Character Arc Conundrum

Okay first, I think my Wii yoga instructor was trying to kill me this morning.  Seriously.  Crane pose?  At 6:30 in the morning?  When I’m no longer 20 and my butt is 25 pounds heavier than it was back then?  ON THE FRIGGIN’ BALANCE BOARD?  You have GOT to be joking.  I couldn’t do it when I WAS 20 and much lighter.

Second, Dark and Early has gone well so far this week, with me knocking out 600+ words the last two mornings.  So big yay on that.

I have run into a problem though.  I realized my hero for Red is way too well adjusted.  Well, okay, maybe well adjusted is not precisely right.  He’s got something of an anger problem.  But his character arc is somewhat lacking.  My heroine is SOLID.  I actually STARTED this book off with the idea for her character arc, which is totally unheard of for me.  Ask Pot.  So I’ve been moving right along, approaching the halfway mark, and Sawyer’s becoming more and more difficult, as broody teenage boys are wont to do.  But I figured out that that’s part of why.  Because I really don’t know what his inner demon is that’s preventing him from achieving his external goal.

Character arc and inner GMC has always been a problem for me.  I am THE ACTION CHICK.  You want STUFF TO HAPPEN?  I am your girl.

You want to know the deep inner motivations for a character’s actions?  I can give you a whole clinical profile from months’ worth of sessions with my characters on a virtual sofa.

But for some reason, I really SUCK at thinking about character arc and how the character changes over the course of the story.

That’s kind of embarrassing to admit given my professional field.

It comes up with almost every book, and I can’t TELL YOU how many different ways Pot has come up with to try to clarify it for me.  I mean, y’all, this is HER THING.  She’s really freaking GOOD at it.  And I seem to be the remedial student who needs a refresher course and brainstorming for EVERY SINGLE BOOK.

For those of you also in my boat, a couple of books I’ve found immensely helpful are Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict as well as Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering (review forthcoming probably next week as I FINALLY found which box it went into during the Oh my God, people are coming to look at the house!  Quick CLEAN!).  Thanks to these and to Pot’s endless tutelage, I have a handle on what purpose the arc is supposed to serve, how it fits in, how it should be shown.

But damned if I know what the heck Sawyer’s is.

If he was not a POV character who shares almost equal space as Elodie, I wouldn’t worry about it.  He’d just be our broody hero, love-interest.  But even though it’s really fundamentally her story, he has to change too.  So that’s my project this week.  To figure out what he has to overcome.  Meanwhile, I’m moving forward with all the Elodie POV scenes.

And trying to figure out how to permanently ban crane pose from my New U Yoga repertoire…

14 thoughts on “Character Arc Conundrum

  1. Oh, no, I ordered New U, so at some point I may have to deal with this, too! Crane pose? Nooooooo!

    Isn’t it funny how different authors have different strengths and weaknesses. I prefer to write love scenes. But I suck at action scenes. That’s why I had to ask you several months ago how you do it. You are definitely great at action!

    I know you’re struggling with Sawyer right now, but you WILL get it. Especially with help from Pot. You always end up with a kick butt story, and I can’t wait to read this one.

    1. Well I think it MOSTLY does a good job of estimating whether you are a yoga newb or more experience. I may be rusty but I’m in overall good shape and have been doing yoga off and on for years, so I think I’ll probably be further along the advanced track than a beginner would be (you may not be a beginner…I don’t remember what you’d said about your prior yoga experience).

      Oh man, I would rather do the crane pose than write a love scene. Fight? Bring it. Big battle. You’re on. Tender/spicy/sexy love scene that doesn’t sound purple and flat and utterly ridiculous? :runs screaming:

      At one point I considered just writing YA so I would be mostly free of the expectation of love scenes. I can do sexual tension fine. It’s the actual sex that throws me.

      1. There’s a little difference between love scenes and sex scenes. :0) In fact, one of my books got slammed because there wasn’t sex. You can have a hot love scene without the actual sex. In the ones I wrote that do have sex, it’s not graphic, but, at least in one book, still hot. Different authors shy away from different things, but you helped me a lot in the action scenes of GV. I still don’t quite have the knack for the action scenes, but I hope I get better as I write. You are the QUEEN of the action scene! If anyone needs advice, you’re the one to give it.

