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Blogging By the Sea
Monday, July 31 2023

                        They say not to judge a book by its cover but I need you to do just that. If you liked the cover of my book, Believing in Mac: The Camerons of Tide’s Way (Book 7), please vote for it for the Cover of the Month contest on!

Posted by: Skye Taylor AT 08:08 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, July 22 2023

This month our Round Robin Bloggers are going to discuss how important is Character Arc to our stories and how does it tie into the plot or story arc? Do we usually give some time and story to character arcs for secondary characters?


There are exceptions to every rule. Jack Reacher, for one, seems to have pretty much no character arc. Sure, he has flaws, but they play into the plot of the suspense and action. Sherlock Holmes comes to mind as another pretty much unchanging character as is Jessica Fletcher in the  Murder She Wrote TV series of a few years back. In these books and shows, the plot or story arc is what carries the action and we know little or nothing of the characters outside of the current plot.


Story arc has five dramatic stages: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Or to shorten that, a beginning, middle and end. The beginning is when the problem is introduced. Maybe it’s a dead body. Maybe it’s a kidnapped child, or a terrorist threat. But whatever it is, it grabs the reader’s attention by the obvious need to be dealt with, sooner rather than later. And the characters in this kind of story, leap into action to do just that. Finding the cause, or the culprit, figuring out what kind of terrorist attack is brewing and the who/what/why and where is the meat of the story.  But without the satisfying ending: The murderer is caught, the threat thwarted and the child rescued, none of us would tune in again, or purchase another book by that author.


But, in most of today’s TV action series and police dramas, the cast of characters all have personal lives that intersect and impact the telling of the main story and those personal character arcs add depth and reality to the stories. Fire Country, for instance, features a man on early parole as a volunteer firefighter. There is the chief and his wife and the rest of the men and women on the squad and each of them have a character arc that evolves over the course of the series. Blue Bloods is based on a NY family of cops, a lawyer (Asst DA), a nurse, and their kids and other extended family. Again, all of those characters have a personal character arc that adds interest and reality to the main drama of a cataclysmic fire or the day to day life of law enforcement in NYC. Back when my dad religiously watched Perry Mason, a lawyer who always got his client off (and all his clients were actually innocent) we knew nothing about Mr. Mason the man. Was he married? Have kids? Aging parents? Did he play poker? Drink? Who knew? Today’s TV lawyers all have a life that the writers skillfully incorporate into the theme of the main story. For series that span several seasons, there are love affairs and marriage, kids are born or going off to college. Some characters even struggle with drug or alcohol addiction, gender issues and other hot topics of the day. But all those individual character arcs add compelling interest in the series and keeps viewers tuning in every week and readers eager to buy the next book as soon as it comes out.


But then there are the stories that depend entirely on character arc. Romances. Family dramas. Women’s Fiction and others. There is a story arc in all of these books, too, but it is the character arc that makes or breaks the book. What do the characters want, why, and what’s stopping them? In the TV comedy series, Friends, or Big Bang Theory, each week was another view into the lives of these individual characters and their jobs, free time etc, but it was their personal growth that carried the series from one year to the next. Romances happened, jobs changed, neighbors came and went and every time the characters involved had to grow or adapt to the new realities. Their character arcs were as important to the success of the series as the comedic presentation.


But in our novels, this is even more important. Our main characters must grow and change. They have to fight their individual battles and come out stronger, smarter, or better able to adapt. For those of you who never read the initial book, Outlander, Clair Beauchamp, a WWII nurse went through the stones and ended up in the mid 1700s. She was faced with a very different world than anything she had ever experienced. Her life was precarious for so many reasons, one being her modern day knowledge of medicine that could get her branded as a witch, to say nothing of the fact she was a stranger in that time and place with no family or friends. Her character arc included learning how to live in those less comfortable times and learning to live with the fact that she had left a husband she loved in the future and was further troubled by falling in love with another man in her new time. At the start, she wanted desperately to go back to her own time, but as that became less and less likely, and her love for Jamie grew, she adapted to not getting her initial desire, but finding peace and meaning in her new life.


