What happens when you write a book and either people like the characters so much they ask you to continue writing about them, or the story’s too big for just one book and it turns into more than one? Well that, my friend, is what’s called a series.
Writing a series is a good way for a writer to establish him or herself in the heart and mind of a reader. If readers like the first book, then they’re more apt to purchase the second and so on. Plus, the writer begins to know and understand the main character (or characters) and is able to delve further into what makes them tick, bringing a depth to them that wouldn’t be possible in the length of one book.
Which brings us to the concept of character arc. In fiction, readers expect the character to change in some way by the end of the book. Change in protagonist = character arc. For example, if the protagonist starts out shy and insecure, then by the end of the story they should have at least given that character more confidence. But how do you handle character arc across an entire series?
Great characters can make or break a novel. That is why authors work hard to develop these players. Big time authors get a lot of mileage out of one good character. Rowling certainly did that with Harry Potter, Nelson DeMille created John Corey and has had long string of bestselling books. One of my favorites is Doc Ford in the Randy Wayne White series set in Sanibel Island, Florida.
Back in April, JD Mader posted an article on character development and descriptions. He did a great job of breaking down character development of both physical and psychological traits. Today, I want to take his post a step further and discuss character arc. Character arc is essential to story success.
[This article is part of a series by author Lin Robinson on the subject of so-called “rules” of writing. You can find the other articles here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.]
In this series I have mostly dealt with negative “rules” — adjurations to avoid the use of various parts of English speech that are perfectly useful.
In this final article I’d like to switch to debunking several “positive” kinds of “rules”: concepts which are urged, even pressed onto writers as necessary, but which I’d suggest you drop not just from you tool kit, but from your vocabulary.
The Myth Of “The Protagonist” — One of the most repeated and most utterly useless concepts for writers is “protagonist”. It’s a word that does absolutely nothing for you, and can mess you up. Perhaps you’ve seen newbies wailing, “Can I have more than one protagonist?” (And in screenplay circles, sometimes get answers like “OK, if it’s a ‘buddy movie'”, or “OK if it’s an ‘ensemble’ movie”, otherwise no. How about love stories. Do you really have to make one of the pair the main show and the other one subsidiary? How about a story of two rivals? But they’ll tell you that you have to because that’s the way it is and who are you to argue with Aristotle? Continue reading “Breaking the “Rules” Part 5 by Lin Robinson“