Character and Self-Definition

CHARACTER & SELF-DEFINITON: We self-define in multiple ways. A flat character exists on only one axis. Role — Career. (puppeteer, a voice actor, an author.) Relationship — Duty (wife, daughter, mentor.) Status —Class/hierarchy (Middle class, poverty, rockstar) Competence — Abilities. (intelligence, skill, prowess) The places where the disparate aspects of self-identity come into conflict are natural stress points. For character-based conflict, pry on those cracks.

Character driven stories are a journey of self-discovery. They begin when a character is dissatisfied with an aspect of self and end when the character solidifies their self-definition. This can end in a positive or negative state. Either the character achieves the self-definition they were going for, or they recognize that they never will. Basically, they either like themselves at the end, or they don’t. Happy ending or tragedy.

Now, a lot of people think that, in order to have a character arc, you must have a deeply flawed character in order to give them room to grow. That is an option. But this is often really heavy-handed and can lead to fiction that feels flat or contrived.

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One Response

  1. KWG

    What’s an appropriate term for a story that is driven by the decisions and actions the characters make, within the context of the presented setting and circumstances, and how they all interact… but that isn’t centered on the (or a) main character’s self-discovery / isn’t aimed at the cracks in their self-definition?

    “Plot driven” seems to have its own implications that the characters’ decisions and personalities aren’t central to the course of events.

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