Author Topic: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.  (Read 9615 times)  

Offline Usedtoposthere

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Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
« Reply #25 on: December 04, 2020, 02:41:16 pm »
Try writing romance without character arcs. That is pretty much the entire point of the genre. So yes, character arcs are hugely important in that genre, as well as in chick lit and womens fiction.

Not that people change in fundamental ways. I would argue that people seldom change. Rather, they grow.

I agree that action adventure and thrillers may have less of a character arc, though even in the plot-heavy technothrillers of Tom Clancy, Jack Ryan definitely grew and changed. And even Jack Reacher is interesting as a person. One reason Child writes him at younger ages is to show how his character developed. I cannot speak to sci fi or modern fantasy in general as I do not read much of it.

I guess it depends how much you are interested in people. I do not say that negatively. Just that some people are more interested than others in how people work and why they do the things they do. I like books with well developed characters, personally, and people do change as a result of their experiences.

Edited for typos caused by working on my phone.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2020, 02:56:18 pm by Usedtoposthere »

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    Offline ShawnaReads

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #26 on: December 04, 2020, 02:53:52 pm »
    Sure there are exceptions--LOTR comes to mind--but genre fiction is not primarily about character arcs.

    What an absolutely ludicrous overstatement.

    Offline Crystal_

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #27 on: December 04, 2020, 03:21:52 pm »
    Try writing romance without character arcs. That is pretty much the entire point of the genre. So yes, character arcs are hugely important in that genre, as well as in chick lit and womens fiction.

    Not that people change in fundamental ways. I would argue that people seldom change. Rather, they grow.

    Yeah, I was going to say. Romance is all about the character and relationship arcs.

    Offline nightwork

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #28 on: December 04, 2020, 05:16:35 pm »
    To put it in craft terms, you like stories with flat or static character arcs. Basically, the hero starts off as the hero, and they are the same person at the end. Any change or growth that occurs is relatively minimal. You can find those arcs in every genre, but they tend to be most common in action/adventure, the established superhero, and mystery stories.

    The "fundamentally changed as a person" arc is the transformational arc, basically The Grinch who's heart literally grows on the screen. In a more subtle form, it's often seen in genres that favor some version of the hero's journey, like fantasy or sci-fi.


    who was that editor who used to scream, "adults don't change!" and then in tiny print there was this scribble added, "or at least not very much"

    obvious character arcs feel preachy, & many of us don't like preachy

    Offline nightwork

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #29 on: December 04, 2020, 05:20:35 pm »
    Yeah, I was going to say. Romance is all about the character and relationship arcs.

    which could be one of the reasons there's such a deep divide between romance & non-romance readers

    there's literally every kind of genre in romance, including thrillers & sci-fi, because there is a deep philosophical divide between those who can believe a person will change over the course of a novel & a HEA is always w/in the realm of possibility -- and those who simply can't suspend disbelief that much

    thus romance readers need their own thrillers, psychological kidnappings, alien abduction stories, you name it, no matter how non-romancey it sounds on the surface, it can become romance by the addition of the ability to believe the beloved can change, grow, learn to love you

    even if he's green



    « Last Edit: December 04, 2020, 05:22:15 pm by nightwork »

    Offline nightwork

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #30 on: December 04, 2020, 05:28:08 pm »
    I would argue we're grafting arcs onto characters as an academic exercise, as writers are wont to do, but I don't think there's any 'there' there. I think we're prone to inventing arcs in our minds when we consume stories - sort of like your brain filling in gaps in your eyesight or hearing, or experiencing the phantom pain from a missing appendage. You could probably do this for the most plot-focused story out there if you wanted to...

    And, so, I think we tend towards mistaking 'external things happening' for character growth/devolution. That's the thing I'm getting at with the above examples; 'doing stuff' is not a character arc. Having stuff or other people fundamentally change around you is not a character arc either.

    oh, i understood you to mean this the first time you said it

    which i suppose means i already held the same opinion you do

    i actually don't object to character arcs, i just don't think they're very likely to happen over the course of one adventure in the life of an adult, & many movies are unwatchable to me because they want to give me a just-so story about a character changing when i'm a grown-up & i know the person doesn't change in that situation

    Offline ShawnaReads

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #31 on: December 04, 2020, 06:26:51 pm »
    You might not change dramatically as an adult (though some people actually do), but if you never learn anything and never grow any way, you're just stagnating. Is that really the kind of life you want to live? Do you really want to be the same at 80 as you were at 20, never having learned or grown in any way?

