A character arc is the status of the character as it
unfolds throughout the story.
●It is the emotional change of the character within
●Characters begin the story with a certain
viewpoint and, through events in the story, that
viewpoint changes. (Often this change is for the
better, but it can also be for the worse or simply
●In Tootsie, Dustin Hoffman’s character begins as
a misogynistic chauvinist but when he is forced
to play the part of a woman, he also experiences
a change in how he views women and becomes
a different character by the end.
●In Empire of the Sun, Jim begins as a carefree
young boy. After the Japanese take over
Shanghai and he is separated from his family, he
is forced to suffer trauma because of the war.
●In The Godfather, Michael Corleone at first does
not want to have anything to do with his father’s
crime business. When his father is attacked and
barely survives, Michael realizes his love for his
Character Development drives
All stories are about people, even when they're about
rabbits. And the stories that move us most, the ones that
stick inside years later, are those inhabited by characters
we can connect with and admire.
And no characters resonate more than those who in the
course of a story learned how to transcend their own flaws
and weaknesses to do something great—this is a
And by great I don’t mean saving the world, for often the
quietest moments are the ones in which characters find
their greatness. The moments that truly define us are
almost always personal, times when we’re able to
overcome our own limitations and rise to be something
Character Arc—the rocky path of personal growth and development a
character undergoes in a story, usually unwillingly, during which the
character wrestles with and eventually overcomes some or all of a
serious emotional fear, limitation, block or wound.
In a character's development he or she might
1.lack of courage or inner doubts
2.lack of ethics
3.learning to love
5.trauma from the past
6.errors in thinking, etc.
Weaknesses, imperfections, quirks and vices make
a character more real & appealing
●They humanize a character. The audience
can identify with them.
●Flaws and imperfections give a character
somewhere to go and progress toward in
●The development of a character is only
interesting if they overcome something.
●A great example of a character
arc – Tom Cruise’s character in
●Beginning – Cruise is a ruthless
car dealer who kidnaps his
autistic brother because he feels
cheated about not receiving any
money from his father's will.
●End of Arc – After a cross-
country journey with his brother,
he learns the importance of
family and turns down the
Role of a Character Arc
●Keeps the tension high and the conflict
●Serves as the “inner” conflict and is
always mirrored by the story's “outer”
e.g. DieHard: Inner conflict =
overcome internal weaknesses to be
able to get back together with wife;
Outer conflict = fight bad guys who
have taken over wife’s building.
The Arc is the internal change
the hero goes through
●It can be positive change of character—a
●Or a negative or no change—which gives us
Characters who remain essentially the same
from beginning to end are fatally flawed. They
have learned nothing from their experience and
have shown no growth.
●Or the character is already ‘good’ and
doesn’t change (e.g. James Bond,
Braveheart, John Wayne).
Development of a Character Arc
Personal changes in a Character’s Arc require
smooth development—changing is really hard.
●Flat verses Round Character development
oFlat--Jumping abrupt changes in character create 2
oRound--natural, step-by-step development of a
character create 3 dimensional characters
We see how the personal beliefs that cause internal flaws are
torn away little by little by forces within a character and by his
The filmmaker shows us conflicts/transitions as the character
evolves from one state of mind to another in a slow even pace
until he is compelled to make a life changing decision.
Conflict and Character within
The Basic Three Act Structure The simplest building blocks of a good
story are found in the Three Act Structure. Separated by Plot Points,
its Act 1 (Beginning), Act 2 (Middle), and Act 3 (End) refer not to where
in time in the story they lie but instead fundamental stages along the
In the Beginning the reader is introduced to the
setting, the characters and the situation (conflict)
they find themselves in and their goal. Plot Point 1
is a situation that drives the main character from
their "normal" life toward some different conflicting
situation that the story is about.
Great stories often begin at Plot Point 1,
thrusting the main character right into the thick of
things, but they never really leave out Act 1,
instead filling it in with back story along the way.
In the Middle the story develops through a
series of complications and obstacles, each
leading to a mini crisis.
Though each of these crises are temporarily
resolved, the story leads inevitably to an
ultimate crisis—the Climax.
As the story progresses, there is a rising and
falling of tension with each crisis, but an overall
rising tension as we approach the Climax. The
resolution of the Climax is Plot Point 2.
In the End, the Climax and the loose ends of
the story are resolved during the
Tension rapidly dissipates because it's
nearly impossible to sustain a reader's
interest very long after the climax.
Filmmakers finish the story and get out.
The character’s arc follows the rising and falling action of the plot as
they transform through the choices they are forced to make by the
events of the plot
Character Arc and Story Structure
Act 1 In the Beginning of a story the main character, being
human (even if he of she isn't), will resist change (inner
conflict). The character is perfectly content as he is; there's
no reason to change.
Plot Point 1 – Then something happens to throw
everything off balance.
It should come as a surprise that shifts the story in a new
direction and reveals that the protagonist’s life will never be
the same again.
oIn Star Wars this point occurs when Luke's family is killed, freeing him to
fight the Empire.
It puts an obstacle in the way of the character that forces
him or her to deal with something they would avoid under
Act 2-- The second Act is about a character’s
Characters face all sorts of challenges to
overcome during Act 2 that make them
struggle towards their goal.
The key to Act Two is conflict. Without it
the story can’t move forward. And conflict
doesn’t mean a literal fight. It could be any
obstacles (maybe five, maybe a dozen—
depends on the story) leading up to your
plot point at the end of Act 2.
In the second act the stakes are continually
raised in the character’s emotional journey.
Simultaneously the character encounters both
inner and outer conflicts—the character alternates
up and down internally between hope and
disappointment as external problems begin to
seem solvable then become more insurmountable
Reversals of fortune and unexpected turns of
events—surprise the viewer with both the actions
of the main character and the events surrounding
Plot Point 2
Act Two ends with the second plot point,
which thrusts the story in another
Plot Point 2 occurs at the moment the hero
appears beaten or lost but something
happens to turn the situation around. The
hero's goal becomes reachable.
Right before this unexpected story turn, the
hero reaches the Black Moment—the point
at which all is lost and the goal cannot be
In order to have a "Climax", where the tension is highest,
the hero must have a "Black" moment, where the stakes
are highest and danger at its worst.
During this moment, the hero draws
upon the new strengths or lessons he's
learned in order to take action and
bring the story to a conclusion.
oDorothy’s gotta get a broom from the Wicked
Witch before she can go home.
oLuke’s gotta blow up the Death Star before
fulfilling his destiny.
oNeo’s gotta do battle with Agent Smith
Act 3 dramatically shows how the character is able to
succeed or become a better person.
Resolution/denouement ties together
the loose ends of the story (not
necessarily all of them) and allows the
reader to see the outcome of the main
character’s decision at the climax.
Here we see evidence of the change in
a character arc.