Currently residing in the Pacific Northwest, Greg blogs about his upcoming books in The Sy'Arrian Legacy Series. His posts also explore the creative process and what feeds our imaginations.

The Character Arc

I strive not to ride the coattails of prominent events or notable upheavals in circles many of us follow. This is mainly out of respect for those who have already made their opinions known and not have others yawn while reading my opinion about a creative nuance already beaten to death. Well, if I am to be perfectly honest, I am really trying to avoid having the opinions are like assholes, everyone has one simile thrown in my direction.

When I reviewed my prior posts, mainly in an effort to avoid replication of like content, I noticed lightly touching on what I will be addressing in this post. Admittedly, many of the elements serving to both inspire and challenge me are intertwined in such a way, avoiding overlap of like content is extremely difficult.

Those of you who have followed this blog since the beginning know where I stand on the treatment of characters and the pointed criticism, I have no problems hurling at content creators who disrespect them.

It also highlights a classification I often use to keep my opinions on the differing practices of content creation clear; namely, what is entertainment writing versus literary writing. The former more often than not, does not adhere to tried and true elements of telling a story properly because it is about the profit margin while keeping people glued to their viewing gadget of choice. The latter on the other hand, utilizes and respects components learned in scholastic settings, by mentors or both in relation to plot, setting, foreshadow, and progression. If not respected, good luck in being taken seriously by those who consume your content and may know more about your genre of choice.

Character arcs are nuanced to say the least but they are a facet most understand at a rudimentary level no matter their life experiences or interests. It is a fatal mistake when content creators treat their audience like mindless zombies with no creative insight. As I have mentioned in prior musings, simply stating it is what it is or this is how it always has been lays the foundation of complacency and intellectual stagnation.

There has been fervor recently regarding how character arcs should and should not be brought to a logical culmination. The recent series conclusion of HBO’s, The Game of Thrones has YouTube and bloggers tirelessly churning out commentary on how poorly those character’s arcs were concluded. I will not go into deep detail about said character arcs in this post but I, too, was left scratching my head saying, “WTF.”

When Daenerys Targaryen embraces the dark side of the force and nukes Kings Landing into oblivion atop her trusty dragon, although the enemy has laid down their arms and met her criteria for surrender, one is left to ask the most obvious but no so easy to answer question, why? Was it solely due to the beheading of her aide, Missandel in front of her by order of Cersei Lannister? Does it stem from her childhood and the choices she has made to eventually lead her to become the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms? Blind rage concealed behind a proclaimed desire to free everyone from under the boot heels of their oppressors? Is it the classic character tale of one becoming what they most despise in order to vanquish their sworn enemy? The list is endless when you have faithful fans applying their intellect to find answers to what is arguably one of the more poorly concluded character arcs of the series.

The link I have provided below on How to Write a Compelling Character Arc provides a simplistic and easy to understand approach. I know I learned a few things along the way but it also solidified another concept I have been keenly aware long before becoming a published author.

When a character performs a certain action resulting in their demise or creating distrust among their comrades, was it within said character’s, character to perform said action? If you have an exceptionally bad person who is self-centered, kills on a whim and an overall megalomaniac who suddenly sacrifices themselves for the greater good, what did you, as the creator, put between the lines in the development of this character hinting they were capable of such an act? If you cannot confidently and intelligently answer the question, then create a situation more befitting of your character’s outlook on the world around them.

The key is consistency. As a content creator, if characters are allowed to deviate from their consistent and firmly established storylines, there better be appropriate use of cause and effect some where in their development to explain it, otherwise consumers of your content will hold you accountable and not let up until they receive an intellectually appropriate answer.

Lately, I have seen far too many examples of content creators who begin the journey of telling their stories very well by providing compelling characters in rich settings. The flow of events, colorful action sequences, and finely crafted dialogue all play out in a logical fashion. Yet, when their masterpiece nears the finish line, they justify a tangent defying any sense of reality.

In closing, my perspective is the same. Those of us who create content are also consumers of other content creators. We have a responsibility to provide constructive feedback and guidance, should it be called for when asked. Sitting down to have rational and deep conversations about content which inspires us is where we begin to reverse the dehydration of robust storytelling.  

 Feel free to post your questions, comments or concerns. I will respond, if need be, when I able.

 Information in this article was obtained from the following sources and not considered exhaustive:

 Character Arc (Wikipedia): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Character_arc

 Game of Thrones: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_of_Thrones

 How to Write a Compelling Character Arc (reedsy): https://blog.reedsy.com/character-arc/

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