Week 1 - Storytelling
January 6 - Introduction
January 7 - Why we like stories
January 8 - Why we tell stories
January 9 - Your perspective
January 10 - Worlds/Characters
🔒January 11 - Responsibilities
Week 2 - Characters
January 13 - Warming up
January 14 - Internal/external
January 15 - Needs/Wants
January 16 - Obstacles
January 17 - Arc
🔒 Week 4
🔒 Week 5
🔒 Week 6
🔒 Week 7
🔒 Week 8
🔒 Week 9
🔒 Week 10
🔒 Week 11
🔒 Week 12
Hour 288-312 | Arc
As we discussed a character may face many obstacles. These obstacles can prevent a character from getting what they want or achieving what they need. The choices a character makes in response to obstacles and how the character changes as a result can be referred to as character arc.
Here is how I like to think about it. Character, obstacle, goal. The character (to get to their goal) has to go deal with this obstacle. The formula is pretty simple. The obstacles are what make a character who they are, what makes them change into a new person. And that change is what constitutes the arc.
If you actually study a lot of the movies and stories that you enjoy, you will see that the character starts off in a kind of basic form...and then the characters ends up (at the end of the story) actually is their higher version. They're better. They wouldn't get to that point unless they meet the challenges and the pressure that make them into that better versions of yourself.
Without obstacles, the character's just at a, you know, a flat line, and when the obstacles come it helps to push the character into the arc until they hit the hardest obstacle that they have to face at the climax, and then it's from there that they're able to complete their arc, so without obstacles, I don't think that the arc would even exist.
In Beyond Under, we have a very clear, very external obstacle of the Attennight army. Philip attacks Joseph's village and basically says, "Ha ha ha. Stop me if you can." And Joseph fights him, but looses that first time. He lost, he feels bad, but we as an audience know, "okay, this Philip guy is way tougher than Joseph is."
So now we know, okay, the obstacle is bigger than the hero, and that reflects his learning arc. He needs to learn that the Lord is his victory. God is Who makes him a hero. So at the end of the film, we get the Philip battle again, but this time we have the Lord fighting and our question is, "is God enough to stop this Philip?" Of course, the answer is yes. Nothing can stop The Lord.
So all stories have some kind of transformation, and it's really compelling to watch a transformation happen, whether it is your character, or if your character makes a transformation in the world. Sometimes a character might not have a big change, but they will impact the world around them, and that's also very interesting.
So an obstacle that a character faces, like Zadia (in The Fatherlander), what the character wants is to be happy. But what happens is she jumps into situation she believe will bring her that happiness and ends up a murderer. This is a major obstacle in the book. The change of Joy, peace, and happiness is going to be inaccessible to Zadia for good. And inside this dark pit (she has fallen into) she begins to look back over all the wrong she has done in her life. But in this she is challenged by Benjamin to look at how she is loved. And when she does, she realizes that the only person who has consistently forgiven her is Benjamin. Now she knows what she needs. She needs to know why Benjamin is able to forgive her, and now the action changes. Zadia is going to move heaven and earth to make sure that Benjamin survives the war and gets back home. More important than her own goal. She'll realize that Benjamin is actually not the one forgiving her, it's the "quite whispering voice" working through Benjamin and in order to be completely happy she needs that voice.
So when we actually see stories wherein characters achieve something simply by just walking through a door, it doesn't feel authentic. In fact, we don't think the character deserves it. We want the characters to actually work for it, because we also know that if you get something for practically nothing, you won't value it.
A character's arc defines the change or transformation a character undergoes from the beginning of a story to the end. We'll explore structure further next time, but for now, in this exercise, you'll have a chance to identify character arcs in the stories you love, as well as brainstorm possible arcs for characters you want to create.
Part A: Identify the arc of the main character in your 3 favorite stories.
Part B: How have you changed as a result of overcoming an obstacle?
Part C: Brainstorm ideas for how your character might change as a result of the obstacles you’ve identified in the previous exercise?
You can submit your ideas in the Comments section below, or write them down in your story journal.