Top 6 Character Arc Design Tips for Writers Who Want to Give Readers the Emotions and Story Resolutions They Crave

Character Arc Design

Your readers want a story that supplies the emotions they crave and provides a satisfying resolution, so like bestselling authors, incorporate both into your character arc design!

Character Arc Design Challenges

Incorporating riveting emotions and satisfying resolutions into your character arc design is not as easy as it sounds because writers must balance characters, plot, and subplots. It gets even dicier if you’re using a multi-point of view.

Thankfully, top-selling authors have shown us how your character arc design can convey the emotions readers crave and provide a satisfying story resolution.

6 Character Arc Design Tips

For your character arc design, keep in mind you’ll want to:

  1. Create memorable introductions of characters.

    Make it easy for readers to meet and remember important characters. For example, use unique names and expressive physical descriptions.

  2. Introduce new characters based on the point-of-view (POV) character’s insights.

    Show the audiences how the POV character feels about the new person. For instance, draw from the POV character’s backstory to show the reason for those feelings.

  3. Make the description align with how the POV character expresses thoughts and feelings.

    Readers relate to the emotions expressed by the POV character. For example, make those thoughts and feelings consistent with the POV character’s distinctive voice.

  4. Limit the descriptions to details that move the story forward.

    Too many details can slow down the story’s pace and confuse or distract readers. Thus, share only what readers need to know at crucial turning points in your story.

  5. Include only thoughts, choices, words, and actions matching the character’s backstory.

    Readers dislike stories where the characters react to plot events counter to their revealed backstory. For example, if you need for a character to behave a certain way in the story’s climax, share the reason before you reach that critical juncture.

  6. Write key scenes based on your character arc design.

    The shape of the positive character arc is based on the protagonist wrestling with an inner issue, confronting several conflicts, realizing an inner change must take place, struggling until the recognition of some universal truth, accepting that truth, making a change, and ultimately, achieving the story’s goal. For example, in the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen travels along a positive character arc.

    For the flat character arc design, the protagonist already knows the universal truth and, despite the conflicts within the story, focuses on guiding those characters who need to know that truth. For instance, in Raymond Chandler’s books, wisecracking, whiskey-drinking, iconic gumshoe Philip Marlowe travels along a flat character arc.

    In contrast to the positive and flat character arcs, the negative character arc has the protagonist struggling with an inner issue, realizing the need for an inner change, refusing to accept some universal truth, failing to change, declining in traits and behaviors, and not achieving the story’s goal. For example, in The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby’s character travels along a negative character arc.


Your character arc design can:

  1. Provide readers with the emotions they crave.
  2. Provide your audience with a satisfying story resolution.
  3. Avoid plot holes by opening and closing each character arc.

To see the contrast between the character and story arcs, check out If I Was Creating a Story Arc Today.

Leave a Reply

What do you see as the most important aspects of character arc design?

8 responses to “Top 6 Character Arc Design Tips for Writers Who Want to Give Readers the Emotions and Story Resolutions They Crave”

  1. Jacqui Murray Avatar

    Great discussion of these, Grant. Thanks!

  2. Priscilla Bettis Avatar

    I often forget about the timing of descriptions, when the reader needs to know. Thank you for the reminder.

    1. Grant at Tame Your Book! Avatar
      Grant at Tame Your Book!

      You know what they say, “Timing is everything.” Thanks, Priscilla!

  3. wordsfromanneli Avatar

    I think it’s important to give the bad guy some redeeming qualities, so the reader can hope he may change, or at least make the reader wonder if there’s a chance he might change course. The good guy needs some flaws that make the reader worry whether he’ll come through and do the right thing in the end.

    1. Grant at Tame Your Book! Avatar
      Grant at Tame Your Book!

      Excellent point, Anneli!

      1. wordsfromanneli Avatar

        Thanks, Grant. I remember making this mistake in my early writing. I was glad someone clued me in before I published any flawless characters, or totally bad ones. Afterwards, I remember one of my readers being annoyed that I gave the bad guy some good qualities, but even people who do bad things have something good about them – even if it may be hidden from others.

  4. Madhu R Avatar

    That’s a great list, Grant! I’m in the middle of writing a character arc post myself and found this very interesting. I’ve found creating a satisfying character arc a challenge in my stories – A simple concept but not that simple to pull off.

    1. Grant at Tame Your Book! Avatar
      Grant at Tame Your Book!

      So true, Madhu! It’s that unique combo of art and structure that readers love.

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