I’ve Learned I’m Not Big on Villains: Reflecting on Bad Guys

I’ve Learned I’m Not Big on Villains: Reflecting on Bad Guys

MordorAs I’m not reading as quickly as I’d like, I don’t have a review for you all. That means I had to think about something on which I could discuss. I gave it some time, and as I was thinking about another project I’m taking on (super-secret, big possibilities), I started thinking about villains.  I did a blog on villains a while back, but then I realized, I’m not actually a big fan of villains.

Don’t get me wrong, I like a good conflict, but stick with me. I went back and thought about my favorite books of all time. Only one of them has any arguable main villains.

Beowulf: One might argue this has villains, and it does. But Beowulf fights several. To my recollection (and I’ll admit it’s been a long while) none of them have very complex back stories. Oh, there’s some information, but ultimately, they’re either the fodder Beowulf cuts through or the thing that finally takes him down. Grendel is the most discussed, but he’s dispatched fairly quickly in the book.

What Men Live By, by Leo Tolstoy: I promise you, there was no bad guy.

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson: So here we come to the “yes there was a villain” argument. Look, Ruin was the main antagonist. But Vin takes him on, and that’s that. Ruin wasn’t a mortal. He was this larger than life force that Vin had to elevate herself to take on (and I think there’s something there).

Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson: Again, the Dark One was the overall threat.  Some may argue Ishamael was the “villain” of that story, but I simply don’t see it that way.

The Dragon Riders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey:  No villain. A threat, a lager than life threat, but no villain.

This led me to an assertion. Great Books Need Great Villains.  I think not. These are my five favorite books of all time, and the reason I love them has nothing to do with the villains. Do I think a great villain can make a book great? Yes, but I don’t think they’re mandatory. It really dawned on me as I was thinking about who my favorite villains are. The fact of the matter is I don’t have any. I’m actively sitting here thinking about books and who the MC faces in each of them, and I can’t even name one. Comics are different in that regard, but comics are meant to run for years, so you need a cast of villains to change things up.

BobsGreatestMistakeI’ve said this a bunch of times, give me proactive, sympathetic characters, and I’m probably going to love your story. I’m less invested as a reader to see if they’re proactive because they have to defeat evil or because they have to beat this one particular antagonist. That’s window dressing for me. Bob and Caught both have villains. I certainly hope they’re enjoyable villains, but I don’t mind a world where the heroes are the ones with whom my readers connect.

So this post, short but interesting, leads to a question. Where do you sit in relationship to villains? I understand the value of compelling villains. What I’m asking is do you only invest in stories that have a great villain? Compare your favorite books ever to this question. Tell me the villain of your favorite book or series. I’m honestly curious to know what you think.

Thanks for reading,

V/R
Matt

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Great Character Arcs: Five Characters I Loved Seeing Grow (SPOILERS)

Great Character Arcs: Five Characters I Loved Seeing Grow (SPOILERS)

Greetings all,

It’s been a while since I did any character studies, so I thought this was a good time to do that. There’s a lot of demand out there these days for characters who “grow.” That term is used a lot but the better word is “change.” People like to see characters affected by their actions and evolve as a result of them. I’m still a big fan of neutral change arcs (K.M. Weiland’s Creating Character Arcs talks about this), but I have seen some character arcs that I just loved. Some I’ve already mentioned before, but I’d like to share with you some stories where you truly saw a character evolve as the story progressed.

51PNy3Gq7OL._AA300_Rand al’Thor from The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson: I’d argue this is my favorite arc of all time. It probably should be as it took 14 books to evolve. I don’t know that I’ve seen any other character grow, fall, and return to grace the way Rand does. He starts as a simple farm boy (yes, the most overused trope ever). But he’s just a boy whose biggest concern is dealing with a girl he’s pretty sure he’s going to marry. We see him afraid and avoid his calling for three books. Then we see him struggle with what it means to be what he becomes. Then we see him betrayed, and what that does to him. He falls all the way to darkness, nearly willing to end his own life. Then he becomes the leader and figure he’s meant to be, but that’s not the end. I won’t go farther than that. Even with spoilers, there are some things I just won’t discuss on a blog. But for people who want to study an arc of a character, I’d recommend you start here.

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This isn’t Dorian, but I don’t want to dare some author to sue me for using his art. The cover of a graphic novel? Well, there I can try and argue fair use.

