but some of my more action-oriented sequels would be candidates.

    As far as my preferences for enjoyment, I usually watch or read fiction for entertainment, rather than philosophical enrichment, especially if my philosophy is different than that of the author/director.

  26. My dad said that in one of the Indiana Jones movies, Marion Ravenwood supposedly dies and he ends up crying and drinking, proving that he’s distraught about it, and when he finds out that she’s alive, he’s happy, but not so happy that he’s been lied to, so he wants to get back at those people.

  27. Hannah Killian says:

    I wonder if my hero and heroine have flat arcs. Actually, maybe the heroine will have a bit of an arc, since she must risk being exposed if she ever wants to find her family and dethrone the rebel leader. So maybe she’ll learn that taking risks isn’t what it seems? Taking risks is necessary?

  28. Pradeep K says:

    You have a very insightful website. Glad I found it by a fortunate accident on the Google highway.

    While reading some of your posts over the past two hours, I reflected on a few short articles, blog posts and short stories I’ve penned over time (I’m an unpublished hobby writer) and tried to figure out what exact structural elements I had ever consciously considered when I had written them. It seems the “Character Arc” is something I’ve never consciously planned while writing. Yet, the concept has automatically presented itself in many of my stories. Which made me ponder…

    When stories about humans are written by humans, I don’t see how the character arc could escape the scenes, even if it was never consciously planned for by the author. Events occur as the story unfolds, and they do bear an effect, however small or subtle, on the characters involved; unless of course those events are written to occur in total isolation and have no relation to the characters. As a result of the sum of these effects, readers would certainly perceive a change in the characters. If nothing else, they may perceive a reflection of the emotional change that occurs in them when reading about the event. Then there is also that possibility of the author’s own arc showing through.

    Having said that, there are also some short stories where the character arc is not clearly obvious, or is only implied, or perhaps looms only in the backdrop. Say for instance, the protagonist realizes a hidden truth at a time when it is already too late to act upon it, and the story ends with this realization.

    The last point brought me to wonder if my recent very-short practice story may actually be a case in point. And then I also wondered what other structural elements I have consciously considered when I wrote it, and how far I have succeeded. But in addition to judging it myself, I would also love to have your feedback on it. If you permit me, I could post it in my next comment (it’s just about 800 words).

    Many thanks.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Glad you’re finding the site useful! Unfortunately, my schedule doesn’t allow me to read or critique manuscripts—although I’m happy to answer any specific writing questions you may have.

  29. I finally finished up the last of my protagonist’s character arc today and was excited to begin working on my scene list when—whoops! I found out my other characters should probably have arcs as well. (My story is definitely action and adventure, and I found my protagonist’s arc very difficult to create, even though there is a definite Truth and Lie… her arc is still there, it was just hard to create amidst all the action. And I definitely *need* it to be there because there’s a message of faith I want to convey). What about my other characters? If it’s possible to create an arc-less story, is it possible to create arc-less characters, even though the story features a protagonist who *does* have an arc?

    My story has two main characters (one being the protagonist and second being the love interest), but does the second main character need as much thorough character arc planning as the protagonist? Who then gets the Characteristic Moment and such of the first scene—or should there be two, one for each of my two main characters? Or should the love interest’s arc not be as focused-on as the protagonist’s? His Truth and Lie would be very different than the protagonist’s, so I’m thinking it would be quite random and not thematically pertinent to the plot.

    That said, does my antagonist need a character arc as well? If I write in first-person present POV but am wanting to avoid antagonist POVs and the main characters don’t meet the antagonist face-to-face until the climax, how is this possible? Or is it indeed possible to have arc-less characters within a story that *does* have an arc for my protagonist? For example, my protagonist’s mentor and sidekick are left behind in the Normal World when she ventures on to the Adventure one, and it would be very random to devote time to their arcs that don’t make sense with the story. Is it wrong for them not to be with the protagonist throughout her journey or can they indeed be arc-less?

    As you can see, I’m just learning about character arcs, but I’m not enjoying creating them. It’s probably just because I’m impatient and want to hurry and write my story instead of work on something frustrating I’m struggling to grasp, but I know that if I’m not enjoying the process of creating the arcs and don’t like them, my readers most likely won’t, either. But if I ignore the arcs entirely, I’d be throwing away a lot of my story’s potential, and I don’t want to do that. (Because I’m inexperienced and just learning these things, I also feel like trying to do everything at once without having mastered it will clutter my story and not make it as good—but I keep on discovering things I’m doing “wrong” or just haven’t even heard of and know I need to fix them/add them). Would you have any advice or recommendations on any of this?

    Thank you for your time and everything you do on Helping Writers Become Authors—and sorry for all the questions!

    Madi

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  1. […] has addressed THIS VERY ISSUE. So rather than try and reinvent the wheel, I’m pointing you to the post at Katie’s blog, where you can learn not only how to effectively write an arc-less character but you’ll […]

  2. […] What if your character has no arc? K.M. Weiland discusses the differences between a flat arc and no character arc and whether or not it’s possible, let alone permissible, to write a novel about a character without an arc. […]

  3. […] Captain America, who has headlined three movies and been featured prominently in two others, is a character with no arc. Like James Bond or Indiana Jones, Cap changes very little, but rather demands change from those […]

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