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 #HowtoWrite a Negative #Character Arc, Pt. 3: The Third Act

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#HowtoWrite a Negative #Character Arc, Pt. 3: The Third Act Empty
PostSubject: #HowtoWrite a Negative #Character Arc, Pt. 3: The Third Act   #HowtoWrite a Negative #Character Arc, Pt. 3: The Third Act EmptySun Jul 27, 2014 4:55 pm

JULY 27, 2014 by K.M. WEILAND | @KMWEILAND 4 COMMENTSCHARACTERS

How to Write a Negative Character Arc, Pt. 3: The Third Act
In a word, the negative character arc is about failure, and this becomes nowhere more clear than in the Third Act. If the positive change arc is about redeeming self and the flat arc is aboutsaving others, then the negative character arc is aboutdestroying self and probably others as well.
The previous two acts have been all about setting up that destruction. The character has made choices, but since they’ve all been based on the false foundation of the Lie, they’ve turned out to be horribly wrong decisions. Unlike positive arc characters, who will make mistakes but will then recognize and learn from those mistakes, the negative arc character will refuse to even recognize his mistakes, much less embrace opportunities to grow past them and rectify them.
The result is a story that’s horrifyingly resonant in its recognizableness. Negative character arcs act as cautionary tales for readers, since none of us want to end up as tragic heroes. But these stories’ great power is not in their “moral,” but rather in their sheer familiarity. We all play out negative arcs (although hopefully on smaller stages than Gatsby, Heathcliff, and Anakin) over and over in our own lives. We know how thin the wire we’re all balancing on and how easy it is to fall off and end up dogmatically determined to believe that the Lies we’ve lived by haven’t been mistakes.

The Third Plot Point
[size=39]No matter what type of arc you’re writing, the Third Plot Point is always a place that reeks of death. The character is brought face to face with his own mortality—either because his own life is threatened (literally or by extension, as when, for example, his livelihood or good name is threatened) or because the lives of those he cares about are put under the axe. In positive and flatarcs, the character will face down death, come to terms with its power, re-embrace life, and rise ready to once again do battle.
But in a negative character arc, the protagonist will find himself impotent in the face of this horror. The Lie he has stubbornly embraced throughout the story now renders him powerless. In essence, he’s lacking the one weapon—the Truth—necessary to fight and defeat the Lie. His only option is to surrender himself still deeper into the grip of the Lie in an effort to convince himself he has chosen the right path.
As always, the exception to the rule is the disillusionment arc, in which the character will face and accept the Truth. But the Truth will be dark and horrifying in itself.
[/size]
The Disillusionment Arc Example
[size=39]The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Third Plot Point begins with a showdown between Gatsby and Daisy’s husband Tom, in which Tom reveals to Daisy that Gatsby has earned his money through criminal activities such as bootlegging. Daisy wavers from her decision to run away with Gatsby, and Tom orders Gatsby to drive her home. As Tom, Nick, and Jordan follow in a second car, they encounter a tremendous accident, in which they learn Gatsby’s yellow roadster hit and killed Tom’s mistress Myrtle. Nick is mostly an observer to these dramatic happenings, but they have brought him to a growingly irrevocable disgust for the entire East Egg set and their underhanded dealings with one another.[/size]
The Fall Arc Example
[size=39]Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë: Heathcliff kidnaps Edgar and Cathy’s teenage daughter Catherine and refuses to let her return to her dying father unless she marries Heathcliff’s son Linton. She finally complies and rushes home to her father just in time to watch him die. Heathcliff has achieved his great end—as many tragic protagonists do—by completing his vengeance. He has destroyed Edgar: his enemy is dead, and Heathcliff now holds title to all his property. But his victory has brought him no closer to peace—or to his true goal of being with Cathy.[/size]
The Corruption Arc Example
[size=39]Star Wars, Episodes I-III directed by George Lucas: The Third Plot Point in Anakin’s arc is the moment when he realizes he cannot allow Mace Windu and the other Jedi Masters to kill the Sith Lord Darth Sidious. His desperate need to protect his wife, no matter the cost, prompts him to save the life of the man who has already killed millions and will kill millions more. More than that, he surrenders himself as an apprentice to the Dark Side, in order to learn Sidious’s secrets to life and death.[/size]
The Third Act
[size=39]After the breaking point at the Third Plot Point, the tragic hero will rage futilely against death and its power, rather than rising into a personal resurrection. In 45 Master Characters, Victoria Lynn Schmidt writes:
[/size]
Quote :
 He isn’t at all humbled by his experience: In fact, he builds up his own ego trying to prove he’s more than a mere human being. He may take risks without thinking and will demand to fight the villain alone. He’s like a one-man show … who doesn’t need anyone or anything. He won’t face what the [antagonist] is showing him [about the Truth]. He won’t look inside himself to find out what he really wants out of life.

