Character Development and Character Arcs

Character development is the heart of our stories. It makes your reader connect to your story emotionally and brings your plot to life. Our stories are nothing without our characters. The important part of character development is change. We want our characters to change and develop so our story can develop and be more impactful. Let’s look at how to develop our characters and what character arcs are.

  • Goals and motivations. Every character needs to have a goal to work towards, even if that’s just to be left alone. But moving beyond that, we need to examine why. Why does your character have that goal? What are their motivations? Is it ambition, revenge, or selfishness? Has he lost his job and he’s reevaluating life?
  • Up the stakes. What happens if they don’t reach their goal? What are the consequences of what they’re doing? Does your character have a deadline they have to beat? Really get your readers invested in what’s going on by raising the tension.
  • Have external plot happen to the character. Things like losing a loved one or a job would greatly affect your character and force them to change and adapt. Change is what makes our stories dynamic.
  • Each character should have a flaw that actually affects them. Not something cute like being clumsy. Flaws make your characters relatable and more realistic.
  • Show, don’t tell. Develop your characters through their actions and dialogue. Don’t just say they are smart, show them figuring out the villain’s plans before anyone else does. Don’t say he’s bad, show him deceiving an old widow’s out of her money. Also use what they say and how they talk for characterization. How we communicate says a lot about how we grew up and who we are as a person.
  • Use other characters as foils or mirrors for your main characters. You can show another character with the same flaw, but who deals with it in a very different way. Or if one character is having a flat arc for a while, meaning they don’t change, you can develop a secondary character so the story isn’t flat.
  • Character arcs. Character arcs can be positive, negative, or flat. Positive and negative arcs are both dynamic, meaning the protagonist changes throughout the arc. In a positive arc, he grows and improves. In a negative arc, he can’t overcome his fatal flaw and suffers tragedy, whether physical or emotional or both. In a flat arc, the character doesn’t change. This is common for serial characters like Bond or Sherlock Holmes, where their personality and flaws stay the same from book to book.

Our characters should change and grow, that is what readers can relate to and like to see. Let your reader see your characters struggle with a flaw and learn to improve themselves. Dynamic arcs make dynamic stories. Which type of arcs do you like writing best? Share below and happy writing.

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Omniscient POV

I’ve talked previously about POV, but a further explanation of omniscient POV was requested, so here it is. Point of view (POV) is important because it affects every sentence of your story and can really make or break your story. But it doesn’t take more than an informed decision to decide on your POV. So let’s take a look at one we don’t talk about as much and has been said is the hardest to write, third person omniscient.

First thing you need to understand you’re writing from a narrator’s POV and not from the characters. This confusion leads to head hopping where we jump from one character’s POV to the next within the same scene or chapter. Omniscient POV is privy to each character’s thoughts, but they are filtered through the narrator’s POV. We do not jump into that character’s head and access their thoughts and feelings like we would in third limited or multiple. The characters do not know each other’s thoughts, nor should they have information only the narrator knows.

An example would be:

Jenny took a sip of her tea, a worried look on her face as she glanced at the clock again. Peter was late, which wasn’t like him.

Peter looked furtively at his watch as he took in the pleasant sound of Sharon laughing. She had perfect teeth and lush blonde hair that always framed her face exactly right. Jenny could wait.

While we have a glimpse into what they’re thinking it’s not direct thoughts. It’s filtered through the narrator and doesn’t descend into any one character. And we don’t get any of their feelings as we would experience them in limited or multiple.

Omniscient POV can be divided into two categories, objective and subjective. Remember that omniscient is a narrator and not a character. This makes it separate. An objective narrator is one without a personality. They relate events as they happen without any opinions. The POV is cinematic, like a camera following the characters around. We get action and dialogue, but don’t go into the internal thoughts or feelings of the characters. We avoid words like felt, sad, happy, angry, etc. The other is a subjective narrator. A subjective narrator has a strong voice and can show the internal thoughts of multiple characters. But everything is filtered through that narrator and their “voice,” not the characters. Remember going into the character’s POV is third limited and multiple, not omniscient.

Let’s talk about some pros of omniscient. First, it allows you God-like knowledge. It allows you to move to any character at any time. You’re not limited to one POV in a scene or chapter. You can also give your reader any information without using a character as intermediary.

Cons of omniscient. There is a lot more distance between the reader and the characters than with other POVs. This can make it harder for readers to emotionally connect with the characters. This POV can also lead to more telling rather than showing. Emotions are also harder to convey. And beware of losing tension in your story because the reader knows too much.

Omniscient POV is great for plot driven stories rather than character driven ones due to the distance between character and reader. If you’re wondering if this POV is right for you, try it out in a short story or two and see how they read. Any tips for omniscient POV? Share below and happy writing.

Follow my column at Our Write Side and Twitter for more writing tips and inspiration. Find me on Facebook for weekly prompts.