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Corvid said:
Is this good/bad? Who could say?

But, just thinking about this today as I work on my latest, my favorite movies, or stories I gravitate towards, all feature fairly arc-less protagonists.

Back to the Future, Mad Max: Fury Road, No Country for Old Men, The Big Lebowski, Raiders of the Lost Ark, 3:10 to Yuma, Aliens

I also enjoy Jack Reacher novels, and westerns where the laconic hero 'does stuff', and then it ends.

Not sure what any of this says about me as a writer, but I do think it goes to show you don't necessarily have to adhere to the popular notion of imbuing POV's with arcs in order to craft something readers/audiences will find satisfying.
Sounds like you prefer plot-driven to character-driven works? I think it's a spectrum, with most works being somewhere in the middle, so there's both a plot arc and one or more character arcs, but some works are strongly to one end or the other. That's my general impression, at any rate.
 

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Corvid said:
Back to the Future, Mad Max: Fury Road, No Country for Old Men, The Big Lebowski, Raiders of the Lost Ark, 3:10 to Yuma, Aliens
I feel like this is also a list of movies that bucked popular trends. Back to the future took the summer adventure movie, added classic sci-fi elements, and took on something of an odd relationship of an older scientist and his high school age friend. Fury Road gave us a stylized post-apoc world with 80s cocaine-hollywood levels of weirdness and even subverted the series protagonist from Max to Furyosa. No Country was a modern western, which, when has that happened, before or since? Aliens took star trek like sci-fi, turned the lights down low, and let HR Geiger do whatever he wanted. And The Big Lebowski goes out of it's way to be the structurally weirdest movie ever. Lazy protagonist who gets in an ever escalating problem and it's narrated by a cowboy? Sure! But just because it somehow works.

So, maybe character arcs are less important to you than seeing something of quality that fresh, or even just a unique vision.
 

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I don't know if I agree those films are without character arcs. They may not have strong arcs but in most of them at least one character has an arc.

In Back to the Future, Marty's dad has a strong arc (though in an untraditional way) and Marty also has a shift in his perspective.
 

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I'm not a big fan of change, so plot-based suits me just fine. As for writing, I like to take the same characters and put them into different situations to see how they'll react.

It also makes it easier to continue a 10-12 book series five years later.


 

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Crystal_ said:
I don't know if I agree those films are without character arcs. They may not have strong arcs but in most of them at least one character has an arc.

In Back to the Future, Marty's dad has a strong arc (though in an untraditional way) and Marty also has a shift in his perspective.
Hmm, yes, I think you're right.
 

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I'm definitely a more plot-driven kind of person.  I too don't really care much for character arcs, character "growth," etc.

I watch a lot of TV, and I'm definitely in the minority when I comment that I don't like all the "personal stuff," or "relationship stuff" in some shows.  (Especially cop or other action shows.)  My statement usually is:  "It's a show about government agents, so I want to see those agents at work.  I don't care who they're dating or who's in financial trouble.  If I want a soap opera, I'll watch a soap-y show."

 

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Not to reinforce stereotypes or anything, but I think it's pretty well understood that women tend to be drawn more to characters/relationships and men are more likely to be drawn to plot/action-heavy stories. In extremely general terms, of course, with plenty of exceptions. But I think this is why a lot of men say they don't read female authors. They claim that women don't write as well or don't write interesting stories, but what they really mean is that they (the readers) find character/relationship stuff boring and they want to read about action.
 

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I remember reading a book on Facebook ads for authors, and they said it paid to split your target audience into male/female and write different ad copy for each. One ought to concentrate on the characters, the other on the plot.

I guess his point was that even if only 70-80% of each grouping are more inclined towards a certain type of copy, you'll still get a better result than if you write something which tries to appeal to everyone. He backed it up with figures, too.

The downside is that this method ignores people who fit into one category but prefer the other type of blurb, and indeed people who fit neither or both categories.
 

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ShawnaReads said:
Not to reinforce stereotypes or anything, but I think it's pretty well understood that women tend to be drawn more to characters/relationships and men are more likely to be drawn to plot/action-heavy stories. In extremely general terms, of course, with plenty of exceptions. But I think this is why a lot of men say they don't read female authors. They claim that women don't write as well or don't write interesting stories, but what they really mean is that they (the readers) find character/relationship stuff boring and they want to read about action.
This might definitely be true, but I'm the exact opposite as a reader. I'm a guy and I 95% of the time prefer character stories. I'd bet that you are right though, and I'm just a little strange maybe :D
 

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Corvid said:
Back to the Future, Mad Max: Fury Road, No Country for Old Men, The Big Lebowski, Raiders of the Lost Ark, 3:10 to Yuma, Aliens
In BTTF I think Marty comes to realise people truly do have agency over their lives and can change how things go, time travel or not - i.e. if his parents had made different decisions they wouldn't have ended up poor. In the trilogy as a whole he learns not to care about peer pressure etc and be a more responsible adult, i.e. not getting into a drag race because somebody called him chicken.

All the Mad Max films (except the first, which is an odd film, maybe why I love it so much) have a very old, cliched character arc: the lone male reluctant hero who doesn't care about anyone but himself but eventually comes to care about and protect others. See also Han Solo, Kevin Costner in Waterworld, the protagonists of half the Westerns ever made... there's a thousand of them.