Dorian Ursuul from the Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks: I’ve already spoken about his arc in terms of his fall from grace. He’s honestly a good, well-meaning man who’s put in a position that basically tempts him into becoming the monster he eventually becomes. I’m fascinated about the possibility of a story where this plot is more of a centerpiece of a novel. It’s rummaging around my head somewhere, but it’ll fall out at some point, and this character and story is why. It’s a beautiful negative change arc.

Tyrion from The Embers of Illeniel series by Michael G. Manning: The end of his arc was the best book I read last year, and that’s saying something.  He gives Rand a run for his money in terms of quality (I give Rand the advantage because I like good guys to find their grace again), but this character’s arc is so enthralling. Every single thing he does that will make him a monster is understandable. The tragedy of its necessity is second only to the sadness I felt as I saw what those horrific necessities created.

41awCCmXEKL._SY346_Artemis Fowl from the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer: I have to make it a point to pick up this series again. I thought it ended, but I’m not sure I read all of the books. Even with what I read, his arc deserves to be here. Listen folks, this kid is a little turd in book one. Watching him interact and make friends and become a protector for those he originally sought to use was a real treat. It’s funny because the way I’m identifying these characters is by looking through my Goodreads books. I scrolled around until I stumbled upon the book and thought, “Oh yeah! His arc was fantastic!”  He’s a character who starts out pretty bad (I mean it’s a young reader book), and then grows into someone truly selfless.

41SA4n8T3uLEmma from Emma by Jane Austen: I’m going to pause here to go off on a tiny tangent. Fans claim to demand great arcs, but if I’m being honest, I just don’t see many. Oh, I read a bunch of great stories. But most of the stories I read are about men who are tempted but don’t fall, men who are nice and stay nice, or men who are bad and stay bad. I’ll go over some of my favorite books where I just don’t see the arc. People can argue with me if they wish (I encourage debate), but I spent a solid hour going over all my books in my Goodreads and struggled to find five arcs where I could really point to a person who changed (even if only for a while in the book). Oh, they evolved. They learned a truth, but they didn’t actually CHANGE. There are other characters who truly change in other mediums. (Weiland does a bunch of character studies in her book.)  But for my money, it’s tough to find those sweeping evolutionary arcs. Emma represents one of the originals. She’s a selfish woman who thinks she knows best how to do things. (Clueless was one of the best modern adaptations of a book I’ve ever seen. Seriously!) Regardless, she changes from a selfish person who THINKS she’s selfless, to a person who learns how to value others as people rather than objects. It’s honestly a solid arc.

So there you go. I’d love to hear your thoughts on arcs. Please don’t misunderstand. There are a lot of books I love (I thought about putting Vin on her list, but she evolved pretty quickly in my opinion) where I didn’t really notice an arc, but I won’t deny that some of these stories are genuinely great because of the way the characters evolve (or devolve). If you think you got another good one, please post it below in the comments for discussion or study.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Why Black Panther Should Be the Next Leader of the Avengers

Why Black Panther Should Be the Next Leader of the Avengers

Greetings all,

I just wanted to share a tangent with you. I hope you’ll forgive me.  I watched Black Panther on opening night. This isn’t a review.  If you want to know what I thought, well, I liked it. I thought it was a pretty solid Marvel movie. I was entertained.  The epiphany, however, is in watching the character develop.

He’s a natural leader. He’s charismatic. He’s compassionate. He’s disciplined. He’s merciful.

How in the world do you not make this guy the next leader of the Avengers?

What I don’t want to turn this into is a debate about race or culture. Look, it’s great that this character brings ethic and cultural diversity. Those are good things.  But it’s what we do in our life that makes us. Our skin and our culture are factors, but they don’t define us. So you won’t hear me talking about how it’s time we had a black this or a woman that. Frankly, I don’t care who you are, what you look like or where you’re from.  All I care about is the simple yes or no answer to the question, “Can you do the job?”

T’Challa checks every box that matters.

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Image taken from Collider. Honestly no real leg to stand on here. I’m just praying the Mouse doesn’t take offense.

Natural leader: During one scene, he’s faced with his advisors. One, a close friend, wants one course of action. What he does is listen to all of his advisors. Bozeman does a fantastic job of making me believe he’s listening and considering the options. He evaluates all the information and makes a decision. This is what leaders must do. Trust their team, but make the call. (CHECK)

Charismatic: Dude, seriously, if Boseman were to run for president on this movie alone, I’d vote for him. He’s so compelling. He’s emotional without being weak. He’s entertaining without being foolish. His ability to make others feel for him is unquestioned. I can’t quantitate this data. You’ll either watch the movie and agree with me, or you won’t.  For me, this is a CHECK.

