Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 11, 2013

Make Your Characters Drive Your Story

PederhillPeder Hill has a great blog called Learn the Elements of Writing a Novel. It is jammed packed with articles to help you learn the craft of writing a novel. Of course, he says the only way to really learn is to start writing a novel, which is so true.

Here is an except from his article on Character Development and Conflict.

Character Development drives Conflict

All stories are about people, even when they’re about rabbits. And the stories that move us most, the ones that stick inside years later, are those inhabited by characters we can connect with and admire.

And no characters resonate more than those who in the course of a story learned how to transcend their own flaws and weaknesses to do something great—this is known as a Character Arc.

And by great I don’t mean saving the world, for often the quietest moments are the ones in which characters find their greatness. The moments that truly define us are almost always personal, times when we’re able to overcome our own limitations and rise to be something more.

Character Arc—the rocky path of personal growth and development a character undergoes in a story, usually unwillingly, during which the character wrestles with and eventually overcomes some or all of a serious emotional fear, limitation, block or wound.

In a character’s development he or she might overcome:

o lack of courage or inner doubts

o lack of ethics

o learning to love

o guilt

o trauma from the past

o errors in thinking, etc.

Weaknesses, imperfections, quirks and vices make a character more real & appealing. They humanize a character. The audience can identify with them. Flaws and imperfections give a character somewhere to go and progress toward in the story. The development of a character is only interesting if they overcome something.

Role of a Character Arc

◾ Keeps the tension high and the conflict going.
◾Serves as the “inner” conflict and is always mirrored by the story’s “outer” conflict.
◦ e.g. DieHard: Inner conflict = overcome internal weaknesses to be able to get back together with wife; Outer conflict = fight bad guys who have taken over wife’s building.
◾ The Arc is the internal change the hero goes through in a story.
◦ It can be positive change of character—a happy ending
◦ Or a negative or no change—which gives us a tragedy.
◾ Characters who remain essentially the same from beginning to end are fatally flawed. They have learned nothing from their experience and have shown no growth.
◦ Or the character is already ‘good’ and doesn’t change (e.g. James Bond, Braveheart, John Wayne).

Read the rest:

Thanks Peder for taking the time to share on your blog.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Thanks, Kathy, perfect words, perfect timing!


  2. Interesting post. Lots of good advice here. Thanks.


  3. Peder, a ton of great writing advice.
    Thanks, Kathy for sharing Peder’s link. 🙂


  4. Yessss! This is what I need to do. I’ve been making my characters submit to the indomitable will of my plot.

    Awesome advice here. 🙂


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