No Country For Old Men's main character comes to the realisation that evil and violence will forever be a presence in the world and there's little he can do to combat it or explain it. (From a perspective of literary analysis, the main character is Sheriff Bell, not Moss.)

Aliens begins with Ripley being relatively cold and distant (much as she is in Alien) but revealing a warmer side after finding Newt and also developing a sort of surrogate family unit along with Hicks. She also overcomes her distrust of androids with Bishop.

I haven't seen The Big Lebowski or 3:10 to Yuma but I think you are probably correct about Raiders of the Lost Ark, because Lucas and Spielberg really just based it off old, simplistic 1930s and 1940s matinee adventure serials.

My point is that most stories with any kind of firm characterisation at all have character arcs, even if they're not hugely obvious or important or central. In the stuff you cited (among the ones I disputed) I'd say Max's arc is the most clear and Marty's the least. It's certainly true that plot-driven stories have less character growth and less of an "arc" than character-driven narratives, but I can think of plenty that buck the trend. My favourite example would be Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove series, which has incredibly complex lead characters, namely Gus and Call, who do not change one iota from beginning to end of a 3,000-page series.
 

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The OP just likes action movies, which are accepting of light internal character arcs, but those arcs are often there. I think Shane mostly nailed it. A few additions...

ShaneCarrow said:
All the Mad Max films (except the first, which is an odd film, maybe why I love it so much) have a very old, cliched character arc: the lone male reluctant hero who doesn't care about anyone but himself but eventually comes to care about and protect others. See also Han Solo, Kevin Costner in Waterworld, the protagonists of half the Westerns ever made... there's a thousand of them.
Fury Road is actually Furiosa's story. Max is a side character. Furious experiences the change and the struggles with it.

I haven't seen The Big Lebowski or 3:10 to Yuma but I think you are probably correct about Raiders of the Lost Ark, because Lucas and Spielberg really just based it off old, simplistic 1930s and 1940s matinee adventure serials.
Indy experiences change in each film. In Raiders he overcomes his fear of snakes, rekindles a relationship he'd thought was lost, and overcomes his skepticism of religious belief. In temple, it's craving fortune and glory to prioritizing a local culture over his own reward, and in Crusade he confronts his opinion of his father.

Lebowski is a pretty typical serial detective story where the protagonist effects change upon the outside world that's out of balance in some way--usually justice. This kind of story is a good example where the protagonist rarely undergoes an internal change. Grab any Lee Child book for a contemporary novel example. Reacher is just Reacher, time after time. Bond is mostly like this, but the recent films tried to mix it up a little.
 

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NikOK said:
This might definitely be true, but I'm the exact opposite as a reader. I'm a guy and I 95% of the time prefer character stories. I'd bet that you are right though, and I'm just a little strange maybe :D
I would imagine only a very small percentage of people actually fit completely into all the gender stereotypes, if any. I fall along the expected female line in this way (although I think that's been getting more true as I get older; when I was a teen, I read mostly plot-based stories; I never read a romance book until my mid-twenties, and only because a male relative recommended one), but I definitely fall into the expected male stereotype in other ways.

This kind of thing is probably why stereotypical characters are so frustrating to read. No one is actually simple enough that they meet all the expected stereotypes or generalities. It's not that hard to write believable characters if you just think of them as people instead of plot devices. (And this may be partly why I prefer character-based stories. I like the characters to decide how the story should go by their natural actions and reactions, not have their actions and reactions ham-fisted in to fit the desired plot line.)
 

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Even Reacher has character arcs if you know where to look.

Same with Mad Max and many others mentioned. It's all about the strength of the arc that differentiates plot driven and character driven.

They might be set in their ways, but they have to face challenges driven by circumstance they would normay avoid.

That in itself is a character arc, however soft with strong characters not open to change.
 

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I'm pretty much the exact opposite--I will happily read a book with no plot that's just the characters talking and meandering about and living their daily lives (bonus points if those daily lives are in a fantasy world or on a spaceship). I have to fight with my stories to make sure there's enough plot and it's not just endless conversation and introspection! There's definitely room for all sorts of preferences, and it's one of the things I love about indie publishing, that pretty much every reader can find a book for them, whether it fits in the mainstream "this is the way a story must be constructed" or not. All plot and no character arc? You got it! All characters and no plot? There's some of that, too. Books for every type of reader!
 

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Louise Bates said:
I'm pretty much the exact opposite--I will happily read a book with no plot that's just the characters talking and meandering about and living their daily lives (bonus points if those daily lives are in a fantasy world or on a spaceship). I have to fight with my stories to make sure there's enough plot and it's not just endless conversation and introspection! There's definitely room for all sorts of preferences, and it's one of the things I love about indie publishing, that pretty much every reader can find a book for them, whether it fits in the mainstream "this is the way a story must be constructed" or not. All plot and no character arc? You got it! All characters and no plot? There's some of that, too. Books for every type of reader!
Ha, nice. This is almost exactly how I pick books too, so I like your style :D Someone criticized a book I did once by saying, "It's like the reader is sitting in a dingy bar listening to the characters tell stories" and I was like, hmm, I know you are trying to say that as a bad thing but it's also precisely what I was going for. I took it as a win overall.
 
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