Writing: character arcs

Well, so far this month, writing has been going great guns! I suspect it follows from having done a lot of planning on the structure of the book and getting the bare bones of the plot sorted out. I've been thinking about this book, on and off, for over a year, and already had a heap of notes and a mind-map of the plot sorted. I then spent a good week or more nailing down the key scenes that I wanted, before I wrote one word of any scenes.

It also helps that I know the characters really well - this will be third book in the trilogy - so I haven't had to do so much on character development, though of course, there's some, on new characters or ones who have come to the fore a little more. I did spend quite a bit of time on their character arcs though, again, before writing a word of any of the scenes.

There's a great blog post on the different types of character arc, and also how these fit with general story plans: The 3 Types of Character Arc: Change, Growth or Fall. I also produced a summary sheet for planning out how each main character reacts to the different plot points:

For both of the main characters in the current book, their character arc is one of growth or shift, rather than change or fall. It was really helpful to me to fill in these sheets and think in detail about how the different plot points affect each character, but I've also been thinking about how each character has to respond not only to how they have been affected, but also how the reaction of the other characters impinge on them.

For example, the death of a leader. This has profound effects on the group they were leading and those characters will have to react to the loss of their leader. However, they may or may not have liked their leader. If one person in the team is deeply affected by the death because they were close to the leader, the rest of the team have two issues to contend with - the success of the team despite the loss of the leader, and supporting the team member who is falling apart.

So I not only have the summary sheets shown above, I also have pages with mind map style diagrams, linking how the characters have to respond to one another following major plot points. I'm sure to anyone else, they just look like spaghetti, but they make sense to me!

But, all this planning has been worth its weight in gold, because I started writing on the 9th October and the word count yesterday was over 25,000 words (which for me, is a great pace!).

Next week, I'll share how I go about planning a scene (in an attempt to only write scenes that will make a final cut). And what I do with scenes that are in my head and bugging me, but which I know will not make a final cut...