13.34: Q&A on Character Arcs

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard

You had questions. We came up with answers. The questions are below:

  • How do you fulfill promises about character arcs without being cliché? How do you subvert character tropes without betraying the reader?
  • Do you need to complete each character arc in a single story featuring multiple characters?
  • What separates an iconic character from a caricature?
  • Have you ever had an iconic character necessarily become a character in need of an arc?
  • How do you continue a character’s story after they’ve completed their original arc?
  • How much does a character need to change in their arc?

Trace the skyline of a mountain.  Treat that line, with its ups and downs, as the narrative curve for a character arc.

Fat Angie, by e. E. Charlton-Trujillo, narrated by Angela Dawe

4 thoughts on “13.34: Q&A on Character Arcs”

  1. On continuing the story after the character arc is completed:
    I recommend Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga as an example. Bujold has said (somewhere) that she doesn’t regard coming of age (which is a character arc if there ever was one) as a once and done. We each have to come of age again and again as we go through different phases of our lives or face different challenges. Miles Vorkosigan certainly does. There’s one example of continuing the story.
    I also think of the Hero’s Journey model. The hero who successfully completes his (or her) quest is now fit to EITHER become a mentor to the next generation of heroes OR take on a bigger quest. (Or both, of course.)

    1. Totally agree about reading Bujold. Her books are great at growing characters and mixing genres.

  2. This episode, Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard took questions about character arcs and answered a series of them. Character arcs and clichés, completing arcs, multiple arcs, iconic characters and caricatures, giving a character arc to an iconic character, continuing the story after the character completes their original arc, and how big does a character arc need to be? Plenty of questions, and plenty of answers, and you can read about them in the transcript now available in the archives and over here:


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