We were done with our series on character arcs, but then those pesky comments had to butt in again 😉 . Murphy, an awesome commenter and thinker from the community at Edittorrent, left a very insightful comment about characters who do and don’t arc last week, which I think could prompt some good discussion today:
I was wondering about the difference between the male emotional arc vss the female. We think, process and communicate in a totally different ways—so shouldn’t the way we plot these arcs—reflect that? And doesn’t this tap into the POV issue at some point? Hmm…I’ll have to think about.
I think that the exact starting and ending points of the character arc should be suited to the character and the story—and gender, of course, will play into who the character is, in the sense that it plays into all of our selves and self conceptions.
Generally, however, I prefer to think of my characters on a deeper level than to generalize by gender—yeah, guys communicate one way and girls another, but more important to me is who these people are as individuals, not as a man, or as a woman. (Genre and plot, of course, can also play into this—in my latest WIP the male variety of fear of failure got to play a bigger role in my POV character than normal.)
In character who do arc, I think the basic pattern will always be the same—start at one extreme, lacking something (internally), be forced through external events to confront that lack and try new ways to alleviate it, and finally come to the reversal (and prove the change) at the climax and/or conclusion, where they’re now at the other extreme.
But the exact characteristics that they will change and the exact events that will make them change will vary depending on the character. And these may be dictated by gender—most likely, you’re not going to see a woman in a romance be the one to confront her own commitment issues. But at the same time, successfully bucking the conventions can be awesome, and in some ways, almost a requirement.
So what do you think? Are character arc patterns universal? How does your character’s gender play into your choices for their character arcs?
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