    Offline ShayneRutherford

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #32 on: December 04, 2020, 06:51:07 pm »
    Thinking about a character like Furiosa, I'm starting to wonder if there's always a clear difference between a character arc and a plot arc. I mean, her situation fundamentally changes from beginning to end, and becoming leader must cause/necessitate internal change. But do we really see any psychological change on display? I could be forgetting stuff, but I'm thinking not: she's tough as nails at the beginning and also at the end. But maybe character arcs don't have entail psychological change; maybe when a character achieves a goal or endures/overcomes adversity, that's a type of character arc?

    I would say that Furiosa had a character arc. It's a bit tougher to see, because in the beginning of the story we know nothing about it, so it's harder to see where she's coming from. But later on when she's talking to Max, she basically says that she wants to get home to the Green Place. She's tried before, but now that she drives the war rig, this is the best chance she'll ever get. So when she leaves she's just trying to get away, but when she comes back she's made the choice to stand up and fight for a better life, and she's become a hero to all those people she helped to liberate.
             

    Offline nightwork

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #33 on: December 04, 2020, 07:02:01 pm »
    You might not change dramatically as an adult (though some people actually do), but if you never learn anything and never grow any way, you're just stagnating. Is that really the kind of life you want to live? Do you really want to be the same at 80 as you were at 20, never having learned or grown in any way?

    exactly

    when i'm reading fiction, i don't want to be preached at

    character arcs PREACH


    Offline Usedtoposthere

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #34 on: December 04, 2020, 07:34:36 pm »
    which could be one of the reasons there's such a deep divide between romance & non-romance readers

    there's literally every kind of genre in romance, including thrillers & sci-fi, because there is a deep philosophical divide between those who can believe a person will change over the course of a novel & a HEA is always w/in the realm of possibility -- and those who simply can't suspend disbelief that much

    thus romance readers need their own thrillers, psychological kidnappings, alien abduction stories, you name it, no matter how non-romancey it sounds on the surface, it can become romance by the addition of the ability to believe the beloved can change, grow, learn to love you

    even if he's green
    What deep divide between romance and non romance readers? Seriously, is there evidence of this? I have never heard this. I write romance and have always read many things. Most of my readers read many things also, I believe. Personally, I mostly read nonfiction and thrillers.

    Offline Crystal_

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #35 on: December 04, 2020, 07:37:42 pm »
    Honestly, I don't really get genre romance. I know I'm a six figure romance author, but I don't get what 90% of readers want. I don't think it's a character arc vs not character arc thing. I think there's a whole lot of other stuff going on in genre romance.

    Offline nightwork

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #36 on: December 04, 2020, 08:54:29 pm »
    What deep divide between romance and non romance readers? Seriously, is there evidence of this? I have never heard this. I write romance and have always read many things. Most of my readers read many things also, I believe. Personally, I mostly read nonfiction and thrillers.

    you're not everybody, you're one body

    what you do is cool, & i have all the respect but my readers aren't like that

     i'll freely admit even tho most of my income is romance, i didn't read romance for many a year if it wasn't a fanfic  & i actually can't read romance unless it's w/in a very tiny specific niche

    my personal experience is that a lot of people either read romance or read not-romance, not both

    if i'm wrong, i'm wrong, but honestly? for most of  my readers, i'm not wrong

    i'll say this--

    my thriller/suspense readers are like you & are much more open but my cupcake readers (AKA nothing [expletive]ing happens) readers are still my bread & butter

    my experience is "character arc" is lazy writing

    but my experience isn't all experience

    there are literally millions of readers

    Offline nightwork

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #37 on: December 04, 2020, 08:55:07 pm »
    Honestly, I don't really get genre romance. I know I'm a six figure romance author, but I don't get what 90% of readers want. I don't think it's a character arc vs not character arc thing. I think there's a whole lot of other stuff going on in genre romance.

    this

    Offline ShayneRutherford

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #38 on: December 04, 2020, 09:46:43 pm »

    my experience is "character arc" is lazy writing


    How do you mean?
             

    Offline Usedtoposthere

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #39 on: December 04, 2020, 10:27:03 pm »
    Ah. I thought perhaps there was research that somehow romance readers read only romance and was curious. Sounds like that is not the case but rather this is just a prejudice or perception.

    Also, what is genre romance vs ... some other kind of romance? Seriously confused by all this.

