Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Arc

Maven Darcy BurkeI did two things Tuesday. Well, more than two things, but two things that led me to this post. First, I worked on incorporating Maven crits into the first 60 pages of Beauty and the Bandit. I did this now because I didn't want the scene crits to pile up too high (lesson learned from Glorious!) and because I wanted to read those first 60 pages and see how my story, and particulary my hero and heroine, are holding together. The other thing I did was watch Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. What do these two things have in common with arc? Wait for it.

My heroine in BATB is rather self-centered. Her arc will take her from a narcissistic Society snob to a caring woman who will, oh heck, if I tell you, it'll ruin it. Suffice it to say she changes a whole lot. At least I hope she will. It's mapped out on the storyboard that way, and time will tell. It's a bit of a daunting arc if I think about it, so for now, I'm just writing away and trying not to think too much outside of the confines of the scene I'm writing. Now as I'm reading through several scenes together, I can see if her arc is matching the storyboard. And no, I didn't get through the 60 pages yet. I had a preschool board meeting tonight and, oh yeah, I had to watch Harry Potter.

Yes, had to. I'm a complete Harry Potter-phile. Love the books, love the movies. Even admitted Daniel Radcliffe has some pretty decent biceps in this latest movie (say otherwise, I dare you!). I'm taking the Maven Lacey route today, so bear with me, I'll get there. I'm watching this movie and completely appreciating J.K. Rowling's mastery of character arc. How on earth does she manage Harry's arc over seven books? Seven books! There are no spoilers here, so don't worry if you haven't read all of the books. All I'm going to say is that when you look at his arc and the overall theme of the books, you will be awed. (Again, I dare you to say otherwise!)

Managing your character's arc is tricky business. To do a really good job, you've got to know your character better than they know themselves. And since you created them that should be easy, right? There are lots of tools you can use - character interviews, information sheets, a storyboard. One thing I'm trying in conjunction with the storyboard is tracking character emotion/state of mind in scenes, whether it's their POV or not. In BATB, I'm finding that the hero's and heroine's voices in BATB are very strong, which is helping to keep their arc on track. At least I think it is. I'll let you know for sure.

What tools do you use to track character arc? How do your character arcs play into your theme? Do you gut-check your arcs as you're writing the story on the first pass?

8 comments:

Erica Ridley said...

In BATB, I'm finding that the hero's and heroine's voices in BATB are very strong, which is helping to keep their arc on track.

Darc, I think this is an amazingly accurate point. In the books where character arc is flubbed or non-existent, I'm now wondering if it's because the individuality of character voices are likewise flubbed or non-existent.

*erica glances at the Magical Mulch Pile under her bed then looks around shifty-eyed*

I think if the character's voice is strong enough, it's probably much easier for the reader to watch the arc unfold without being beaten over the head with "Look! He's changing!" 2x4s.

I just finished reading EMMA and I could pinpoint the exact moments she and/or her subconscious got nudged in a new direction, even if she herself wasn't aware of it (or didn't acknowledge it) yet. Emma had a strong voice, and I loved watching her fight her arc.

Great post, Darc! Much food for thought!

Bill Clark said...

see how my story, and particulary my hero and heroine, are holding together

Tightly, one hopes! ;-)

Carrie said...

You know, I'm in awe of writers who know their arcs so well. For me, I had no idea what my protag's arc was in FHT. I'm still not quite sure what it was (and since the book is done and in the editing stages, these are things I feel I should know). For now, I assume there is an arc and that I just can't see the forest for the trees...

Erica Ridley said...

I assume there is an arc and that I just can't see the forest for the trees...

This cracked me up, given the title of the story in question.

Darcy Burke said...

*erica glances at the Magical Mulch Pile under her bed then looks around shifty-eyed*

God, I can so picture this look!!! Laughing out loud and feeling like you're here. Good times.

Good point re: Emma. I'm thinking Miranda is very similar. Little things she may not even be aware of are chipping away at her preconceived notions. At least I hope so. Please, please chip away!

Bill: so far so good!

Carrie: I was going to finish your sentence for you as I read that. Can't see the forest for the hands and teeth...

Vicki said...

I started using an excel spreadsheet. I put down anything important and who did what.

Also, all characters go in there even if they are only in one scene in the book. This I started after I realized I called a character one name at the beginning of the book and another name later when he came back into a scene.

lacey kaye said...

I think character arc is my favorite part of creating stories. I think. Hard to say, because I also have that one position against changing people. Hmm... I sense a blog post coming up...

Jacqueline Barbour said...

Ah, my comment yesterday got lost when my Internet connection went down (for repairs, apparently, but I wasn't exactly expecting it).

Character arc is one of those craft elements I know I'm still working on, but I definitely agree that it's easier to accomplish a strong arc when you have a character with a strong voice. One of the reasons I've been enjoying writing first person of late is the way the voice seems to drive the story (and the character arc) even more strongly than in third person. Of course, you only get to deal with one character's arc, but it's still lots of fun.

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