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How to Write a Great Character Arc

How to Write a Great Character Arc

“Use the Force, Luke.” It’s one of the most iconic phrases in the history of film – and if you haven’t heard it before, you must have been living on a backwater desert planet for the last forty years.

 It also contains a valuable lesson for writers. In our latest Writing Insights article, Edward Smith takes a look at how these four words unlock the secrets of the character arc.

And a quick warning if you’ve been living on that desert planet… This article contains spoilers for the original Star Wars trilogy.

We all want to write memorable characters with plenty of depth, and any writer who knows their craft knows that the key to this is the character arc: a process of change and growth that a character undergoes in the course of the story. A character who changes pops off the page and the screen because they are reacting to the world they inhabit, as real people do, whereas a static character is forever nothing more than a two-dimensional collection of traits.

ScriptYet change just for the sake of change is not enough. The very best character arcs do something more: they equip the hero with the qualities they need to emerge victorious. If your thoughts just went to every training montage you’ve ever seen, you’re on the right lines, but to maximize this concept it needs to be taken further. Skills and knowledge are one thing, but gaining the wisdom to make use of what they know – that is what makes a character’s journey truly satisfying.

And this is where we come to our key phrase. “Use the Force, Luke.”

In the original Star Wars trilogy, the character arc is applied brilliantly – and differently – in each of the three films. Luke Skywalker undergoes three arcs, each one concluding in a different fashion, showing us how invaluable it is to fully understand this concept.

 

Episode Four: A New Hope

Luke starts out as a mere farmboy who could never triumph against the might of the Empire. In the course of his adventures, however, he grows into a hero who is entrusted, in the film’s climax, with the task of destroying the Death Star. Yet even then, even with all he has learned, he comes dangerously close to failure, and it takes a reminder from Obi-Wan Kenobi to make sure he doesn’t repeat the mistakes of those who came before him. “Use the Force, Luke.” Luke now has the wisdom to listen – and is rewarded with victory.

Episode Five: The Empire Strikes Back

Here we find the character arc used to different effect – in fact, in entirely the opposite manner. After going to train with Jedi Master Yoda, Luke leaves before he is ready despite the warnings of his teacher – and, erm… It doesn’t end well for him. At all. This is fundamentally the tragic form, in which the hero fails to learn what they need to succeed – although unlike most tragic heroes, Luke is lucky enough to escape with his life.

Episode Six: Return of the Jedi

Luke actually has little physical impact on the film’s conclusion. While the Rebellion faces off against the Empire (albeit aided by teddy-bears), Luke is locked in a personal battle with Darth Vader and the Emperor, emerging with a moral victory by having the wisdom to know when to stay his hand. While it doesn’t directly affect what happens elsewhere, his arc is nonetheless satisfying because it has a karmic effect; his moral victory is rewarded within the story by simultaneous success for his friends in the Rebellion.

So what can we learn from this? The original Star Wars trilogy demonstrates how a character arc is not merely about growth, but growth with purpose, giving a character not merely the skills they need but also the wisdom to use them. It also shows how an arc can be used in different ways: to give your protagonist success, disaster, or a moral victory.

So whichever kind of character arc you opt for in your script, you now have all the information you need – just make sure you have the wisdom to use it…

 

Spring Contest 2018 closes Sunday June 17 – Last Chance to Enter!

Spring Contest 2018 closes Sunday June 17 – Last Chance to Enter!

The Final Deadline is fast approaching for our Spring Contest 2018! Add the finishing touches to your script and submit it by this Sunday, June 17 to win fantastic prizes.

There are 9 winning categories, $2000 available in prize money, plus over $3000 in script development for the 3 winners, bonuses and promotion through InkTip – we promise to develop and promote them to the top of the international film industry.

Plus, twice Academy Award nominated director Habib Zargarpour and WriteMovies founder Alex Ross are looking for VFX driven scripts to take to Hollywood – make it yours by entering our competition!

In addition to our Overall Winner, we also have prizes for the Best Studio Script, Best Indie Script, and Best Short Script – and we’re not just interested in screenplays, either. Our competition includes several other categories: get your television series started with Long and Short Form Pilots, raise the curtain on a future in theatre by sending in your Stageplay, and unleash the screen potential of your Book!

And don’t forget our newest category: Best Video Game Script! Guide us into your gaming universe and show us how creative you can be – we’d be thrilled to read your projects!

See the prizes available below, and enter our competition here!

Prizes and awards up for grabs in each category… Click on the prizes to learn more about them!

PRIZES Overall Winner Best Studio Script Best Indie Script Best Short Script Best Long Form Pilot Best Short Form Pilot Best Book Best Stageplay Best Video Game Script
$2000 Cash Prize YES
Year of script and pitching development worth $3200 YES YES YES
Elite Consulting YES
Development Notes YES YES YES YES YES YES
Studio Coverage YES YES
Judging Feedback YES YES
Confidential Studio Manual YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES
Inktip prizes guaranteed to winner 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Placed Winners

 

Guaranteed Pitching to Industry 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Placed Winners

 

YES YES TBC TBC TBC
Virtual Film School exclusive previews YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES

ENTER HERE!

