Psychology and Character Arcs

 

Psychiatrist vs Psychologist
(Photo Credit: Pintererest)

Character arcs and inner conflict really are based in psychology.

The clinical kind, even.

The characters have a flaw, weakness, and/or backstory wound that interferes with their lives. They often start by denying the problem, then they want a better life but they are not willing (or have trouble) leaving the weakness behind. This creates an internal conflict that has external repercussions on the people and situations around them. The longer they stay stuck, the worse they make their lives. The inner pressure builds as their life falls apart.

Then they come into spectacular conflict with someone who the person loves, hates, or fears (or any combination therein). When things (seem to) have reached their worst, the person can no longer continue to straddle both worlds. She is forced to choose between one life or the other. In books, the characters who are ultimately successful choose the new life or paradigm. But as they try to pursue their choice, they are afraid, they fall back into old destructive behaviors, and they often wish things could go back to the way they were before they were aware.

These changes can be threatening to the people around the person and she has to fight that too. But through their struggles they come to understand their feelings, they repair their mistakes faster and more easily, and they backslide less. In books (and sometimes in real life) there is a final showdown with whoever the person opposes and she proves that she has really changed.

This transformation – in real life and in books – makes for stronger character.

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