    I guess everybody can write, read, and enjoy what they please. But why the heck do so many craft discussions end up with people dissing romance? Including people who write it? I think I will start a conversation about how terrible sci fi is sometime. It would be a change, at least! 
    « Last Edit: December 04, 2020, 11:16:03 pm by Usedtoposthere »

    Offline J. Tanner

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #40 on: December 04, 2020, 11:10:48 pm »
    I would say that Furiosa had a character arc. It's a bit tougher to see, because in the beginning of the story we know nothing about it, so it's harder to see where she's coming from. But later on when she's talking to Max, she basically says that she wants to get home to the Green Place. She's tried before, but now that she drives the war rig, this is the best chance she'll ever get. So when she leaves she's just trying to get away, but when she comes back she's made the choice to stand up and fight for a better life, and she's become a hero to all those people she helped to liberate.

    Yup. At the start she's working for The Man. Then she just wants to run from The Man. By the climax she's determined to fight The Man. And at the end, she's decided to free/lead/help the people she had no problem leaving behind in slavery at the start. While still being a bad*ss from start to finish, she's changed.
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    Offline ShaneCarrow

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #41 on: December 05, 2020, 01:33:34 am »
    Furiosa, like Max, also learns to trust people. Obviously she trusts people who are already in her in-group, but she learns to trust others like Max and Nux.

    Also it's very popular to say that Fury Road is "really" Furiosa's story (I think this is because there's a burning desire for female protagonists) but I think that's true of all the films after the first one.* Max is really a frame story, an Eastwood-esque Man With No Name who shows up out of the desert, helps people solve their problems, and vanishes again. There's a fan theory that he's an idea or a legend rather than the same character in each film, which explains why the V8 Interceptor is destroyed in Road Warrior, exists in Fury Road again, then gets destroyed again. And also why he's portrayed by a different actor; similar to the theory that James Bond is a code name and the different actors are genuinely different men.

    *The first movie is a really odd duck in a lot of ways, shot on a shoestring budget by indie directors on the outskirts of Melbourne - it's so different from the others but still really fun and great and I really recommend it if you've never seen it.

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    Offline Brian D. Anderson

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #42 on: December 05, 2020, 07:35:42 am »
    Character development is a difficult yet important skill to master. Even with plot driven stories. If you don't want to be pilloried with reviews complaining about shallow characters I suggest you make an effort to overcome your aversion to it. Most of what you cited were movies. Creating fully realized characters within a two hour movie is a tall order. By necessity they're plot driven. Particularly in modern films where special effects and CGI are heavily implemented. I would also point out that Indiana Jones is a character we know quite well. We know his background, his fears, his passions, etc. It took several films to get there, naturally. But it's a character we understand and love. It's why Indiana Jones is a cultural icon and the rest you named are just fun movies.
    You don't have to sacrifice plot in favor of character development. You just have to learn how to build your characters in ways that enhance the story. 

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    Offline ShawnaReads

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #43 on: December 05, 2020, 08:27:43 am »
    character arcs PREACH

    They really don't, though. Preachy books can be preachy in many ways, and yes, using character arcs can be one of them. But that's a totally separate issue. I don't think you actually understand what character arcs are.

    Offline J. Tanner

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #44 on: December 05, 2020, 09:33:48 am »
    And even Jack Reacher is interesting as a person. One reason Child writes him at younger ages is to show how his character developed.

    I recently read No Middle Name, and he seems completely the same as a teenager as he does at 50. Bizarrely so. Like, even his parents call him "Reacher".  :)

    I've only noticed two changes in Reacher and neither is internal. First, he was the guy who never got his nose broken in a fight for a lot of books, then he got his nose broken and after that he's the guy with the broken nose. The second thing is he wore a watch for a number of books but that was too much luggage for Reacher, so he just keeps perfect time in his head later in the series.

    I think it would be impossible to put most of the Reacher books in order just by reading them outside of the flashback books that take place before Killing Floor. Even those would just be by occupation, not by anything different in Reacher's behavior.
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    Offline jdcore

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #45 on: December 05, 2020, 09:56:06 am »
    One of the greatest TV series of all time, Breaking Bad, was all about a slow series of contradictory character arcs. Jesse gets redemption while Walter slides slowly into amorality. The son becomes more and more disillusioned. The wife becomes more and more corrupted as she is both selfless and selfish in different measure. You could watch it like a guy and not care about the arcs because the other aspects of the story were so good, but it's those arcs that made it.

    Offline Bite the Dusty

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #46 on: December 05, 2020, 12:33:21 pm »
    This is an interesting thread. The replies are all over the place.