Without the Truth, he has no tools with which to cope with this new tragedy. As a result, he spends the first half of the Third Act (prior to the Climax) determined to strike out at the antagonistic force and reach for the Thing He Wants any way he can. He will commit any number of crimes and sins. He has nothing left to lose and no moral compass to guide him.
Supporting characters may try to reason with him, but he will now be even less open to their suggestions. He may even turn on people whom he was previously willing to accept, despite their differing opinions. He simply has too much invested in his present course; he can’t afford to be talked out of it, even at the cost of alienating those he would previously have fought and died for. The end is entirely outweighing the means it costs to achieve it.
The Disillusionment Arc Example
[size=39]The Great GatsbyAfter refusing to go with Jordan into the Buchanans’ house (in essence refusing to join their corrupt lifestyle), Nick encounters Gatsby and learns the truth of the drive-by accident: Gatsby wasn’t driving at all; Daisy was. Fearing Tom may harm Daisy, Gatsby insists on taking the blame for the accident and remains outside the Buchanans’ house all night. By now, the dark Truth has dawned for Nick. He knows too well that Tom and Daisy are one of kind. Daisy will let Gatsby take the blame, even as she distances herself from him without a second thought—not because remaining with her husband is the right thing to do but because she selfishly knows it’s in her best interest. Nick finally and conclusively realizes the East Egg crowd is a “rotten bunch.” He sticks around to try to help Gatsby, but from that point on, he’s no longer bewitched by the spectacles of wealth and beauty.[/size]
The Fall Arc Example
[size=39]Wuthering HeightsAfter the completion of his vengeance against Edgar, Heathcliff sinks deeper and deeper into despair. He is broken, and he can’t find the strength to rise above his continuing obsessive need to be with Cathy. He even goes so far as to dig up her long-rotted corpse, and he does find momentary peace in the belief that it will be his soul—and not Edgar’s—that will be reunited with her in death. After his own son’s death, he drifts through life, torturing Catherine and Hindley’s son Hareton and contemplating Cathy’s ghost, who he believes has finally returned to haunt him. The only possible remaining route to his goal is death itself.[/size]
The Corruption Arc Example
[size=39]Star WarsKnowing the Dark Side is the only possible solution to saving his wife, Anakin throws himself into the darkness completely. Even as he mourns the atrocities his new master orders him to commit, he doesn’t flinch from them. He can’t afford to. He’s come too far. The hole is too deep, and there’s no way back up. His only chance for himself and his wife is to dig deeper still. After Mace Windu’s death, Anakin slaughters the Jedi, young and old alike, as well as the Separatist Coalition—and anyone else who gets in his and his new master’s way.[/size]
The Climax
[size=39]The Climax is where everything finally and fully falls apart. The character’s last desperate push to use the Lie to gain the Thing He Wants will achieve one of two possible outcomes.
1. He gains an apparent outer victory, in which he is able to claim the Thing He Wants, but in which his success is a hollow one. Without the Truth he can never find inner wholeness by gaining the Thing He Needs. In this type of ending, the Climactic Moment will likely include a glimpse of the Truth, in which the character comes to the crushing realization that his battle was a wasteful one and, worse, that the outrages he’s committed along the way have destroyed both himself and everything he once loved.