Date Limite du Concours Printemps 2018 Repoussée au 17 Juin

Date Limite du Concours Printemps 2018 Repoussée au 17 Juin

NEWS DE LA PLUS GRANDE IMPORTANCE! Vous avez jusqu’au 17 JUIN pour participer au concours Printemps 2018, alors N’ATTENDEZ PLUS ! 

Je rappelle que nous offrons un accès total à nos compétitions internationales et à nos services d’analyse et d’évaluation. Nos services, analyses et évaluations sont de la même qualité et du même format que les plus grands studios de production internationaux.

Entre autres choses, nous présenterons les scripts gagnants à nos contacts les plus haut placés dans l’industrie cinématographique pour vous et les gagnants recevront 2000$ USD ainsi qu’un développent de script gratuit (valeur 3200$ USD!).

Si vous avez des questions, vous pouvez m’envoyer ça en privé.

Cliquez ici pour vous enregistrer

Featured Script Analyst Trainee: Leonardo Goi

Featured Script Analyst Trainee: Leonardo Goi

Trainees and interns have been a great support to us at WriteMovies, giving us extra sets of eyes on varied scripts to give entrants the fairest chance possible, and in return getting full training and practice to become approved WriteMovies-trained script analysts.

Leonardo Goi recently finished his traineeship and receives a certificate to showcase his achievement.

Here’s what Leonardo had to say:

I entered the world of cinema as a film critic: I began writing my first reviews as a teenager and “turned pro” after graduating from my masters, but the world of script-writing always held a special spot. I knew I wanted to begin writing for film and TV, but didn’t know how. Finding out about the training program offered by WriteMovies was a blessing: not only did the scheme teach me how to evaluate scripts and produce development notes to industry standards, it also greatly improved my own screenwriting skills. Mind you, the course will demand a lot from you in terms of time and commitment, but it’s well worth the effort, and the 6-8 weeks you’ll be spending learning the ropes will prove priceless as you progress in your career. I was delighted to be selected for the program, and I am thrilled to now begin working with WriteMovies as a script analyst. 

To become our next trainee to gain this experience for your own career, APPLY HERE at our vacancies page. As the work is challenging, we suggest that only highly literate graduates apply.

Deadline Extension for our 2018 Spring Writing Contest!

Deadline Extension for our 2018 Spring Writing Contest!

Our Spring Writing Contest gets a NEW DEADLINE! If you haven’t submitted your scripts yet, make sure to give them a final polish and send them our way by June 17. 

Are you an aspiring screenwriter looking to take your first steps in Hollywood? Our venerable competition is a unique opportunity to make that dream come true. Ever since 2000, we have helped the talented writers who have excelled in our WriteMovies Contest to find representation and assignments in the industry, pitch their scripts, and have their projects optioned, sold and produced.

Let us help you become our next success story! There are 9 winning categories, $2000 available in prize money, plus over $3000 in script development for the 3 winners, bonuses and promotion through InkTip – we promise to develop and promote them to the top of the international film industry.

Remember: we are not only looking for screenplays, but entries in plenty of other categories, including:

  • Long and short form pilots: eager to write for TV and series? Submit your pilots and win fantastic prizes!
  • Books: have a book you’ve worked on and are now ready to share with the world? Send it our way!
  • Stageplays: fancy breaking into the world of theatre? Show us your stageplay, and let us help you achieve your goal!
  • … and video game scripts: guide us into your gaming universe and show us how creative you can be – we’d be thrilled to read your projects!

Enter our competition HERE to become our: Overall Winner – Best Studio Script – Best Indie Script – Best Short Script – Best Long Form Pilot – Best Short Form Pilot – Best Book – Best Stageplay – Best Video Game Script! Entry fees just $45-59…

And here’s what you’ll earn by winning them…!

Prizes and awards up for grabs in each category… Click on the prizes to learn more about them!

PRIZES Overall Winner Best Studio Script Best Indie Script Best Short Script Best Long Form Pilot Best Short Form Pilot Best Book Best Stageplay Best Video Game Script
$2000 Cash Prize YES
Year of script and pitching development worth $3200 YES YES YES
Elite Consulting YES
Development Notes YES YES YES YES YES YES
Studio Coverage YES YES
Judging Feedback YES YES
Confidential Studio Manual YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES
Inktip prizes guaranteed to winner 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Placed Winners

 

Guaranteed Pitching to Industry 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Placed Winners

 

YES YES TBC TBC TBC
Virtual Film School exclusive previews YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES

ENTER HERE!