Using Arc Beyond Characters

I’ve talked about character before but I’m going deeper this time.

Have you ever thought about giving a character like arc to things that technically are not characters?

Did I just lose you? What I’m getting at is that characters are not the only ones that change within a story. At least they shouldn’t be the only one’s changing.

Your setting can change within the story. No, I don’t mean a new place. I mean the place changes with your characters. For example, a clock tower in the beginning is a familiar comfort but as the book progresses your character views the clock tower with greater and greater frustration at it’s ever present presence. The setting has an arc of change even if it’s just a change in perception. This adds tension, conflict, and tone to your story in a new and dynamic way.

Your culture within your story should change. If your main character is doing a good job the culture around them should change. It should arc. It can arc positively or negatively but as the characters move through the plot the culture around them should shift in some way in response to the character actions. Does your character make the world a better place? A worse place? Or a different place? Show it happening within the story structure to create a culture arc.

Taking the time to add this level of change and dynamic flow within your story will make your world more believable and your setting like the air the reader is breathing. Don’t pass up this opportunity in your story.

Take a few minutes and check your setting and culture arcs within your story. Do you have one? Or is it static and unchanging?

Happy Questing!



The power of ‘no’

Saying “no” can be powerful.

As a people-pleasing, passive person, I rarely say no in real life. When I do say no to a friend or loved one, I feel super guilty about it for weeks. No, I can’t go to the movies this weekend because I have plans with my husband/mom/grandma/husband’s mom or grandma. Sorry I can’t make it to your party; I have to work all day that day. I wish I could come, but I have a lot of work to do on my book.

The sad thing is, all of these things are honest realities for where I’m at in life and I shouldn’t feel guilty for working 50+ hours a week or working on multiple writing projects to advance my career. Instead, I should be proud of what I accomplish on a weekly basis. Heck, I should be proud that I keep myself and two dogs alive! (Granted, I can’t take all the credit. My husband does a lot for me and our dogs – he’s awesome).

But I know what you’re thinking and you’re right. My meager guilt isn’t exciting. It’s not book-worthy. Guilt only goes so far in a story, unless it’s intense and in a psychological thriller or romance. There needs to be more in a story than this boring midwesterner has to offer. But I promise you, the conversations in my head get pretty exciting. They often fuel plot points in my writing.

I often say no in my head during made-up conversations that will never happen (you do that too, right?) to release frustration or anger. This typically happens when I’m exhausted or hangry. Then, after the little fictitious scenario ends in my head, I realize how nonsensical it was and how important it is to be an adult and stop whining about it already.

Just say “no” and walk away or solve whatever the problem is.

Say no to silly scenarios. Say no to fruitless arguments. Say no to things that don’t fuel you, help you grow, or improve your life in any way.

Now I know that’s great and practical adult advice for the real world (yawn!), but what about our projects? We can’t say no to those! I have characters begging to be set free on the page and I know you do, too, no matter what type of art you create.

When I think of main characters (MCs), I think of adventurous problem-solvers who save the world! But what if instead of saving the world, they say no? What if she says no to the cute guy she’s been crushing on for months when he asks her out on a date? What if he doesn’t agree to help a supporting character through a difficult time? How much would it change the overall plot? Your MC emotionally? Would saying no make them stronger or weaker?

Challenge: Make your MC say no this week. (The above photo showcases how I mapped out “no” options for all of my characters in my current project. I definitely didn’t originally consider having my MC Bee die in the story, but it’s now an option.) Maybe you’ll scrap the idea and go back to your original plot… Or maybe the MC saying no shocks the rest of the characters, the reader, and you because it’s awesome and the new plot options unfold beautifully. Let me know how it works in the comments.

Finding Your People

We are all blessed with a few friends in our lives that we cannot do without at some point or another. Friends are necessary. However, writing is by default a lonely endeavor. Lonely out of necessity. You can’t hold a conversation between your own head and a blank page while talking to your cubicle mate. […]