What’s the Most Important Moment in Your Character Arc?

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!

Video Transcript:

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.

Creating Character Arcs

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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.

Tell me your opinion: How is your characters greatest fear holding him back from achieving his greatest need?

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. 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. Isn’t that what God does to us sometimes? He sticks us in the refiner’s fire to make us into what He wants us to be.

  2. You know, there are a lot of parallels between our spiritual lives and our writing lives.

  3. Yes, I agree there, we can´t separate our work from the person we are and our spiritual life, just as work and family, is a mayor bit there.

    Thanks for another ab fab post!



  4. Our stories are inevitably a natural outflow of ourselves – our beliefs and our personalities.

  5. If I were writing a memoir, that would be an easy thing to figure out. But what I’m wanting to do is right a collection of short memoirs for different characters.

    I can think of the plot in a broad sense, but not minute details. I know what their low points are in a broad sense, but I’m still trying to finish a profile. I used to just start with a character profile, and then ride the rest.

    If it were 4 character, it would one thing, but I’m having to have a profile for 42 characters.

  6. You put that so succinctly; I’m definitely using this when planning the outline for the YA story I’m wanting to write next. Thank you, as always, for great advice! Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

  7. @Sarah: Figure out how the characters are different at the end of the stories. Once you know what the major change is, you can figure out what false belief or fear they have to overcome late in the book.

    @Teresa: Merry Christmas to you! Have fun with your outline.

  8. I’ve sort of figured out Brett’s fear, and that’s actually what drives the plot of the first chapter actually. In the past, I would have labelled my stories fear-driven or character-driven, as the plot was about the character finding a way to overcome it.

  9. Plot and character are so closely related that it’s difficult to extricate them one from the other. In a nutshell, plot is character-driven, and the character himself is driven by his end goal, which is usually influenced by personal problems.

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