Character Arc is the changes that a character goes through, throughout a story.
A Characters arc brings the change which can be positive which leads to a happy ending or negative change which leads to a tragic ending. Character arc deals with the truth and the lie a character believes in. He may believe a lie in the beginning, but after knowing the truth some changes might occur in the characters belief.
The change can either be internal, which refers to the inner journey of the character or external, which refers to the change the character has brought in his society or environment and because of these changes, a character makes certain decisions.
Purpose of Character Arc
The main purpose of the character’s arc is to develop the character and understand the character’s motive. The character’s arc does not only helps in creating a conflict but also makes people understand what does the character wants or needs?
For example: In the movie Agneepath (2012), Vijay wants to take revenge for his father’s death by killing Kancha Cheena. But to do so, he needs to be powerful, and the only way to gain power is by acquiring Mumbai.
Hence, Vijay makes the decision to join Rauf Lala who is the Kingpin of Mumbai, and later in the movie, he kills his son Mazhar Lala and starts handling the underworld business of Rauf Lala, after he is admitted in a hospital. This gets Vijay in power to negotiate Mumbai for Mandwa with Kancha Cheena.
An Arc helps to create tension for the story. Characters want something but to get it, the character will make certain decisions that will make a greater impact on the story.
Types of Character Arc with examples?
What arc a character should have? depends on his wants, conflict, and belief, and hence different characters will have a different character arc.
A Positive Arc refers to positive changes the character goes through by the end of the story. In this scenario, the character starts with a negative perspective in the beginning and develops a positive view by the climax of the story.
Example: Bruce in Bruce Almighty movie, in the beginning, blames God for all the bad things that happened to him. However, by the end, Bruce realizes about the positive perspective towards the thing happening to him.
Transformational Arc also is known as Change Arc. It involves a character who overcomes the difficult obstacle to be a better person. This Arc is quite similar to positive arc, however, the changes in character take place drastically and dramatically. Transformational Arc completely changes the character from a normal person to a hero. This Arc is frequently used in stories as the Hero’s Journey.
Example: Harry Potter, a kid who has been treated as a servant by his Aunt and Uncle becomes a hero in the wizardly school of Hogwarts.
Neo (Matrix movie), A hacker in the virtual world of the matrix becomes the Saviour as the One.
In this Arc, the character grows but does not go through a complete change or transformation. At the end of the story, the character remains the same person; however, he/she has overcome some internal flaws or obstacles. As a result, the character becomes better and is different in some way.
Example: Sid in Wake up Sid is the perfect case of a character with Growth Arc. Here the character Sid starts as an immature and spoiled person who got everything in his life from his dad. However, in the end, we see that the character is following his passion for photography, now he is mature and has a sense of responsibility.
In the Fall Arc, the characters make a decision that results in his fall and the people whom the character relates to. In this Arc, a character makes choices that are risking for their greed or other people. And so in the end, the character either dies, gets corrupt, or lose the loved ones.
Example: Raghu’s character in the movie Vaastav is the best scenario where the character has a fall arc. Raghu gets into the underworld after killing a gangsters brother to save his friend’s life, but in the end, he dies by the hand of his mother.
Many others come to this list. Devdas from movie Devdas, Walter White from Breaking Bad series, and Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones series.
Flat Arc involves characters who do not change or grow within the story. The Character with flat arc stays the same at the end of the story as they were at the beginning.
Flat character arcs are quite often considered as a character with no arc. However, this is not true. In the above-mentioned arcs were the character goes through changes, in this arc, the character makes a change in the society or the people around him. You can see flat arc characters mostly in the genre such as action, mystery, or thriller.
Example: Bajirao Singham, from the movie Singham has a flat character arc. The character does not change; however, he makes an effort and changes the officers and his surroundings.
Many others come in a flat arc list, Wonder woman and Superman, Naruto Uzumaki from Naruto series, and James bond.
Can a story have two or more characters with different characters arc?
Yes, you can have as many characters as you want with a different character arc. However, make sure that their arc makes an impact and is justified. If the changes, a character goes through, does make an impact in the story, then its better to not give that character an arc.
Example: Naruto anime series has two main characters first Naruto Uzumaki and second Sasuke Uchiha. In this series where Naruto has the flat arc, but Sasuke has the fall arc. Both character arcs are completely different from each other. However, it does make a great impact on the story of the series.
Sasuke, runs away from his village with Orochimaru for power to become strong enough to kill his brother Itachi Uchiha who slaughters his parents and the Uchiha clan. But, Naruto, makes his life’s mission to bring his friend Sasuke back to the village.
Both character arcs are different; however, they were necessary for the story. The arcs were so well used that audience also understood the motive of both the characters and stayed engage over the series.
Can one character has two different character arcs?
Yes, a character can have two character arcs in a single story. However, do make sure that these two arcs are required for moving the story forward. Because if a character has the two arc, people need to understand the reason why he went character change to one arc and later to another.
The best example of this is Sasuke Uchiha from the Naruto series. Sasuke wants to kill his brother Itachi, for which he needs to be powerful. Hence, Sasuke moves towards the fall arc. However, when he finally able to kill Itachi Uchiha, Sasuke discover the truth about Itachi and chooses to destroy the village. But, because of Naruto Uzumaki, in the end, Sasuke shifted towards the positive arc, and he pledges to save the vary same village which he wanted to destroy before.
So Sasuke has two character arc’s here, first the fall arc and second the positive arc. Both the arcs are used beautifully to develop the character and move the story towards a better ending.
Another example that perfectly uses this concept is Game of Thrones series, throughout series you will see that many characters have multiple arcs. However, the best character to explain this is Daenerys Targaryen’s character. Daenerys, a young woman, who was merely a puppet for his brother soon has the transformation and becomes queen, breaker of chains, and mother of dragons. However, by the end of the final season, she loses her beloved people which made Daenerys Targaryen shifted towards the fall arc, and thus resulted in her death.
What if your protagonist has no Character Arc?
It is okay if your character has no arc. Having is a character arc is not a compulsory rule. An arc is required when the story needs the character to go through the changes or to be developed. If the story does not require a change in character, it is fine to have a character without an arc.
Most stories have a character with no arc at all. The best example of this is Indiana Jones from “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, by the end of the film the character of Indiana Jones is the same person, as he was in the beginning.
You will see Action and Adventure genre films uses these types of characters more frequently.
Sandeep Semwal works as a digital marketing intern by day and as a writer by night. He writes short stories and loves to unearth the stories through observation and imagination. He is the brains behind the writers crunch to share his writing experience.