    Character arcs are always there in some form or another. Although our personalities and hard-to-break habits remain, we are always learning about ourselves, others, and the world around us, even if it's just as subtle as momentary questioning. What "development" people notice is connected to what resonates with them. There's a lot I've come across, movies, tv, books... I don't get it, but it resonates with others, it connects to their thoughts and experiences.

    What I don't prefer is contrivances. If the characters are changing just to manufacture drama and there's no consistency or sense to their behavior, that's what I would call a bad arc, or better yet, it's just not for me.

    Offline Usedtoposthere

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #47 on: December 05, 2020, 12:35:01 pm »
    This is an interesting thread. The replies are all over the place.

    Character arcs are always there in some form or another. Although our personalities and hard-to-break habits remain, we are always learning about ourselves, others, and the world around us, even if it's just as subtle as momentary questioning. What "development" people notice is connected to what resonates for them. There's a lot I've come across, movies, tv, books... I don't get it, but it resonates with others, it connects to their thoughts and experiences.

    What I don't prefer is contrivances. If the characters are changing just to manufacture drama and there's no consistency or sense to their behavior, that's what I would call a bad arc, or better yet, it's just not for me.
    Well stated. Writing realistically developing characters (as a result of changes in their lives acting upon the people they already were) is, well, ... an art.

    Offline Usedtoposthere

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #48 on: December 05, 2020, 12:52:53 pm »
    Whatever genre you write, you (probably unconsciously) write people at inflection points in their lives. It would be pretty dull, after all, to write about people living their everyday life, and then ... The End. (I have read one book a bit like this, the first in a very popular sort of "cozy women's fiction" series, that to me was like watching paint dry but clearly wasn't for others, so I guess there's an audience for well-written books of every stamp!) Inflection points do tend to make an impact on us. I could tell you with some certainty how I was changed by four or five very traumatic episodes in my life, things that sometimes took mere seconds to occur. And how I was changed in a much more positive way by some relationships, romantic or otherwise.

    Those are the kinds of changes I write in romance. Not huge things where somebody is a different person. Ways in which, often over the course of months, your relationships, romantic and otherwise, open you up to a fuller expression of yourself. A better version of the "you" you always had the potential to be. It isn't that the other person changed you. It is that your experiences changed you, including the traumatic ones. Perhaps losing somebody you loved made you more aware of how precious life is. Perhaps taking responsibility for a child made you realize your capacity for love. Perhaps moving to a new country with a different outlook on life shifted your outlook as well.

    Lots of things happen in our lives. Writing the more hopeful outcomes of those inflection points is one of the joys of mine. But to do that, you have to know your characters, and as Bite The Dusty says above, the changes have to act on them in an organic way.

    The same thing is true in thrillers, Westerns, fantasy, mystery ... many genres. You're hopefully always writing those inflection points, and the characters are reacting to them in realistic ways, and hence sucking the reader in. I just finished a technothriller by an extremely popular author, the first I'd read. Although that is one of my favorite genres, the characters might as well have been cardboard cutouts. The plot was interesting, but being unable to care about the characters made the book less engaging for me. I suspect the author's characterizations got better over time, or he wouldn't be so popular. I may give it another try. We'll see.

    Offline Becca Mills

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    Re: I'm realizing I do not like character arcs.
    « Reply #49 on: December 05, 2020, 01:52:14 pm »
    I would say that Furiosa had a character arc. It's a bit tougher to see, because in the beginning of the story we know nothing about it, so it's harder to see where she's coming from. But later on when she's talking to Max, she basically says that she wants to get home to the Green Place. She's tried before, but now that she drives the war rig, this is the best chance she'll ever get. So when she leaves she's just trying to get away, but when she comes back she's made the choice to stand up and fight for a better life, and she's become a hero to all those people she helped to liberate.

    Yup. At the start she's working for The Man. Then she just wants to run from The Man. By the climax she's determined to fight The Man. And at the end, she's decided to free/lead/help the people she had no problem leaving behind in slavery at the start. While still being a bad*ss from start to finish, she's changed.

    Ah, great points. I'd forgotten this aspect of the story. So it's actually a fairly typical post-apocalyptic character arc from loan-wolfism toward community protector. Though she's already rescuing the "wives" at the beginning, which tempers the initial loan-wolfism. That's good -- makes her not just a type.

    Whatever genre you write, you (probably unconsciously) write people at inflection points in their lives.

    This is a great way to think about it, IMO.

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