Creative Writing 101: Learning How To Craft A Realistic Character Arc

Creating a compelling character arc is essential to any great work of fiction. A character arc is the progression or transformation of a character throughout the story, as they face internal and external conflicts that challenge their beliefs and values. Crafting a realistic character arc can be challenging, but with some guidance, anyone can learn how to do it effectively.

Understanding The Basics Of Character Arcs

Before diving into how to craft a realistic character arc, it’s important to understand the basics. There are three main types of character arcs:

  • Positive Change Arc: This type of arc involves a character who starts off flawed or incomplete in some way and undergoes personal growth and development over the course of the story.
  • Negative Change Arc: This type of arc involves a character who starts off as a good person but gradually becomes more flawed or corrupted over time.
  • Flat Arc: This type of arc involves a character who remains largely unchanged throughout the story but instead influences those around them to change.
  • Once you’ve decided on the type of arc you want your character to have, it’s time to start crafting their journey.

Developing Your Character’s Internal Conflict

The key to creating a compelling character arc is developing your protagonist’s internal conflict. What does your character want? What fears are holding them back from achieving their goals? What emotional wounds do they carry?

For example, in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Harry struggles with his identity as “the boy who lived.” He carries emotional wounds from his parents’ deaths and is constantly battling against Lord Voldemort, who wants him dead. These internal conflicts shape Harry’s journey and drive his actions throughout the series.

Creating External Obstacles

In addition to internal conflict, your protagonist should also face external obstacles that challenge them along their journey. These obstacles should force your protagonist out of their comfort zone and push them towards personal growth.

For example, in Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen must fight for survival in an arena filled with deadly traps and other tributes trying to kill her. These external obstacles force Katniss to rely on her strengths and develop new skills in order to survive.

Showing Realistic Growth And Change

As your protagonist faces these internal and external conflicts, they should undergo realistic growth and change over the course of the story. However, this change shouldn’t happen overnight – it should be gradual and earned through hard work.

For example, in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Scout Finch learns about racial injustice through her father’s trial defending Tom Robinson. Through this experience, she gains empathy for others outside her own social circle and learns valuable lessons about prejudice.


Crafting a realistic character arc takes time and effort but can make all the difference between an average story and an unforgettable one. By understanding the basics of character arcs, developing your protagonist’s internal conflict, creating external obstacles for them to overcome, and showing realistic growth over time, you can create truly memorable characters that readers will root for until the very end.

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