Lies – 5 Tips to Master The Perfect Character Arc

character arcI confess… Instead of reading the half dozen books I already have on the go, I accidentally (ok, on purpose) opened a guilty pleasure novel. And no, that’s not a sexual reference, you filth-bag, I meant my fave genre – YA fantasy).

Because it’s my genre I took the opportunity to research. I never read a book without taking a lesson from it.

This time I learnt all about the character arc and one awesome method for achieving the perfect curve! The book I read: Frostbite by Richelle Mead (part of the Vampire Academy series), used an awesome technique in which to perfect that arc – Lies

Frostbite is actually the second book in the Vampire Academy series, the first of which you can find in here (waffly Amazon blurb whatsit about the book is at the end of the post). There’s also a film if you want some full-fat mozzarella covered teeny-bopper film action. Honestly, it was shit, but I fucking loved it! Moving on…

What is a character arc?

Image from Amazon

Image from Amazon

Wikipedia says:

“A character arc is the transformation or inner journey of a character over the course of a story. If a story has a character arc, the character begins as one sort of person, and during the story, things happen which gradually transforms him or her into a different sort of person.”

ONE – You Need a Lie

Although there are countless ways to push your character through its arc, one things fer-shizzle, you do actually need a character arc. And sure, some smart arse is going to quote the three literary fiction books where this isn’t the case. But frankly, they need to back the F away from literary fiction cause were talking about mainstream shit here.

An arc gives you pace, conflict, and plot. More important than all of that, is the fact that an arc gives your character depth. It’s what will drive your readers to root for your characters because they watch them grow and change; readers become part of your characters change.

One guaranteed method for giving you an arc, is a lie a character believes and has to ‘realise’ the truth about during the book.


TWO – What is Your Characters Lie?

For YA writers especially that lie is usually something they believe about themselves or about the world. Often it’s something naive or narrow minded, like: the world owes me something or, the world revolves around me, I want such and such therefore I should get it.

giphy-2But it doesn’t have to be a lie about themselves. For other writers that lie could be anything, for example a lie about another character.

Let’s take a romance novel example. You know the one, where the main character hates the male lead because she believes a lie about him. As long as you’ve drunk your morning coffee, the lie doesn’t have to be literal either.

I’m not talking this kind of lie: Mark said to Frank, the guy I like, that I had genital warts, therefore Mark’s a prick and I hate him.

I’m talking the kind of lie that means she thinks Mark’s a douche bag. Maybe she always thought it. Or perhaps she thinks it because she heard about the crappy break up he ha with a friend of a friend, or perhaps its just an assumption she made.


THREE – Connect The Lie to Your Theme

I actually did this dance when I realised the connection the lie had to the theme

I actually did this dance when I realised the connection the lie had to the theme

The lie Katniss (in the Hunger Games) believes, is that: she has to kill all the other tributes in order to survive. But that’s the last thing she wants to do.

She believes that lie right up to the end, when she realises there is another way – if they both kill themselves, they beat the system. And here in lies the orgasm-inducing beauty connecting the lie to the book’s theme, which is: Sacrifice.

You see it even at the beginning of the story, Katniss believes if you’re picked at a tribute you have to go, when her sister is picked, she realises there is another way, if she sacrifices herself by taking her sisters place, she can beat the system. DAMN that’s some awesome foreshadowing.


FOUR – Lies = Conflict

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Photo Credit Creative Commons: Jason Clapp

In Frostbite, Rose, the seventeen year old main character, believes that because she loves Dimitri, they should be together, no matter what. 

“I wasn’t the only one who had trouble ignoring the romantic tension between us.” Rose Hathaway, p.13 of Frostbite by Richelle Mead.

But of course it isn’t that simple. He’s her teacher for one, and although only twenty-three himself, still several years older than her. He then gets faced with an opportunity that will make his career fly – if only he moved away from Rose for good.

This one little lie, drives conflict throughout the book. It causes emotional reactions, they fall out, but secretly both still care.