2. He loses both the inner and the outer battle. His inability to equip himself with the Truth dooms him to failure in his final conflict.
In planning the Climax in a negative arc, look back at the person your character was in the beginning of the book. The Lie he struggled with in the beginning—and the way in which he struggled with it–should point you to an obvious culmination in the Climax. As per Jeff Gerke in Plot vs. Character, the character’s end state should be “times ten” his beginning state:
[/size]
Quote :
 If at the beginning, your hero has been struggling with anger, at the end he will either [in a positive arc] be able to let things go and just enjoy the moment or he will be so overwhelmed with anger that he will do something radical, like going on a shooting spree.

The Disillusionment Arc Example
[size=39]The Great GatsbyNick’s disillusionment is complete when Gatsby is murdered by Myrtle’s husband—who believed Gatsby was responsible for her death and who then kills himself. All the people who flocked to Gatsby and his parties during his life disappear upon word of his death. Only a handful of mourners, Nick among them, attend his funeral.[/size]
The Fall Arc Example
[size=39]Wuthering HeightsAs Catherine and Hareton begin to fall in love, Heathcliff is troubled by how closely their relationship mirrors his own youthful past with Cathy. His belief that Cathy is haunting him grows stronger and stronger, and he finds a measure of manic happiness in her supposed presence. His health declines rapidly thanks to his nightly walks in the moors, until one morning Hareton finds him dead. He has gone at last to be with Cathy, in the only possible way they could ever be together–by embracing the Lie more fully in the end than even at the beginning.[/size]
The Corruption Arc Example
[size=39]Star WarsAnakin’s wife Padmé and former master Obi-Wan rush to stop him. When Padmé rejects Anakin’s methods for trying to save her, he lashes out at her. Even though keeping her alive has been the reason for his horrific choices and actions, he has now come too far down his dark path to brook resistance even from her. He nearly kills her, then turns on Obi-Wan and is eventually brutally wounded as a result of his blind faith in his own power.[/size]
The Resolution
[size=39]The ending scenes in a tragedy are often comparatively short. Unlike a positive story, negative arcs leave few loose ends and don’t usually inspire in readers a desire to stick around in the story world. The great tragedy in the Climax is underscored with a sense of finality that doesn’t require much mopping up.
Still, some small postscript is almost always necessary. In the event of your protagonist’s death, you’ll need to show the surviving characters’ reactions, especially since many of them will probably have undergone disillusionment arcs as a result of witnessing his fall. You’ll want to show the effect of the protagonist’s actions upon the world around him. Presumably, he’s left it a worse place than that in which it started, but you may want to hint at the possibility for new hope in the world now that the protagonist’s dark influence has been lifted.
Most important, you’ll want to create a closing scene that drives home the character’s final state. Death, insanity, war, destruction, imprisonment—whatever finds him in the end should be represented in the story’s closing motif, as a clear contrast to how the story began.
[/size]
The Disillusionment Arc Example
[size=39]The Great GatsbyAfter the funeral, Nick distances himself from the East Egg crowd. Blinders now removed, he finds little to appreciate in the city life he once loved. He decides to return home, but not without officially ending his relationship with Jordan and confronting Tom. He revisits Gatsby’s house, where the grass is now overgrown, and he once again compares Gatsby, with his sense of wonder and hope, to the cynicism and selfishness of the world that destroyed him.
The Fall Arc Example
Wuthering HeightsWithout Heathcliff’s dark presence to poison their lives, Catherine and Hareton begin at last to bring love and happiness back into the corrupted atmosphere of Wuthering Heights. The book closes on an entirely hopeful note, promising the end of suffering. There’s even a hint of hope for Heathcliff, as the old manservant insists he can see his master’s ghost walking the moors with Cathy. The narrator, however, gives his own spin on a hopeful end for Heathcliff, believing that in death, at least, he will find rest.