In contemporary romances there are two character arcs: the hero and the heroine. Each has something they want, often in opposition to each other. If you’ve ever watched the Hallmark channel you’ve probably had your fill of women who left home the moment they graduated high school, turned their backs on family and the boy they loved and planned never to come back and yet….here they are back in their home town, usually quaint while they were living the busy life in the city. First thing they realize is their old love is still here and usually not attached for one reason or another and all the old feelings are still there under the skin. But there’s history to be dealt with. The abandonment, or the belief that the other never cared as much as the hero or heroine once thought. Sometimes the story conflict is that either the hero or the heroine has been sent to purchase a property for the purpose of creating some grand new modern enterprise, but the other half of the duo is the current owner and it’s a family property or one with so much history the entire town is against it. Romances always have a happy ever after so that character arc includes learning to appreciate what had been left behind, what is of value now and how to compromise.


In a family drama, often there is no happy ever after, but the character arc is still of paramount importance. Think of all the family dramas you might have read or watched over the years. Dallas on TV or the Kent Family Chronicles by John Jakes. Over the course of those stories there were good times and bad, war and peace, love and loss, joy and grief. But it was how the various characters learned to cope, to grow and deal with the vicissitudes of life that made those stories compelling. Sometimes the characters flourished through desire and the hard work required to succeed. Sometimes it was loss that they had to come to terms with. But always, it was their growth that made them and the stories real.


Character ARC, is, as you see here, very similar to the story arc, but is focused on the character rather than the plot. This arc often drives the plot, and sometimes the story arc and protgonist's arc have a lot of similar events and roadblocks. Here's where secondary character arcs come in. Secondary characters are either part of the roadblock or part of the solution, and sometimes both which will require both characters to grow, adapt and compromise.


I'm currently writing book 2 in my Jesse Quinn mystery series. The main story arc is the solving of two crimes, that of repeating grafitti on a local church, and then the murder of the church's controversial pastor. Are they connected? Or is there something else going on? Jesse and her temporary partner have very different ideas so both characters will have to grow and adapt, compromise and in the process, learn to work together. My heroine, Jesse Quinn, a detective with the St John's County Sheriff's Department, also has a character arc outside of her position as detective that continues from book one into book two. She is divorced and shares custody of her two teenagers. The son is a decent kid that overcame some of his issues before the story opens, but the daughter is going through her early teen years pushing every button Jesse has. In this new book, Jacqui wants to live with her father and Jesse has to come to terms with the loss of the close friendship they shared before Jacqui hit her teen years, all the while trying to decide what is best for her daughter now and going forward. Then she's going to have to learn to live with whatever decisions she makes. It's a growth story for both Jesse and her daughter. And then there's Seth, the man who would like to be more in Jesse's life than he is up to now. Jesse isn't sure she's ready to take on another romantic entanglement while pursuing a career as the only woman on the major crimes squad. Her character arc adds depth and interest to the ongoing police investigation and realism to her life as a detective and a mom. Those of Seth and Jacqui add depth to Jesse's story.


So, I challenge you to think about the stories that have stuck with you long after you watched or read them and think about what it was that made them so memorable. Why did you enjoy them? Why do you still think about the characters you met within those pages? I’m betting you will come to agree, it was their personal character arcs that made them impossible to forget, and the book impossible to put down or the TV series you couldn't wait to tune into each week.


So, why not hop on over and see what my other Blog Hop Authors think about Character Arc.


Anne Stenhouse

Connie Vines

Diane Bator

Helena Fairfax

Marci Baun

Victoria Chatham

A.J. Maguire

Posted by: Skye Taylor AT 12:03 am   |  Permalink   |  4 Comments  |  Email
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