Friday, November 18, 2011

Tis a Writer's life for me!

In every good book and movie the main characters go through some kind of change. They grow, they learn, they move from a bad place, position, or attitude in their lives to a better place. They transform into a better person. If a character doesn't progess or change in the story, I guarantee you the story will be flat. 

So how do you make a character change? You push him or to their very limits. You put them in terrifying, even deadly situations! And then see how they behave. This is the fun part!!!  At first you character will probably not do so well. They will fall back into their old familiar ways, but if you keep pressing them and if you give them something worthy of changing for, by the end of the book, he or she will be a new person!

To accomplish this, I use a spiritual/character arc for my main character. Basically, I draw a huge arc on my chalk board that looks like an upside down bowl.  At the beginning, I list my characters qualities. Here's the list I made for Luke Heaton, the hero in my last book

  • Angry
  • Volatile
  • Selfish
  • Arrogant
  • Immoral
  • Alcoholic
  • Doesn't think God cares
  • Feels like a Failure.

Man, Luke is quite a mess!!
Then on the right side of my arc, I list where I want my hero to end up.

  • Quit drinking
  • No longer immoral
  • Willing to sacrifice himself for others
  • Believes in a loving, active God
  • No longer angry
  • In control of emotions
  • Humble

Trying to change this guy, now, that's a tall order? 
But here comes the hard part. I need to list different events and people from the beginning of the arc all the way to the end that will help move Luke slowly from point A to point B.

This is where both characters and plot come into play. I list all my characters, both main and secondary and decide if there's something they could say or do that would influence Luke in the right directiong. I write all those things down. Things like:

Cassandra makes him want to be a better man so he can win her love
Reverend Drummond talks to him about God's destiny
Biron Abbot discusses spiritual matters to him and provides a good example of a Godly man
Noah Brenin, Lukes Best friend is a role model for who Luke wants to become like.
Joseph Keene is an example of who Luke doesn't want to become like in the future

Now, I consider what events can occur to change Luke

Falling in love with Cassandra
When his enemy Tripp ruins Luke's life, he sees how his gambling and arrogance caused this man's hatred
When Luke's brother is in danger, he recognizes he is responsible,.
When Cassandra is destitute Luke gives up his own money--something he's never done before
When Luke reaches the bottom and is thrown in prison and everyone he loves is in danger, he finally humbles himself to the point of looking up to God.
When the angel delivers him, Luke realizes God has been with him the entire time

There are more, of course.. but once you have a good list you can start lining them up on the arc. Remember to make them believable and be sure to incorporate all your different secondary characters, making use of their unique roles we discussed last week.

And lastly, if you're writing a romance, you need to create another arc for the heroine as well, using the same principals as above.  The heroine's arc can be completely different from the heroes. In fact, it's preferable that she have a different set of lessons to learn than the hero and even more perferable if some of those lessons conflicted with the heroes. The more conflict the better!.

This is the last lesson I'm doing on writing. Next week, I'm starting a general posting on Friday about anything that comes to mind. Just a way for us to interact at the end of the week. 


  1. Dear Marylu. I've always been a lover of literature, and have been toying with the idea of trying my hand at writing a novel, only I had no idea where to begin. Thanks to your lessons in writing, I think I'll start with some character arcs, and decide where I want to go from there. Thanks for the advice!

    On a different note, I have been intrigued by Luke since Surrender the Heart, so while I can't find Surrender the Dawn in South Africa just yet, I can't wait to finally read his story. PS - I have always adored Karl Urban, so, nice! ;)

  2. Fri Nov 18th,
    "Morning, MaryLu."
    Reading/thinking about "all" the -- detail, interest, conflicts, resolutions, characteristic arcs, along with the message(s) you want to put across .... this is hard, but fascinating work !!! Good thing you make -- charts, lists, and write things down ... because 'remembering' it all in your head ... that must be a challenge. No wonder your novels are so interesting, intriguing, real, and 'relatable' !!!
    You are definitely using your God-given talent .... and we are all so very thankful for it, truly !
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  3. You are a wealth of wisdom, m'dear! Thanks for sharing such great hands-on information.

  4. Glad my posts have helped you, Nastassja! There are a ton of great books out there on the craft of writing. I encourage you to read as many as you can. That's what I did when I was just starting out. And I'm sorry they don't have Surrender the Dawn over there yet. When do my books usually start showing up? Luke was definitely my favorite hero of the three in the series.

    Brenda, you are always a bright light here on my blog! Thanks for dropping by to make my day. I hope all is well with you. :-)

    Michelle, dearie... my crazy author friend... wealth and wisdom have never been on my list of qualities... but thank you. :-)

  5. You know my feelings about Karl Urban, yummy! I soooo picture him when I read about Luke! Thanks for posting his pic again. LOL

    It still amazes me when I read about all it takes to put together a novel!

  6. I love these lessons. They really helped me with my own personal writing. Plus, it gives us a small look on what a writer's life is like, and how they think when they work.

  7. Thank you soooo much for these lessons, MaryLu!!!! They have truly helped me a lot. Luke is one of my favorites of your characters. Thanks again for these great lessons!

  8. Thanks, Ladies! I had no idea I these posts were helping so many people! I thought maybe most readers of my blog would be bored. LOL. Glad to be of help.. I may post other lessons from time to time.. Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

  9. i love reading about a character's transformation! good picture also, karl urban fits the profile you listed nicely :) i so enjoy experiencing a character that goes from being completely unlikable and then totally turning around, one of my fave things to read about in a good story (ex: Edmund in Narnia)
    sigh, thanks Mary, and keep it up :)

  10. Thank you, Kara!! Ah yes, Edmund in Narnia.. I couldn't stand him in the first movie... but he really became honorable by the last one. Which I loved the best!