Anger and Growth: Secondary Character Arcs


That girl is totally Alla, except Alla would be wearing combat boots instead of those. I can see Al and Ves looking like this as they argue, Al's fiery temper blowing up and Ves is just clueless as to what he's done in the first place
Photo Credit: burge

If you want, your character can become a catalyst of change for other characters. When your protagonist acts to change, the characters closest to her will react (if they react like real people, that is). Since your character is in many types of relationships, you might want to show your readers how the main character’s choices instigate positive (or negative) change in another character.

Introduction. So long as your character acts “normal” (meaning she hasn’t tried to change yet), your secondary characters will know how to treat your main character, will know what to expect from your main character, and will know where he stands with your main character. Some of them may have insights to your protagonist, some of them may contribute to your main character’s problems, some of them may be her unwelcome champions.

Early Middle. Suddenly, our main character has started to act different. Suddenly, your secondary characters don’t know where they stand with her, how this will affect their relationship with her, if she will change her mind about them. They feel threatened, wronged, uncertain. They get angry. They want to regain their equilibrium. They try to bring back the person they once knew through resistance and counter-moves. The closer the person is to your main character, the harder she will try to restore “normal”. A smart, self-aware, or empathetic secondary character might try to see things her way as a means of restoring the balance.

Late Middle. The main character is now proactive instead of reactive. People close to the main character feel even more scared, threatened, or off-balance. Anger escalates. Stakes are raised. They might threaten to (or actually) reject the main character or impose other punishments. But the main character is growing stronger. Your main character becomes truly clear about what she wants and what she stands for. This could cause secondary characters to be more clear about what they want and where they stand. This could inspire a savvy secondary character. An alert secondary character might question the way others are treating your main character now that she is standing up for herself. A dissatisfied secondary character might be inspired to make changes of his own.

Climax. Write your own climax and resolution for the secondary characters and your main character. Are the choices painful? Inspiring? Consider how this adds to the deeper meaning of your story.

Making your main character into a catalyst for change gives her added depth, power, and significance. Showing how your main character affects the people around her adds realism, meaning, and complexity. Showing intertwined emotional journeys also can reinforce the deep message of your story about human nature, human condition, right and wrong, or whatever issue you have chosen to address.

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