The lie your character believes should be driving their behaviour, i.e. the emotional reaction Rose has when she finds out about the job opportunity Dimitri’s been given. She over reacts and is a bitchy little teen-brat. Which drives the stories tension and ratchets up the conflict, especially between the two of them.


FIVE – Time the lie

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Photo credit: creative commons (Toshiyuki)

If your character believes a lie that they then get over later in the book. Then the lie needs to be made clear very early in the story. Like just woke up, haven’t even had a morning wee, early. Rose’s lie is made clear in the first chapter.

If your lie is connected to your theme, it becomes part of your hook or books promise to the reader. Take the Hunger Games, the first chapter is all about Katniss sacrificing herself for the lie she believes.

But the resolution of that lie, doesn’t come until later. I made an assumption that the lie, would resolve itself during the climax of the story, i.e. right at the bloody end. But I was wrong. (I know. I was shocked too. I hate being wrong. Just ask the Bloggers Bash committee:Geoffle, Ali and Hugh.

In most cases the lie needs to be resolve about 75% of the way through the story, or at least, before the climax of the story. In the case of the Hunger Games, realising the truth is the puzzle piece she needs in order to beat the system. 

 

For Rose,  she believed that her and Dimitri should be together no matter what. She finally realises that if she really loves Dimitri she has to let him go:

“You can’t force love, I realized. It’s there or it isn’t. If it’s not there, you’ve got to be able to admit it. If it is  there, you’ve got to do whatever it takes to protect the ones you love. The next words that came out of my mouth astonished me, both because they were completely unselfish and because I actually meant them. “You should take it.” He flinched. “What?” “Tasha’s offer. You should take her up on it. It’s a really great chance.”” p.235, Frostbite by Richelle Mead

This excerpt is on page 235 of 328 pages, exactly 71.5% through the book.


What do you think? Does your character believe a lie? What tricks do you use to drive your character through its arc. Let me know in the comments below.

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funny 2


Amazon has this to say about Frostbite:

Image from Amazon

Image from Amazon

FROSTBITE is the second book in the international Number 1 bestselling Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead 

Higher Learning. Higher Stakes.

WINTER BREAK TURNS DEADLY.
A massive vampire attack has put St. Vladimir’s Academy on high alert. With the deadly creatures closing in, this year’s trip to the wintery peaks of Idaho has just become mandatory.

But Rose Hathaway can’t escape her (guy) troubles. Her relationship with gorgeous tutor Dimitri can never be and her closest friend has just confessed to his huge crush on her . . .

The glittering winter landscape may seem like the perfect hideaway – but Rose, and her heart, are in more danger than she ever imagined.


 

77 comments

      1. Your posts are either useful or awesome… You know Lucy writes about blogger envy and blogger inspiration – that’s what your are to me. You do an amazing job! 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Don’t know. Suspect signal, they want to wipe my phone and restore the data to it – but that takes a couple hours – CAUSE I EVER HAVE TWO HOURS FREE. So I’m stuck with a busted phone 😡

        Liked by 1 person

    1. aww thank you so much 😀 what a lovely comment. Honestly, its comments like this that help me when I doubt myself, knowing that the things I learn on my journey are useful for others makes it all worth while. xx

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Well you’ve really made my day saying that. I think using actual book examples always helps because it brings to life the concept. That’s what I’m trying to do in order to learn about writing myself – deconstruct books, otherwise I end up tying myself into knots trying to figure it all out!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Ok first up, you you hate being wrong. That’s true. In fact do you ever know you’re wrong? Hadn’t noticed that in your own personal character arc actually. Second, neat post. Well thought out and explained. Mind you you are the saddest fuck on the planet that you calculated exactly the % through a novel a revelation comes. GET A LIFE. Yeah, don’t tell me, you use the cheat’s read aka a Kindle where they don’t have page numbers. Bastards. Did I say this was a great post? Well it is. So there.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s a rare occurrence because I don’t tend to pick fights I can’t win! 😂 but yes, much to everyone’s surprise I’m pretty good at admitting when I’m wrong!

      And lol totally used kindle! No work required!