Compassionate: When faced with the key plot, he doesn’t respond to a threat. This is actually critical information. Most leaders will only asses hazards and identify means to mitigate those hazards.  Those leaders are effective, but they’re rarely great. You see, T’Challa understand that choices like that were what caused his current conflict. He sought understanding. He wanted to find alternative solutions. He wanted to unite rather than just defend. Listen, if he only had this arc, I’d still think he should take over the Avengers. Uncompromising men are exemplary. But understanding leaders change the future.

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Image taken from IndieWire.

Disciplined: He enforces standards without regard to his personal feelings. He upholds the intent of the law without being subject to the letter of it. He proves his subject to his laws when he puts himself in a position of danger. He holds others accountable even when he regrets the need to do so. He does so while being as merciful as he can be at every opportunity. His mercy isn’t a hindrance, it’s an aspect of his leadership.

It’s my opinion that we focus too much on skin color or gender. Now, I’ll confess it’s very easy for a white, middle-aged, man to say that. However, I believe we’ll never push pass these boundaries we’re fighting if the only way we identify one another is with these crude adjectives. I’m not calling for T’Challa to take over because he’s black. I’m saying he should be in charge because he’s the best qualified. We should let go of the other reasons. They ultimately don’t matter.

The business and time spent means Captain America’s time is limited. I’m not saying he should be ousted. But he’s a prime example on how uncompromising men can cause more problems than they fix. That’s not why he’ll eventually be killed off. He’ll eventually be killed off because Chris Evans can’t play Captain America forever. We all know Robert Downey is close to the end of his amazing run as Iron Man. The fact is someone will have to step up to lead in Phase 4 and beyond, and Black Panther made it very clear to me who that leader should be.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Everyone is A Hero in His Own Mind, Even the Villain

Everyone is A Hero in His Own Mind, Even the Villain

Greetings all,

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Image taken from thundercats-ho.wikia.com for study and education under fair use doctrine.

Do you remember 1980s cartoons?  A lot of them are being remade, but I remember a day when villains were just bad guys who did bad things. I’m still a fan of those villains in the right circumstance. Horror movies (most of them) follow that format still.

However, over the last, I’d say, ten years, readers and moviegoers have had a higher standard. They want sympathetic villains. Now, this isn’t exactly a “new” trend. I’d even admit that most great stories had sympathetic villains.  Now, I know I’ve talked about sympathy sliders, but in this case I honestly mean villains I understood and felt a connection to.

I feel this has become the standard. What I’ve tried to do is think about situations where the reader demands a connection to the villain as opposed to those situations where they don’t care so much.

This is honestly just me musing on the subject, and I’d be interested to hear your comments below.

My thesis: The more they see the villain, the more the reader wants to understand him.

Case studies:

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Image taken from villains.wiki.com.

Jon Doe from Se7en. He’s the shadow in the dark. He’s the mysterious monster who we never even see until the last act of the movie. So when we finally come face to face, he’s a monster. That’s because this story is about Somerset and Mills. We get to know them. We care for them. A lot of mysteries follow this format (of course some don’t). The point is, I’ve never once talked to anyone about this movie and heard that person say, “that movie was terrible. I really couldn’t understand John Doe’s motivation.” That’s not to say it doesn’t exist, but we don’t see him a lot, so we really don’t care what his side is. We just want Mills to put that gun down.

As I think, I’d posit that this style is most common in mysteries and thrillers. When the capture of the villain is the main plot thread. Again, there are exceptions, but the point is you can have a huge hit with a villain no one understands, so long as we don’t have to keep interacting with him. Short fiction where the bad guy is one to be chased and captured seems acceptable.

This is less true with larger works. It’s rare in epic fantasy to have a villain who isn’t at least understandable.  But let’s take a look at two huge successes and see what distinguishes them.

The Lord of the Rings:

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Image taken from lot.wikia.com.

Sure, we understand the motivation. Get the ring; rule the world. But it’s not like we find ourselves ever feeling for the great eye do we? Also note, that eye and all his minions have less than ten percent of the story. This does a few things. It amps up the mystery and the threat. In fact, Wheel of Time shows us that the more we see the villain, the less imposing they are. In Eye of the World, Myrddraal are just horrifying. But after a few more books, we’re not so afraid of them anymore. We only THOUGHT they were imposing, but the Forsaken! Sure, in books 2-5. Now what Jordan did with that problem is he made them more sympathetic. So the Myrddrall are just made to be minions. The Forsaken, however, begin to get personal chapters, strife and pain. I love the series, but I can admit this was a bit hit or miss. The point is, the reader learns about them, and there’s opportunity for some degree of understanding.

