Saturday, 19 February 2011

Scribbling Saturday: Character Arcs

Being driven by plot as I am, it is difficult to remember that the characters have to progress as well. Characters, must be well-defined and rounded, so that readers can get involved in their story, but the main character(s) have to have their own development, have to go on their own journey. Sometimes I forget that.

So what do you do when the novel is already written, and you don't know whether your characters really have a story arc of their own? 'Intruders' is currently 58 thousand words - that's a lot to pick apart and look for character arcs. Then I had an idea.

I made a spreadsheet! Listen carefully. Column 1: Chapter number. Column 2: Scene number. Column 3: Scene title. Then one column for each character. Then I went quickly through each scene and noted down under the relevant characters what each character did. It only took me a couple of hours while watching TV.

Then, I made a tab for each character and copied columns 1, 2 & 3 and their column to the relevant tab. Having separated the characters, I could go through each tab and delete all the blank scenes (where the character didn't appear). Bingo! Each character's arc. Now I can see where the holes are.

Sometimes they are only minor things, but still important. For example, one crewman is missing from the first part of the story because he is in hospital. I realised after doing the analysis that when he comes back, no one comments. That's odd. So that's what I have to do next.

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