[/size]
The Corruption Arc Example
[size=39]Star WarsAnakin’s efforts are completely ruined in the aftermath of his climactic fall. Just as he feared, his wife dies in childbirth—but, ironically, as the result of his own actions. He is rescued from death by his new master and confined to life as a monstrous cyborg. His story, of course, continues with the promise of “a new hope” in the galaxy.[/size]
Questions to Ask About the Negative Character Arc in the Third Act
[size=39]1. How will your character fail in the story’s end?
2. How will his actions irrevocably damage others?
3. What tragedy will confront your protagonist at the Third Plot Point?
4. How will your character react to the Third Plot Point?
5. Why does your character’s refusal to embrace the Truth render him powerless to rise from the Third Plot Point better equipped to deal with both his inner and outer conflict?
6. What less-than-ideal (and possibly even downright evil) plan will your protagonist come up with for confronting the antagonistic force and gaining the Thing He Wants?
7. Will supporting characters try to reason with your protagonist? How will he respond?
8. In the Climax, will your character gain the Thing He Wants? If so, why will he realize his victory is still a hollow one? How will he react?
9. Alternatively, will your character fail to gain his ultimate goal? How will he react?
10. After his failure in the Climax, will your character at least momentarily realize the Truth and confront the futility of his actions?
11. How are your character’s actions in the Climax a magnified reflection of his Lie in the beginning of the story?
12. How does your Resolution show the effect of your protagonist’s actions upon supporting characters and the world-at-large?
13. Will you end on a hopeful note or a despairing note? Why?
14. How does your closing scene underline the character’s ultimate failure?
People often tend to think of negative character arcs as depressing, and, indeed, sometimes they are. But they’re also exceedingly necessary, just as vinegar is necessary to cleanse the palate after too much sugar. Tell your negative character arcs boldly. As long as you remember the unique structural turning points and the proper progression of pacing and foreshadowing, you’ll be able to create a negative arc every bit as compelling and entertaining as one with a happy ending.
And that, after almost six months, brings us to the conclusion of our exploration of character arcs. I hope you’ve enjoyed these three series as much as I have and have gleaned useful tools for telling your own stories. If you have any lingering questions about any of the arcs, feel free to leave a comment or email me. I’m always happy to respond to questions, whether they’re about characters arcs or any other writing.
[/size]
In a word, the negative character arc is about failure, and this becomes nowhere more clear than in the Third Act. If the positive change arc is about redeeming self and the flat arc is aboutsaving others, then the negative character arc is aboutdestroying self and probably others as well.
The previous two acts have been all about setting up that destruction. The character has made choices, but since they’ve all been based on the false foundation of the Lie, they’ve turned out to be horribly wrong decisions. Unlike positive arc characters, who will make mistakes but will then recognize and learn from those mistakes, the negative arc character will refuse to even recognize his mistakes, much less embrace opportunities to grow past them and rectify them.
The result is a story that’s horrifyingly resonant in its recognizableness. Negative character arcs act as cautionary tales for readers, since none of us want to end up as tragic heroes. But these stories’ great power is not in their “moral,” but rather in their sheer familiarity. We all play out negative arcs (although hopefully on smaller stages than Gatsby, Heathcliff, and Anakin) over and over in our own lives. We know how thin the wire we’re all balancing on and how easy it is to fall off and end up dogmatically determined to believe that the Lies we’ve lived by haven’t been mistakes.
The Third Plot Point
No matter what type of arc you’re writing, the Third Plot Point is always a place that reeks of death. The character is brought face to face with his own mortality—either because his own life is threatened (literally or by extension, as when, for example, his livelihood or good name is threatened) or because the lives of those he cares about are put under the axe. In positive and flatarcs, the character will face down death, come to terms with its power, re-embrace life, and rise ready to once again do battle.