Here’s where I admit that I’m struggling to think of a case where the villain is known.  They’re out there, but it’s a challenge. The challenge is because while there is opposition to the main character, that opposition isn’t the main threat of the book. The main opposition isn’t seen much. The less we see them, the less we care (and I’d even argue want) to understand them.

I’m currently look at Best Fantasy Books HQ’s list of the best-selling fantasy series of all time, and I’d argue that while there is opposition to the main character, the main threat is still mostly unknown.

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Image taken from harry potter.wikia.com.

Harry Potter: We don’t see that V guy (no way I’m trying to spell that name) in the flesh until the fourth book. Sure we know about him, but we don’t really build a bond do we? Was anyone I’m unaware of sitting there going, “Well, I really think he has an argument for why he should be in power”? Nope. Sure, we could argue some affection for Draco, and did anyone not cry when Snape said, “Always”?  But they weren’t “the main threat.”

Lord of the Rings:  Discussed above.

Chronicles of Narnia: Well, it depends on which book you talk about, but in the ones I can remember, that there “main villain” was pretty much only showing up when it was time for the showdown.

Wheel of Time: Discussed above.

Discworld: I’ve only read one book. I’m sorry folks. It just didn’t grab me.

A Song of Ice and Fire: Anyone on team White Walker? Yes, there are many evil, hateful people in that book, and we know their motivations. We even understand most of them. However, that Night King is THE bad guy, and no one has posted a single meme asking “why don’t we know more about why he’s trying to ruin the world?”

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Luke, I believe, dies a hero. Kronos (the big bad) is there to scare people and get beat in the last book.

Inheritance Cycle: Murtagh is a tragic character, but he’s a victim and a pawn. Galbatorix? We saw him at the end for like, a second.

So, after careful consideration and research, I’ve formed a new thesis, especially when it comes to antagonists and big bads.

Conclusion: Fantasy sagas have two forms of opposition. 1) A sympathetic opposition. A character whom we feel something for as the series progresses. (Examples: Draco, Vader, Murtagh.) 2) a “big bad.” This is a force or evil we don’t see until the end unless it’s to threaten the hero and make him feel very small. (examples: Kronos, The Emperor, Galbatorix. Voldemort, (HEY! I spelled it right!))

I don’t feel this is an absolute. However, I do feel it is the standard. I once did a post about the symbiotic nature of heroes and villains, but those are in series and comics where the main conflict is the bond between those characters.

What are your thoughts?

Thank for reading,

Matt

 

 

 

 

Character Study: Dalinar Kaolin from The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Character Study: Dalinar Kaolin from The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Greetings all,

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This image was taken from Audible.com for review and study purpose in accordance with fair use doctrine.

I’ve missed doing character studies, and since I’m reading Way of Kings in preparation for the release of Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer, I thought I’d study one of those characters. Since I’m waiting for Oathbringer, I thought Dalinar deserved center stage.

 

NOTE: I’m doing this study only on Dalinar in his role in WoK. Please read at your own risk. While I won’t intentionally reveal every plot item I can remember at the moment, I may discuss some things that might take some of the fun out of it for you.

Dalinar is a sympathetic character. He does a lot of things to make people like him. He’s honorable, which is interesting for his arc, and he’s also a loving father and man of pride. Sanderson does a great job showing Dalinar’s efforts. None are more obvious than his interaction with his oldest son Adolin and his dead brother’s widow, Navani. When these characters are together, we see how Dalinar struggles with his conflict. We see how much he wants to be a man of honor and how much strain it puts on his old life.

This is what I want to hone in on for this character study. A character’s interaction with other characters can be 1) a point of conflict and 2) a way to display a character’s personality.

A point of conflict: I think this is the most fascinating aspect of Dalinar’s story in WoK. Dalinar’s desire to follow the code and unite the princedoms is a big shift from the drunken, unconscious man we meet in the beginning of the book. With Adolin we see the conflict Dalinar has to face on his own: Is he crazy, or are his visions really from the Almighty. We also see a strained relationship between a father and the son who idolizes the man his father used to be. Adolin loves his father, but he’s afraid Dalinar is losing (or has lost) his mind. He wants his father to be the mythic warrior, but his father seems to be pulling further away from that old part of his life, and Adolin grows concerned. Even when Adolin finally gets his opinion heard, he then regrets how his father reacts to that information, thus showing us more how much Adolin idolizes Dalinar.

