I’ve noticed that I may have been somewhat…let’s say neglectful…of my blog as of late. What with all the college, book promoting, and a writing I’ve been doing lately I can’t say that I’m surprised it happened. Perhaps you’ll take this post-thanksgiving-post (hehe) as a small sort of apology.
CHARACTER ARCS – THE MEAT OF THE STORY
The number one thing that keeps people reading a book, and keeps the book interesting, is the characters. Their tragedies, their successes, their goals and hopes. As readers, we like to see characters change over the course of a novel. Perhaps in one novel it will be a hero learning to accept his responsibility, or in another it will be a young girl learning to overcome social stigma, but either way we yearn to see them become something they weren’t before. That, my friends, is the meat of a novel.
While I talk about character arcs and their place within a novel, I’m going to use Lord of the Rings as an example. Because Lord of the Rings is awesome. It seems to me that a lot of people think that Lord of the Rings is about a group of people trying to go to Mordor and destroy a ring. This is not the case. It is about a scared hobbit trying to find the courage to go to Mordor and destroy a ring.
That is a far more interesting plot than if Tolkien had kept strictly to the Mordor-ring-toss, because without an emotional character arc that the reader can relate to, it is hard to get invested in all the stabbing and death that the book talks about. It begins to seem like a string of unimportant names, instead of a full fledged fantasy world with characters that live and breathe.
“Now Alex,” you say. “I clicked on this post because it said that you were going to tell me how to find more to say when I’m writing.” Right you are, I did promise you that. When you’re writing, or when you’re reading, it may seem that a character-arc has run its course or that it has been going on for too long.
What do you do then? End the story? Stop at the few pages that are blinking on the Microsoft Word document in front of you? Fear not. Lord of the Rings has shown you your answer, because if you were meant to stop writing after the first few pages, Lord of the Rings would not be ten-billion pages long.
The answer is more character arcs. In some cases, as many as you can fit in the book. If you look closely, Tolkien has a character arc for every single character in the Fellowship that goes to destroy the ring.
SPOILERS (for the 1% of the population who doesn’t know what happens in Lord of the Rings.)
Aragorn : at first the weary ranger, but he must learn to accept his royal blood and become king.
Boromir : at first the soldier who would use the ring as a weapon, but he eventually gives his life trying to destroy it.
Legolos and Gimli : An elf and a dwarf who hate each other at the beginning of the books, grow to be close friends by the series’ end.
Gandalf : A wandering wizard, whose near-death experience on the journey changes him into the great leader he was meant to be.
That’s crazy! I’ve left out all the hobbits of the Fellowship, simply for the sake of brevity. So if you’re looking for more to write about, and you’ve exhausted your main character of their story, think about creating more elaborate emotional journeys for each member of your cast to go through. By giving them interesting character arcs – you extend your story, and stop them from being 2D.