So what is a character arc? Bell does the best job I've ever read of explaining it.
The character arc is a description of what happens to the inside of a character over the course of the story. He begins as one sort of person... things happen to and around him, gradually moving him in an "arc" that ends when the story is over.
Your lead character should be a different person at the other end of the arc.The character Bell uses as an example is Ebeneezer Scrooge from Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
Bell explores "the build" of the character arc. A good arc has:
- A beginning point, where we meet the character and get a sense of his interior layers. (Scrooge is described as a "squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner," and shown as such when he refuses to give alms as well as denying Bob Cratchit's request for a day off after Christmas.)
- A doorway through which the character must pass, almost always reluctantly (the ghosts take him on a tour of his life)
- Incidents that impact the layers (the vacant seat at the Cratchit table, i.e. the death of Tiny Tim, is the most powerful)
- A deepening disturbance (The ultimate disturbance is when Scrooge is shown the dismal aftermath of his own despised death)
- A moment of change, sometimes via an "epiphany" (Bell cautions that modern novels need to be much less didactic and melodramatic than they were in Dickens' time)
- An aftermath (Scrooge is a changed man, and is shown to be so when sends the Cratchits a turkey, dines with his nephew, and raises Bob Cratchit's salary after Christmas)
Write a short profile about your Lead character's personality at the beginning of your plot. Describe his a) Beliefs, b)Values, c) Dominant attitudes, and d) Opinions.There is so much more good stuff in this book. It is a "must" for every writer's library.
Now ask what things will happen in the course of the plot to change or challenge these elements.