Display a character’s personality: With Navani, we see a different aspect of his struggle. Navani is aggressive in her pursuit of Dalinar, and Dalinar wants her, but at one point in the book he explains that he can’t expect more of his men if he succumbs to his own (arguably inappropriate) desires.

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Fan art by ex-m.

Throw in the visions and the mystery of their origin, and Dalinar shows himself to be an incredibly sympathetic character, who proactively works to resolve his conflicts. Navani is an exception to this. Through most of WoK, Dalinar avoids that conflict. This displays his weakness and how much he wants to give in. He’ll fight dozens of armed opponents. He’ll face his former friend in a unforgiving political arena. He’ll even face his oldest son, and that son’s sadness seeing a respected man possibly going insane. But, if Navani so much as walks in a room, he’s looking for the nearest escort or exit he can find. This shows us it’s harder for him to deny his affection for her than it is to even discuss his sanity or trust an old friend.

Dalinar has what K.M. Weiland’s Creating Character Arcs calls a neutral change arc. Dalinar doesn’t fall into despair (though he’s tempted) and he doesn’t learn a perception altering truth. (For those who’ve read the book, yes, he learned an important secret, but it didn’t change his personality). Dalinar is a pillar. His dedication to the code and honor change those around him (his son and even Kaladin). Neutral arcs are frowned upon these days (in my own egotistical opinion), but I think that’s because they’re so very rarely done correctly.  You see, Dalinar doesn’t change, but his (as Weiland would put it) “belief in his truth” makes him an example for others to follow.

This arc is effective not just because of an interesting opponent (Sadeas), but also (and in my opinion more so) because of Adolin and Navani, who provide the most stress and challenge to his known truth (his faith in the code and adherence to honor). This arc is made sympathetic because they care about Dalinar. If everyone was against Dalinar (as Sadeas is), he’d look like nothing more than some jerk being high and mighty. Sadeas points this out near the 70-percent mark of the book. However, Sanderson gives us two compelling characters who love Dalinar and want to believe in him. Their doubts are what show his strength, and as their faith in him grows, so does the reader’s.

If you haven’t read Way of Kings or Words of Radiance (the first two books of the Starlight Archive), you’re really missing out on some great reading. I like taking a step back and analyzing a character, but I’m reading this book for the third time because it’s just that good.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Case Study: The Try/Fail Plot

Case Study: The Try/Fail Plot

Greetings,

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The stock images are from Pixabay because I fear using too many images from The 100. The two 100 images were taken via Google search for study and review.  (Please don’t sue me.)

It’s been a while since I’ve done a case study, and since I enjoy talking about them so much, I figured it’s been long enough.

What I’d like to do is talk about a plot type and then see it in action. This plot can be used as a side-plot or a main plot depending on what type of story you want. Because I subscribe to Brandon Sanderson’s WriteaboutDragons.  He calls it the Try/Fail plot. The idea is that when a character reaches a challenge a two-pronged series of options happens.

He fails AND the problem gets worse, or he succeeded BUT something else goes wrong.  Sanderson also calls this the “No-and, Yes-but” system.

So let’s see this in action:
I’m a huge fan of The 100. My mom turned me on to the show, and I think it’s fantastic. One thing it does better than any other show I can think of is use that plot to keep the conflict going and the tension high. The whole show is a giant “no-and, yes-but” plot, and each challenge follows the same formula. I’ll go over a short example in a part of an episode, just to avoid spoilers and any lawyers looking to take the $5 I have to my name.

The episode title is Many Happy Returns. It’s Episode 4 of Season 3: Here’s the scene. A group of teenagers are searching for one of their friends. During their search, they discover someone trapped, hanging off a cliff by a thin branch. They’re already looking for someone they lost, but they can’t leave this person to die.

One teen grabs a rope and begins to go down to help the trapped teen.  Does it work?

No! The rope breaks AND the kid who went down to save said trapped person FALLS TO HIS DEATH!

So what do they do next? Trapped person is still stuck on a branch.

They scour the area (some wreckage) for things to cobble together to get some stuff they can use as a rope. (You see they lost their rope on the first attempt.)  Down goes one of the MAIN characters.  Does it work?

