Friday, November 4, 2022

Writing an Un-Put-Downable Character (Part 10 of 10): Growth

by A.C. Williams @ACW_Author

November 2022. Can you believe we’re already here? I feel like it was just yesterday that I was sitting down to write the first installment of this 10-part series on character development, and I was stressing over how silly the idea of PC CHILIDOG actually was. Little did I know how much you guys would all love it! 

I’m thrilled to death that you’ve found this series so helpful, and I’m looking forward to writing more about character arcs and worldbuilding in the months to come. But for today, we’re going to finish up this series with the final letter in our acronym. 

We’ve tackled every area in how you can represent a character’s development, whether you’re talking internal or external. And all of it leads to this final idea: 


Characters must grow. They must change. Even if it’s just in a tiny way, even if it’s only in an external way, there must be a marked difference between how they end and how they start. If your character has gone on a journey where nothing has happened that is enough to change his or her thoughts or feelings or beliefs, then what is the point of your story?

This concept of growth naturally leads into the idea of Character Arcs, which we don’t have enough time to really detail today. But there are three types of character arcs: 
  • Flat Arcs
  • Growth Arcs
  • Tragic Arcs

Sometimes they’re called Positive Change or Negative Change or Static, but they all represent a variation of how a character grows or changes throughout the course of a story. 

A Flat Arc is sometimes called a Static Arc. This is the example of a character who doesn’t really change on the inside, but they will still change on the outside. They spend the story defending something they believe. They don’t necessarily learn anything, but they do still achieve something that makes them see the world a little bit differently. 

One of the best examples of a character with a flat arc is Indiana Jones. Who doesn’t love Indiana Jones, right? But for the most part, he doesn’t really change from movie to movie. He remains the same sort of character as he always is: The roguish adventurer. He has strong morals and believes in protecting history, and he does what he can to live out his ideals. And while his relationships may change a little, he remains the same person from story to story. 

A Growth Arc or a Positive Change Arc is where your character changes significantly in a positive way throughout the course of the story. He or she experiences the consequences of their choices and makes a change in how they live. At the beginning of the story, they can be cruel or mean, and by the end of the story they’ve learned how to be kind and compassionate. 

Examples of this are stories like A Christmas Carol, where Scrooge undergoes a wild change in his perspective on life. Another one that I really love is Tony Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. He starts out a self-focused rich kid who doesn’t care about consequences because he’s never had to face them; he ends as a triumphant hero who is willing to sacrifice his own happiness for the fate of people he will never meet. Even though their personalities are the same (Tony Stark never stopped making snarky comments), the way they view the world and the way they treat others changes on a soul-deep level.

Then finally, we have the Tragic Arc or the Negative Change Arc, and you can guess what this means. It’s where a character devolves. It’s where a character has an opportunity to do the right thing and instead chooses to do the wrong thing. 

And, of course, the most famous of all Tragic Arcs is the story of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. And what’s so delightful about his story is that he actually gets BOTH a tragic arc and a growth arc; it’s just stretched out over six movies! Anakin begins as a scared little boy, and halfway through his story, he’s a heroic sort of figure, even though he is still plagued by fear. By the end, however, he’s been set up perfectly to fall to the Dark Side of the Force, which is exactly what he does. He becomes one of the greatest villains in cinematic history as a result. (Until his beautiful redemption story in Episode 6! Don’t you love redemption stories?)

In each one of these examples, the character grew and changed. Their personalities remained the same, but how they viewed the world and how they responded to challenges altered as the story progressed. 

That’s what you need to do with your character. Decide up front how your character will change. Make sure you know where you’re character is headed. It doesn’t have to be a detailed outline, but you do need to know. 

Characters must change. Because people change. And, regardless of genre, the most powerful stories you can tell are human ones. 


Don't Miss the Other Posts in This Series

Award-winning author, A.C. Williams is a coffee-drinking, sushi-eating, story-telling nerd who loves cats, country living, and all things Japanese. She’d rather be barefoot, and if she isn’t, her socks won’t match. She has authored eight novels, two novellas, three devotional books, and more flash fiction than you can shake a stick at. A senior partner at the award-winning Uncommon Universes Press, she is passionate about stories and the authors who write them. Learn more about her book coaching and follow her adventures online at

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