Level Up! Creating Character Arc

Three Times A Charm is on hiatus, because I haven't been recruiting. Feel free to contact me if you're an author, illustrator, editor, blogger, publicist, publisher involved in children's publishing and would like to be interviewed.

So instead, I'm talking about the craft of writing. Creating a character arc is difficult, but crucial to the enjoyability factor of your story. Creating an arc over a series is even more challenging. In order for your readers to care, your character has to change and grow during their story.

A friend of mine posted a picture of a scene from my book, Polar Opposites, on my Facebook page and the status called the characters in the scene, “Assholes!”

Awesome! I squealed and clapped.

Why am I okay with this? It’s the emotion behind the post that thrills me. Yes, literary characters can be jerks, too. And, as is the case in the scene my friend highlighted, it is often intentional. So many things have to come together to shape the story line and grow characters. That particular scene explains a character’s motivation, or confirms what some readers suspected up to that point. It also incites a key incident in the development of the main character, Jeff, who is a by-stander in that scene.

Oh, I know I’m being all cryptic. I don’t mean to tick you off, but the incident is crucial to the end of the series, so I can’t give specifics for fear I’ll blow it. But that’s part of my SQUEE moment. By demonstrating her reaction to that scene, my friend confirmed that the emotion it stirred in her makes it a memorable moment, it binds her more strongly to Jeff, who is impacted the most by it. And hopefully buys him more loyalty from readers. He’ll need it as he goes through his next tumultuous journey.

What I find interesting is that we experience these moments IRL, too. But they aren’t as recognizable because they’re mashed up inside days filled with equal parts monotony and chaos. The path to them and from them isn’t clearly defined like it is in a literary character’s life. Think how much easier life would be if we could see our path as easily as Harry Potter saw his!

What are some of your favorite ‘turning point’ moments in a favorite character’s journey? Or what are some of the most memorable inciting events that took your favorite characters to the next level? I’d love to hear them.


  1. The more we make our characters 'human' the more readers relate to them. Even the bad-asses! Usually, when I separate one of my characters from the group, he or she is put to the test and I see tremendous growth. Great post, Kai!

    1. It's always comforting to see flaws in a character. Even when you don't share the same flaw, it's a sort of balm to recognize that others have them. Thanks for visiting, Sharon.

  2. Great post, Kai. New writers need to know that they can't make their character perfect for readers to love them, they have to make them flawed...then they can fix them later.

    1. Exactly, Rita. And fixing them later is mostly what makes the journey fun! Glad you stopped in.


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