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

Character and change. This is what story is all about. You take a handful of people and you force them onto a journey that will change them forever, usually for the better. This is character arc.

If your characters are following a Positive Change Arc, they will start out less-than-fulfilled, perhaps even personally stunted. They will harbor certain beliefs that are holding them back from what they need, from the thing that will cause them to change into better, more enlightened, more empowered people. To get them to overcome these mistaken beliefs, you have to not just put their feet onto the journey’s path, but also use that path to take them to the single most important point in any character arc.

And what is this point?

It happens around the three-quarter mark in your story, right as the Third Act begins. This is the Third Plot Point. It is your characters’ low point. Basically, this is where you mercilessly crush your poor, unwitting characters! Yes, it’s rough, but if you want your characters to ever shed their misconceptions and weaknesses and rise, transformed, from their own ashes, you gotta be more than a little mean to them.

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This moment forces your characters into a place that’s basically do or die. Life looks pretty bleak. Everything they love, everything they’ve hoped for is falling to pieces around them, in spite of all their best efforts. And the key—the reason everything they’ve tried up to this point has brought them to this point—is because they have yet to face their deepest fears or doubts—whatever it is that’s holding them back from finally transforming.

This is where they must make their stand mentally and emotionally. They must decide that facing down the antagonistic force is worth sacrificing themselves to their own fears. After that has happened, you can charge into the Third Act and the Climax with your characters finally ready to act upon—and thus prove—their new views of life and themselves.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! How does your story’s character arc show your characters greatest fear? Tell me in the comments!

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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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