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The Character Arc and Internal Flaws

Character Arc

Relating the character arc and internal flaws will give your characters depth.

What is a character arc?

A character arc starts when the character enters the story and ends when they leave the story. This means at the beginning of the story, they are in one emotional state. At the end, they are in a different emotional state. This could be a positive or a negative change.

What is an internal flaw?

An internal flaw is whatever your character struggles with emotionally that keeps them from living a full life.

The internal flaw makes your character interesting. Establish it early and hook the reader. Usually when I write about a hook, I’m talking about scene entry and exit hooks related to plot. In this case, I’m writing about getting your reader to want to follow your character through their journey.

The flaw must be something that restricts your character from getting what they most desire in life. It can’t be a fear of spiders if their goal in life is to become a dentist.  Make your character flaw something that inhibits them from achieving their main plot goal.

 

When the character tries to achieve the main plot goal, their internal flaw must hold them back.

 

If you can write the protagonist’s flaw into the first scene or chapter, you’re already getting your reader hooked.

Character Arc and Internal Flaw: Example

You can even hint at the inner flaw in the story’s blurb. The blurb for A. J. Finn’s novel The Woman In The Window, sets up the internal flaw in the first line.

“Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City Home, unable to venture outside.”

We’re given a taste of what her issue is, and the author will show her inner flaw deepen and get worse. We know Anna is a recluse. But why? How did she become that way? We are now attuned to the flaw, even if we don’t understand it, and that alone increases our enjoyment of the story.

The opening scene of the novel is gripping because the reader knows Anna is watching things out her window but can’t partake in the outside world. The whole mood of the scene is set, so from word one, you want to read more.

The final line of the first scene, “Well. Maybe next time.” shows the reader Anna’s inner longing. She doesn’t know it yet, but she needs to interact with the outside world to survive. Her character arc starts on page one and is driven by her internal flaw. The entire story revolves around whether she will overcome this flaw.

Connecting the character arc with internal flaws will add depth to your story and your characters.

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Resources:

Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland contains an in-depth discussion on character arcs and is one of my favorite books on the topic.

The first time a character appears, they must be introduced to the reader. This is where you decide how much time you spend on describing them and who they are in the story. Find out more at  Character Arc: Where it Begins and Ends

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