Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Hero's Arc or a.k.a. What It's ALLLLL About!

No matter your cool plot devices or statement about the human condition, your story really boils down to your Hero's Arc.

It is the overwhelming driving force in your story. All plot points hinge on it. Whether or not you hook your reader is much dependent upon how well you fulfill this arc.

The arc is the meat that lies over the bones of story structure. Without the arc fully completed your story will feel 'light' and bony (ok, I just made that up to fit with my imagery, but roll with me here!)

Many people bandy about the term "Hero's Arc" but don't fully understand it.

Simply put, your Hero starts in one emotional place and lands in a COMPLETELY different emotional space.

One way to test an arc is to ask your Hero the same question at the beginning of the story and again at the end.

For ex: Neo from the Matrix.
"Would you risk everything, including your life, for the greater good?
Act 1 Answer: Duh, of course not.
Act 3 Answer: Duh, of course!

Another good question for him:
"Do you believe in true love"
Again the first answer is NOOOOO, the Act 3 answer is an emphatic Yes.

Usually the question revolves around self-sacrifice, feeling their worth as a Hero or their ability to love or be loved.

The closer the question comes to identifying his inner wound, the better.

Questions like:
Can you ride a skateboard?
Are not really what we're talking about.

The greater the difference in their answer, the steeper the arc. The more poignant the question, the deeper the arc.

Test your Hero. Ask him a question regarding his inner wound. What are his answers in Act 1 and Act 3?

Leave them in the comment box below and I will randomly answer back how steep I think his arc is! :-)

Next Blog: What's a Hero Gotta do to get some respect?


  1. Thank you so much for such a clear explanation to something I've heard talked about a lot, but no one else seemed to be able to explain it either.

  2. We keep asking our "hero" what she wants and she refuses to tell us. This is making completing the script very difficult, but your blog is giving us the courage to ask harder questions!

  3. Really enjoyed this post. Here's what I'd ask my heroine:

    What would you do if you had super powers?

    Act I Answer: Ignore them. I'd finish high school and go to an Ivy League college just like I planned. Why are you even asking me this? This question is ridiculous.

    Act III Answer: I'd try to keep them from interfering with my everyday life, but if I have to protect someone I care about, all bets are off.

  4. This post, and the ones before it about the different roles of the different parts, are great. Very useful as I dig into my first novel. (I'm starting Act II, in your terms.) Thanks!

  5. Thank you for explaining it so clearly. This is going to help me with my character's arc. :-)

  6. Excellent! You've just helped me solve a pesky issue in my WIP