      U feeling ok? A compliment from a geoffle is almost as rare as Sacha being wrong! 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This post made me run through my current project and realize I don’t have a clear character arc. My characters are so interwoven, necessarily so, that I spend my time trying to untangle them. Is that the arc? It’s weird and I’m feeling a bit insecure about it. Thanks for pushing great ideas at me.
    -N

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t feel insecure we all have to edit dozens of times, it’s a long but very worthy process. I’m not sure I understand your question.

      An arc is unique to one character. Although there are many characters in a book it doesn’t mean they all need to have visible arcs. Really it the important ones are your protagonist and antagonist.

      Have a look at your main character – are they a different person by the end of the book? Have they grown and changed? Is their perception of the world different? The answer doesn’t have to be yes to all of those, but they should be different in some way by the end.

      Does that make more sense?

      Like

  3. I love that you’ve related this so thoroughly to another popular book, and that you’ve given me such a catchy way to think about character arcs. I’ve read Egri and Sokoloff’s screenwriting tips makes plotting make sense, but I think this might be the first time that the “pinch points” for character arc have made intuitive sense to me. Thank you so much!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Eleanor. I do this with every book I read now 😀 take a lesson and share it 😀 I find it the best way for me to learn and consolidate that learning.

      I am so pleased this all made sense to you – it’s always a worry when I try to explain something I’ve learned, I never know if I am waffling on!

      Like

  4. It’s funny, a lot of noir and pulpy detective stories don’t have a character arc, since the main character doesn’t always change. They’re often the same at the end as at the start. But you read the stories for the investigation and the mystery…so maybe the arc is just transferred onto the plot?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ahhh you are right, the arc is in the plot. Although I think patricia cornwall who does a crime series their characters do develop over the years across the series. but yeah 100% agree I don’t think you can have a story with no arc anywhere, wouldn’t that be super dull?

      Like

  5. Nice, Sacha. I like the “lie” as another test of a plot’s and character’s viability. It does seem as if there is always a lie (incorrect belief, hidden or contradictory information, element of denial, or an actual lie). I’m adding it to my character building prompts! Whoo hoo.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. aww, well I am glad it helped. And by the way, I intend to go on a bit of a reading binge later in the year, so will endeavour to read the sorcerers garden as the book I read of yours first. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      2. HAHA oh dear. The coffee has worn off! And I am trying to multitask! Bingeing! Binge-ing? Erm. I don’t even know how to spell it now. Thank you, I really appreciate that. I will be ready for Beta readers in October xx

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Brilliant post. So many people take their writing cues from movies and SO many movies leave the protag and/or supporting players exactly where we picked up. This works with tragedies short of tragedies, it’s a waste of the readers’ time/attention. BTW, a lack of arc is why Han REALLY needed to die. It’s why Jaime and Cersei–and 99% of villains–have to die. No development. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aloha, So, I am a little confused, what IS your name? You’re so lovely on Twitter too but I don’t know what I am meant to call you.

      Lol to Han, alas I am not so much of a star wars fan, so don’t really know the story.

      But I 100% agree, if there’s no development then SEEEEE YAAAAA!

      Like

  7. Oooooh! Sacha! You just made me realise something really important about my book 3! It’s all about Conor’s character arc! Not battles, good v evil, or even plot…. it’s all about character arc, and yes, a lie, a big fat juicy lie that Conor has to come to terms with and turn around. The story has not changed in anyway, but the way it unfolds has suddenly become clear! Yaaay! Thank you lovely lady! 😚😚😚

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Very interesting description of the character arc! I love all the examples you used from other stories, they really helped solidify what you’re saying. Also, I now have Frostbite (and the rest of the series) on my to-read list, thank you! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  9. WOW! You nailed it! I realized my character had to change. Luckily, I did it in a way where she believes something wrong about herself, hence the lie. I’m also relieved the change or truth happens before the climax, because that’s where it made sense to me. I wasn’t sure!
    Thank you! My book is a finalist in a contest, so I’m keeping my fingers and toes crossed until September 10th…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hurrah 🙂 see, you did it intuitively. I think some writers can, I’m just a geek and like to break everything down into forensic detail! 😂

      I’m keeping everything crossed for you 🙂

      Like

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