Life, Musings, Writing

Your Character Arc

One of my favourite parts of a story whether reading or writing one myself is following the arc the main characters take. I like to see their flaws, the personality traits that cause them problems, the weaknesses that make them human and the journey they take to identify these traits and conquer them. It’s a satisfying feeling at the end to know they have become the people they always had the potential to be.

The traits that make characters imperfect are the most interesting ones for me. I like reading about a gorgeous boy like most of us but I prefer him to have a weakness that makes him real. In fact, my favourite book Pride and Prejudice has it’s main characters weaknesses in the title and the story is about how they grow to recognise these and realise that their imperfections make them a perfect fit is what I love most about it.

β€œI have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. As a child I was taught what was right, but I was not taught to correct my temper. I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit…. Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous” – Mr Darcy

I would imagine most of us have a trait that we recognise can be a weakness and can hold us back in our lives. Of course, in real life it’s harder to conquer them then it is a book when the author is pulling the strings and can finish with the story with everything all tied up in a pretty bow. Life is always messier than fiction. If my life was a book and I was the main character, the trait I’d most like to conquer would be my tendency to worry. I would love to be more laid back but instead I am constantly anxious and overanalysing things that are really a waste of my time. I stress myself out, making myself wake up at three am and running things over in my mind even though there is nothing I can actually do about them. It’s usually a complete waste of energy.

I recognise my weakness and I try to stop myself worrying over small things even though I struggle every time. I know that my tendency to worry is linked to my indecisiveness, my aversion to change, my love of planning and my impatience. I just wish it was as easy to conquer them as it is to recognise them. I’d like to think that at the end of my story I might have more of a handle on them, that I could complete my very own character arc one day. Because I know these traits make who I am and we shouldn’t try to be anyone else but we also shouldn’t let our traits hold us back or stop us from doing what we want to do.

I think that’s a point of character arc – you don’t want the person to become someone different at the end of the story, you just want them to turn the traits that were weaknesses into strengths, to see them learn from their mistakes and to follow their journey to make their dreams come true.


What trait would you wish to conquer if you were a character in a story?



22 thoughts on “Your Character Arc”

  1. I have so many character flaws, I don’t even know where to begin. But, I like to think that at the end of my story I’ll look back and say, “I didn’t let them stop me. I learned, I grew, I lived.” I needed to read this today. My main character just got smacked because of one her character flaws, I wonder if she’s learned her lesson?

    Great post, Victoria.

  2. I think my main character flaw (because there’s definitely more than one!) would be that I’m too quick-tempered. It’s improved as I’ve got a bit older, but I don’t know if I’m ever going to master it completely…

    This is great writing advice though, because it’s so important to make sure characters develop throughout the story. It definitely doesn’t come easily for me in my writing, though.

    1. I’m not sure we can ever really master them but hopefully leaner to work with our flaws better πŸ™‚

      Thanks Stacey. I don’t think stories ever do come easy but we just have to keep working at them!

  3. I would love to grow out of my social awkwardness! Embarrassed as I am to admit it, I’ve actually read self-help type books like The Art of Conversation and How To Win Friends and Influence People…(though if books were the key to overcoming social awkwardness, I should be way past it by now. The problem is probably that I’m sitting at a street corner waiting for the bus and reading a BOOK when I should be practicing my social skills with the other people waiting). πŸ™‚ I do fine with people who I already know really well; it’s mainly new acquaintances I get awkward with. Going in for a hug when they were going in for a handshake instead…taking a little too long to figure out the punch line and laugh at the joke…saying “goodbye” and realizing the other person wasn’t quite finished talking…I hope I can come out of all of that someday. πŸ˜‰

    1. Aw bless you, I think it’s something you just have to force yourself to keep doing and I’m sure you come across far less awkwardly than you think you do – first interactions are always tricky! If we ever meet, I’ll take the hug πŸ™‚

  4. This was a neat piece to read as I leave NaNoWriMo and think about the characters in my story. I want to make sure their flaws are believable, and that they have the ability and desire to change or at least grow, by the end.

    You and I must be soul sisters — I hate change, I’m indecisive (that’s the Libra in me), I worry over little things, and I’m impatient. Having kids helped me see these things in me. Ironically, none of the above flaws work well with motherhood! So, I have had to do curb my tendencies to be indecisive etc in order to be an effective, helpful, loving mother. πŸ™‚

    (Not that I’m suggesting you run out and have a kid, of course! πŸ˜‰ )

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