Day 2 – Analyzing Character Arcs

This is the continued saga of my foray into Janice Hardy’s Revise Your Novel in 31 Days  at-home workshop. (

This is one assignment that was actually a pleasure for me, because my characters told me who they were before I even conceived of them. I am an outliner by default, but this story was written by the little men in the basement, as Stephen King calls them. The initial idea came from a flash-fiction contest, but the rest of the story took root in my mind and screamed to get out.

So, on to the arc. The questions I was asked to answer included: what does the protagonist learn over the course of the novel, how does her internal conflict affect that growth, what lies does she tell herself and when does she realize they aren’t true, what does she want more than anything, how does the plot help her achieve this desire, what is she most afraid of and when does she face this fear? Also, what was her flaw and her first mistake? Her major screw up? When does she realize growth?

Here is what I wrote about my protagonist:

Great starts out sure of her plan to rescue a small village of humans.  She quickly learns things are not black and white on Earth and emotions affect everyone and everything. She nearly gives up on her mission when major roadblocks force her to make decisions she is not familiar or comfortable with.

Her internal conflict hampers her growth as she denies the changes happening to her physically and emotionally. She knows if she embraces these changes it will mean she is not who or what she thought.

Her greatest desire is to be the successful, fully-realized air-traveler she was born to be, and who Leader will be proud of. Failure is unacceptable and her greatest fear.

The external plot allows her to save the humans from a certain death, renewing her belief in herself and her abilities.

Flaw – she thinks her plan cannot fail.

First Mistake – she realizes the enemy cannot be defeated and makes the humans run away instead of fight.

Major Screw Up – When she receives a new, unwanted mission, she cannot bring herself to accept it. She is faced with failure.

Realization of Growth – It is only when she escapes the chaos of Earth and finds a place high in the mountains, nearer to her home, that she reconnects with her heritage and remembers why she was sent to Earth in the first place.

How about you? Was it easy to understand your characters and where they needed to go or did they fight you and try to go in a different direction?  How did this affect your story?

Results: This exercise helped me understand my protagonist better and why she thought the way she did. Because I had done a similar exercise earlier, she was already a part of me and I have come to understand her oft-twisted path from immaturity to fully-realized.

Take-Away Value:

It is important to know your protagonist well. His or her beliefs, abilities, experience, fears, and desires affect everything he or she does in your story. It is even better if you equally understand your antagonist and any other major players. Interaction between two very different people can lead to a lot of conflict and story.

See you on the next page.


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