But in a negative character arc, the protagonist will find himself impotent in the face of this horror. The Lie he has stubbornly embraced throughout the story now renders him powerless. In essence, he’s lacking the one weapon—the Truth—necessary to fight and defeat the Lie. His only option is to surrender himself still deeper into the grip of the Lie in an effort to convince himself he has chosen the right path.
As always, the exception to the rule is the disillusionment arc, in which the character will face and accept the Truth. But the Truth will be dark and horrifying in itself.
The Disillusionment Arc Example
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Third Plot Point begins with a showdown between Gatsby and Daisy’s husband Tom, in which Tom reveals to Daisy that Gatsby has earned his money through criminal activities such as bootlegging. Daisy wavers from her decision to run away with Gatsby, and Tom orders Gatsby to drive her home. As Tom, Nick, and Jordan follow in a second car, they encounter a tremendous accident, in which they learn Gatsby’s yellow roadster hit and killed Tom’s mistress Myrtle. Nick is mostly an observer to these dramatic happenings, but they have brought him to a growingly irrevocable disgust for the entire East Egg set and their underhanded dealings with one another.
The Fall Arc Example
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë: Heathcliff kidnaps Edgar and Cathy’s teenage daughter Catherine and refuses to let her return to her dying father unless she marries Heathcliff’s son Linton. She finally complies and rushes home to her father just in time to watch him die. Heathcliff has achieved his great end—as many tragic protagonists do—by completing his vengeance. He has destroyed Edgar: his enemy is dead, and Heathcliff now holds title to all his property. But his victory has brought him no closer to peace—or to his true goal of being with Cathy.
The Corruption Arc Example
Star Wars, Episodes I-III directed by George Lucas: The Third Plot Point in Anakin’s arc is the moment when he realizes he cannot allow Mace Windu and the other Jedi Masters to kill the Sith Lord Darth Sidious. His desperate need to protect his wife, no matter the cost, prompts him to save the life of the man who has already killed millions and will kill millions more. More than that, he surrenders himself as an apprentice to the Dark Side, in order to learn Sidious’s secrets to life and death.
The Third Act
After the breaking point at the Third Plot Point, the tragic hero will rage futilely against death and its power, rather than rising into a personal resurrection. In 45 Master Characters, Victoria Lynn Schmidt writes:

Quote :
 He isn’t at all humbled by his experience: In fact, he builds up his own ego trying to prove he’s more than a mere human being. He may take risks without thinking and will demand to fight the villain alone. He’s like a one-man show … who doesn’t need anyone or anything. He won’t face what the [antagonist] is showing him [about the Truth]. He won’t look inside himself to find out what he really wants out of life.

Without the Truth, he has no tools with which to cope with this new tragedy. As a result, he spends the first half of the Third Act (prior to the Climax) determined to strike out at the antagonistic force and reach for the Thing He Wants any way he can. He will commit any number of crimes and sins. He has nothing left to lose and no moral compass to guide him.
Supporting characters may try to reason with him, but he will now be even less open to their suggestions. He may even turn on people whom he was previously willing to accept, despite their differing opinions. He simply has too much invested in his present course; he can’t afford to be talked out of it, even at the cost of alienating those he would previously have fought and died for. The end is entirely outweighing the means it costs to achieve it.
The Disillusionment Arc Example
The Great GatsbyAfter refusing to go with Jordan into the Buchanans’ house (in essence refusing to join their corrupt lifestyle), Nick encounters Gatsby and learns the truth of the drive-by accident: Gatsby wasn’t driving at all; Daisy was. Fearing Tom may harm Daisy, Gatsby insists on taking the blame for the accident and remains outside the Buchanans’ house all night. By now, the dark Truth has dawned for Nick. He knows too well that Tom and Daisy are one of kind. Daisy will let Gatsby take the blame, even as she distances herself from him without a second thought—not because remaining with her husband is the right thing to do but because she selfishly knows it’s in her best interest. Nick finally and conclusively realizes the East Egg crowd is a “rotten bunch.” He sticks around to try to help Gatsby, but from that point on, he’s no longer bewitched by the spectacles of wealth and beauty.