Well, YES…he gets to her….BUT….

The-100-2x04-many-happy-returnsTheir hodgepodge rope breaks. One of the characters has to hold the pieces in each hand becoming a human link in the rope.  Does he hold on?

(Well, lets pause for a second.  That character holding the rope? He tried to kill the main character currently hanging by that hodgepodge rope. So it’s not hard to believe the guy would just let go. So here’s added tension.  Let’s get back to this plot though.)

Does he hold on?

Yes…BUT….a group of “grounders” (savages) starts attacking!

Do they hold on? Yes, BUT one member of their team takes an arrow in the leg.

Do they hold on? Yes, BUT while they’re being attacked by grounders a horn sounds, which symbolizes that a vaporous acid is about to blow through the area. They have moments before they’re melted.

They pull their friend up. The main character realizes the kid who tried to kill him a few episodes back was the very one who was instrumental to saving his life.

help-2444110__340What about that death mist? Turns out, that was the main character’s sister distracting the enemy.

Sanderson says in his video that he usually likes three failures before the characters reach the goal.  If you look above, you’ll notice this mini-plot works in that regard too.

The try/fail plot is a great way to build tension. The trick is to look for ways to make complicated situations even more complicated. I hope this example helps you see how this plot works and is successful. I highly recommend The 100 because it’s good fun, and it’s great for studying plot structures.   I’m a bigger fan of it now than I’ve ever been, though I like it for intense scenes like the one above. When there’s a struggle of some sort or conflict or important goal, I tend to ask myself, “Now how can I make this even more difficult.”

NOTE: Beware rage quit!  The readers tend to want resolution. And if you keep delaying the issue without some sort of reward for the reader, you’re going to abandon them.  If I had to offer you a number as advice, I’d say, don’t exceed five complications for a minor plot, especially if this is a sub plot. Readers tend to be more forgiving if you have a no-and followed by a yes-but.  So yes, they get the guy off the rope, but now their party is smaller, and they’ve been delayed in finding the friend they originally went out to save.  So the plot moves forward, and the subplot provide an added degree of complication.  Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 

 

Book Review: Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland

Book Review: Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland
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This cover image was taken from Amazon for review purposes under fair use doctrine.

I’ve recently started eating more greens thanks to my friend the Quintessential Editor. (I’m pretty sure he recommended this book.) This book was something I read to help me with outlining more.

Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story Structure, Plot, and Character Development, does a few things that I’m a big fan of.

The first thing I’m a fan of is the case studies. Each arc description is summarized and supported with examples to help illustrate how such a plot plays out in different movies. I should explain that this book is a bit different from what I’d call plotting.

In plotting, you’re marking the key plot points and events in a story. This is so readers see progression in the overall narrative. I’d wanted to improve my development of characters as they progress through the plot points. This novel did that. Weiland breaks down three types of arcs: The positive change arc, the neutral change arc, and the negative change arc. She breaks negative change into three more I can’t recall off the top of my head. The case studies and benchmarks she provides are things I plan to pull out while outlining my next main project and editing whatever I’m working on. I think understanding these types of character arcs is a must for writers. How you feel about them and how you apply those thoughts is as unique as the storyteller in my opinion, but understanding them matters.

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This image and the feature image were pulled from K.M. Weiland’s website for review purposes. As I’m trying to recommend her book, I’m hoping she’ll forgive the use of these images.

Another thing I’d like to highlight is the idea of “The Lie Your Character Believes.”  That resonated with me. I won’t go into it here because 1) I fear copyright and 2) I think authors, especially those who feel they struggle with outlining, should give this book a read. I actually listened to the audio edition, and that was super helpful for a guy like me.

I’m less inclined to be entirely beholden to some of the more rigid benchmarks. Weiland gives specific percentage marks for each point of the story. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I completely disagree, I just don’t know that I’d be that militant about where certain shifts in the story happen. What I will say is those benchmarks are great guides, but stories need a bit of leeway.

What I intend to do with this book and information is weave some of the elements of this book’s character plot points with my plotting.  This should keep the sense of progression my stories have (which I feel are solid) and give me a way to plan the emotional journey of my characters a little more carefully.

Creating Character Arcs is a great outlining tool that provides informative case studies for each type of arc. Authors or aspiring authors should pic this up and add it to their toolbox of story building tools. I’m a fan of “how-to” books that are this simple to understand and through in presentation. I can’t say enough about those case studies!

Thanks for reading,

Matt