      2. “At one point I considered just writing YA so I would be mostly free of the expectation of love scenes. I can do sexual tension fine. It’s the actual sex that throws me.”

        You wouldn’t have to just write YA to avoid sex scenes. You could just not bother with the sex scenes.

        If you were to market your books as Paranormal Adventure or Urban Fantasy rather than Paranormal Romance (and there’s nothing to prevent romantic sub-plots in mainstream paranormal fiction, after all; it’s just the approach that’s different), that would remove the expectation of steamy sex and free you up to just write the stuff you’re good at.

        It might even open up a broader market for you. You could be the Janet Evanovich of the paranormal set (If you’re not familiar with her, she’s a former romance writer who moved to crime fiction and hit the big time).

        1. Ha! I’d have to be living under a rock to not have heard of Janet! (actually, I do often live under a rock and I’ve still heard of her, so…yeah). I’ve given some thought to the past to marketing as urban fantasy. I absolutely have a lot of crossover readers, but fundamentally (sex or no) I do write romance. There are things I do in every story that are romance conventions, not UF conventions, which is why, up to this point, I’ve tried to sort of straddle the line with action-packed paranormal romance. And frankly, romance isn’t all about sex. As Lauralynn mentioned sex and love scenes are not necessarily the same thing. 🙂

          1. Yes, romance isn’t all about sex. I’d even go so far as to say it isn’t really about sex at all (even if it might lead to it – sometimes). But love/romance (and sex) is part of life, so it can have a valid place in any fiction genre. Characters fall in love in novels outside the romance genre all the time.

            But it was just a thought. You would know, far better than I would, where your writing fits best.

  2. Ref: crane pose
    Ouch…I don’t even want to think about trying that one right now, LOL

    Ref: sex
    Fade to black?

    Love the post. You keep it real and help all us aspiring peeps realize we have our strengths and weaknesses and that’s okay. I know you’ll figure out your hero, cause you’re awesome like that. Can’t wait to read Red 🙂

  3. The crane pose should be left to the Karate Kid…scares me…I mean really scares me 🙂

    One thing to consider, if I may suggest, on your conundrum: If/since you know the arc for Elodie and I’m assuming Pot, take those two and ask Sawyer what he thinks about the changes he will see happening in them. How does he feel about it? What might it inspire him to change in order to support or keep up with them? Or will he resist their changes? Therein, hopefully, will lie the answers to his arc.

    Hope this helps, love your posts!

    Peaceful Journeys!

      1. LOL! Sorry, somehow I thought that was a character, my apologies to Susan for thinking she was a teenage boy! Oddly I did think of the Pot & Kettle reference, something my mom used to say, very cool 😀

  4. Um, there are different types of romance. “Spicy” romance (w/ sex scenes) is incredibly common right now, but there are still folks looking for “sweet” romance (w/o sex scenes). I’ve even found a book review blog that only covers sweet romance. As long as you specified it’s “sweet”, not “spicy”, you should be fine with skipping the sex scenes.

    Or you could change the marketing tag. You have a mix of genres in what you write. Play around with the marketing tags to maximize your audience—you’re indie published and can do that.

    Personally, I get so many favorable comments on the romance in my non-romances that it’s kinda weird and makes me wonder what’ll happen when I actually sit down and write one of the few romance ideas I have. (I’m not just referring to my one indie published work. I have a completely different series that’s in drafting, which betas have all raved about the romance… which isn’t even all that romantic.)

    Have you read any Robin McKinley? She writes fantastic sweet romance, and often with only a handful of scenes that include both the FMC and MMC.

    Also, on the character arc thing, check out Janice Hardy’s blog. She has a way of phrasing things so they finally click.

    1. Yes I’m quite familiar with the different veins of romance. Sweet and paranormal really don’t go together, per the conventions of that subgenre. 🙂 Which is why for me it’s really more about the paranormal romance vs. urban fantasy.

  5. Crane pose takes practice for your age. It doesn’t mean it isn’t doable. 🙂 Keep on telling us what’s happening in your characters. I’d like to see how you handle the flaws of your main characters. Gives me inspiration since I’m not the only one with character problems. 😉

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