The Fall Arc Example
Wuthering HeightsAfter the completion of his vengeance against Edgar, Heathcliff sinks deeper and deeper into despair. He is broken, and he can’t find the strength to rise above his continuing obsessive need to be with Cathy. He even goes so far as to dig up her long-rotted corpse, and he does find momentary peace in the belief that it will be his soul—and not Edgar’s—that will be reunited with her in death. After his own son’s death, he drifts through life, torturing Catherine and Hindley’s son Hareton and contemplating Cathy’s ghost, who he believes has finally returned to haunt him. The only possible remaining route to his goal is death itself.
The Corruption Arc Example
Star WarsKnowing the Dark Side is the only possible solution to saving his wife, Anakin throws himself into the darkness completely. Even as he mourns the atrocities his new master orders him to commit, he doesn’t flinch from them. He can’t afford to. He’s come too far. The hole is too deep, and there’s no way back up. His only chance for himself and his wife is to dig deeper still. After Mace Windu’s death, Anakin slaughters the Jedi, young and old alike, as well as the Separatist Coalition—and anyone else who gets in his and his new master’s way.
The Climax
The Climax is where everything finally and fully falls apart. The character’s last desperate push to use the Lie to gain the Thing He Wants will achieve one of two possible outcomes.
1. He gains an apparent outer victory, in which he is able to claim the Thing He Wants, but in which his success is a hollow one. Without the Truth he can never find inner wholeness by gaining the Thing He Needs. In this type of ending, the Climactic Moment will likely include a glimpse of the Truth, in which the character comes to the crushing realization that his battle was a wasteful one and, worse, that the outrages he’s committed along the way have destroyed both himself and everything he once loved.
2. He loses both the inner and the outer battle. His inability to equip himself with the Truth dooms him to failure in his final conflict.
In planning the Climax in a negative arc, look back at the person your character was in the beginning of the book. The Lie he struggled with in the beginning—and the way in which he struggled with it–should point you to an obvious culmination in the Climax. As per Jeff Gerke in Plot vs. Character, the character’s end state should be “times ten” his beginning state:

Quote :
 If at the beginning, your hero has been struggling with anger, at the end he will either [in a positive arc] be able to let things go and just enjoy the moment or he will be so overwhelmed with anger that he will do something radical, like going on a shooting spree.

The Disillusionment Arc Example
The Great GatsbyNick’s disillusionment is complete when Gatsby is murdered by Myrtle’s husband—who believed Gatsby was responsible for her death and who then kills himself. All the people who flocked to Gatsby and his parties during his life disappear upon word of his death. Only a handful of mourners, Nick among them, attend his funeral.
The Fall Arc Example
Wuthering HeightsAs Catherine and Hareton begin to fall in love, Heathcliff is troubled by how closely their relationship mirrors his own youthful past with Cathy. His belief that Cathy is haunting him grows stronger and stronger, and he finds a measure of manic happiness in her supposed presence. His health declines rapidly thanks to his nightly walks in the moors, until one morning Hareton finds him dead. He has gone at last to be with Cathy, in the only possible way they could ever be together–by embracing the Lie more fully in the end than even at the beginning.
The Corruption Arc Example
Star WarsAnakin’s wife Padmé and former master Obi-Wan rush to stop him. When Padmé rejects Anakin’s methods for trying to save her, he lashes out at her. Even though keeping her alive has been the reason for his horrific choices and actions, he has now come too far down his dark path to brook resistance even from her. He nearly kills her, then turns on Obi-Wan and is eventually brutally wounded as a result of his blind faith in his own power.
The Resolution
The ending scenes in a tragedy are often comparatively short. Unlike a positive story, negative arcs leave few loose ends and don’t usually inspire in readers a desire to stick around in the story world. The great tragedy in the Climax is underscored with a sense of finality that doesn’t require much mopping up.
