Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland

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In English class, many of us were taught that plot and character were separate things. They were even pitted against each other as well-meaning teachers spoke of stories that were either “plot driven” or “character driven.” Of course, we know one can’t exist without the other. The best novels are filled with fascinating characters doing amazing things. So why do we study them separately?

Even worse, writers are taught that you can structure a plot, but characters just arise organically. Weiland is here to put that nonsense to bed once and for all.

CREATING CHARACTER ARCS shows writers how to craft a character just as carefully as they craft a plot. If you hate plotting because you’re a discovery writer (also known as a “pantser,”) you can map out the heroine’s emotional journey and the plot points will fall into place. If you love plotting, you can start there and make sure your heroine has the emotional turning points when she should.

Weiland breaks down the three types of character arcs: positive, negative, and flat. The positive change arc is the most popular. We see it in Hollywood movies and expect it from our genre fiction. Weiland shows how characters should change through a novel, with growth in each of the three acts. She also covers how minor characters change, and how to handle character arcs in trilogies and series. Using Weiland’s methods, a writer will not only create a fascinating protagonist, but one that is uniquely qualified to follow the plot.

CREATING CHARACTER ARCS is amazing and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I have lots of good books on my shelf about story structure and character creation, but this is the only one that considers them together. Many books pay lip service to the interaction between plot and character, but Weiland shows how they aren’t just linked, but interdependent. Character moves plot. Plot changes character. And Weiland shows you exactly how to integrate them into a perfect whole.

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CREATING CHARACTER ARCS can be found here.

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Rating: 5 stars

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This book is best for: intermediate writers

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I recommend this book.

6 thoughts on “Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland

  1. Interesting. I’ve encountered the flat character arc in literary fiction. Frankly I find the character boring but I’m fascinated as to why an author would feature such a character. Does the book discuss this?

    • Yes, it does! Weiland goes into detail about the pros and cons of a flat character arc. Sometimes they’re the James Bond type that is the same from book to book. Sometimes there are other reasons. But a flat character arc only works when the world around the hero + the other characters change a lot. In other words, something has to change. Either the world changes the heroine or the heroine changes the world.

      Thanks for the follow-up question, Julia. I really love this book a lot, and I think you will too!

  2. I’d pretty much sworn off anymore “how to write” books and articles since mostly they seem to rehash the same tired advice, but now I’m intrigued. I may pick this one up.

  3. I thought this book was one of the better books out there on characters arcs, but was turned off and a little frustrated by how she focuses on one protagonist. I felt she totally over looked books, like romances, who have two equal protagonist. And why does everyone forget the antagonist?! Aren’t they characters with arcs as well?

    • Good point, Tammie. I find that most how-to books ignore the dual protagonists of romances. Romances have a separate structure all their own that’s more complex than other genres. The best book I’ve found for structuring a romance is ROMANCING THE BEAT by Gwen Hayes. (I’ll be reviewing that one soon!)

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