Anger and Growth: Protagonist Character Arc

watch out for the woestmans: DIY Ruler Child Growth Chart
Photo Credit: Doranda


We’ve established that anger is an emotion that sends the message to the writer that “something is wrong” in the life of the character. When that “something” stunts our character’s competence, self-expression, or personal growth then we have the makings of a character arc. Here is one example of an arc for a protagonist. Notice that it closely follows the pattern of an external plot arc.


Introduction. Your character is in stasis. She may or may not be happy with the way things are going but she is not actively trying to change (any seeming attempts to change are self-sabotaging). As the Introduction progresses, more and more pressure comes to bear on her but she resists change and/or remains ignorant of the issue that underlies her anger.


Turning Point 1. Whether you place this before, after, or with the outer turning point is partially dependent on your genre and partially dependent on personal choice. At the first inner turning point, she recognizes (or thinks she recognizes) that she needs to change herself that her anger points to and she decides (reluctantly or willingly) to change it.


Early Body. During this time in your book, your main character is reactive. She likely doesn’t really understand her flaw and its underlying issues. She blames, denies, avoids, and goes down false roads. She’ll take her anger out on others.


Turning Point 2. She comes face-to-face with her role in her problems, including the effects of lashing out at others.


Late Body. During this time in your book, your main character becomes proactive. She learns about the underlying causes of her problem. As she changes, other people resist her change and try to make her change back. Often they threaten/enact consequences if she continues to change. At the same time, she learns to take responsibility for her reactions to her feelings.


Turning Point 3. She comes face-to-face with the potential consequences of not changing. This renews her determination to change.


Climax. The changes she has made (and lessons she has learned along the way about herself, the antagonist, and others) plays into the plot resolution.



If this emotional arc does not resonate with you, no worries. Character arcs develop much like plot arcs. So if you are someone who plots, you can take your action plot arc and make a second plot arc for inner growth. Pansters who have written the3eir book but forgotten a character arc can do the same. If you are a panster who is still writing your book, just remember that each emotional turning point happens near or at the plot turning points.


Again, whether your inner turning point happens before, after, or during your outer turning point is dependent on your own preferences and situation.


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