Still, some small postscript is almost always necessary. In the event of your protagonist’s death, you’ll need to show the surviving characters’ reactions, especially since many of them will probably have undergone disillusionment arcs as a result of witnessing his fall. You’ll want to show the effect of the protagonist’s actions upon the world around him. Presumably, he’s left it a worse place than that in which it started, but you may want to hint at the possibility for new hope in the world now that the protagonist’s dark influence has been lifted.
Most important, you’ll want to create a closing scene that drives home the character’s final state. Death, insanity, war, destruction, imprisonment—whatever finds him in the end should be represented in the story’s closing motif, as a clear contrast to how the story began.
The Disillusionment Arc Example
The Great GatsbyAfter the funeral, Nick distances himself from the East Egg crowd. Blinders now removed, he finds little to appreciate in the city life he once loved. He decides to return home, but not without officially ending his relationship with Jordan and confronting Tom. He revisits Gatsby’s house, where the grass is now overgrown, and he once again compares Gatsby, with his sense of wonder and hope, to the cynicism and selfishness of the world that destroyed him.
The Fall Arc Example
Wuthering HeightsWithout Heathcliff’s dark presence to poison their lives, Catherine and Hareton begin at last to bring love and happiness back into the corrupted atmosphere of Wuthering Heights. The book closes on an entirely hopeful note, promising the end of suffering. There’s even a hint of hope for Heathcliff, as the old manservant insists he can see his master’s ghost walking the moors with Cathy. The narrator, however, gives his own spin on a hopeful end for Heathcliff, believing that in death, at least, he will find rest.
The Corruption Arc Example
Star WarsAnakin’s efforts are completely ruined in the aftermath of his climactic fall. Just as he feared, his wife dies in childbirth—but, ironically, as the result of his own actions. He is rescued from death by his new master and confined to life as a monstrous cyborg. His story, of course, continues with the promise of “a new hope” in the galaxy.
Questions to Ask About the Negative Character Arc in the Third Act
1. How will your character fail in the story’s end?
2. How will his actions irrevocably damage others?
3. What tragedy will confront your protagonist at the Third Plot Point?
4. How will your character react to the Third Plot Point?
5. Why does your character’s refusal to embrace the Truth render him powerless to rise from the Third Plot Point better equipped to deal with both his inner and outer conflict?
6. What less-than-ideal (and possibly even downright evil) plan will your protagonist come up with for confronting the antagonistic force and gaining the Thing He Wants?
7. Will supporting characters try to reason with your protagonist? How will he respond?
8. In the Climax, will your character gain the Thing He Wants? If so, why will he realize his victory is still a hollow one? How will he react?
9. Alternatively, will your character fail to gain his ultimate goal? How will he react?
10. After his failure in the Climax, will your character at least momentarily realize the Truth and confront the futility of his actions?
11. How are your character’s actions in the Climax a magnified reflection of his Lie in the beginning of the story?
12. How does your Resolution show the effect of your protagonist’s actions upon supporting characters and the world-at-large?
13. Will you end on a hopeful note or a despairing note? Why?
14. How does your closing scene underline the character’s ultimate failure?
People often tend to think of negative character arcs as depressing, and, indeed, sometimes they are. But they’re also exceedingly necessary, just as vinegar is necessary to cleanse the palate after too much sugar. Tell your negative character arcs boldly. As long as you remember the unique structural turning points and the proper progression of pacing and foreshadowing, you’ll be able to create a negative arc every bit as compelling and entertaining as one with a happy ending.
And that, after almost six months, brings us to the conclusion of our exploration of character arcs. I hope you’ve enjoyed these three series as much as I have and have gleaned useful tools for telling your own stories. If you have any lingering questions about any of the arcs, feel free to leave a comment or email me. I’m always happy to respond to questions, whether they’re about characters arcs or any other writing.

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Christian Creative Writers :: CHRISTIAN WRITERS' RESOURCES :: Creative Writing & Poetry Tips-