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Helping Writers Become Authors #7

Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author's Guide to Uniting Story Structure, Plot, and Character Development

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About the Book

Powerful Character Arcs Create Powerful Stories

Have you written a story with an exciting concept and interesting characters—but it just isn’t grabbing the attention of readers or agents? It’s time to look deeper into the story beats that create realistic and compelling character arcs. Internationally published, award-winning novelist K.M. Weiland shares her acclaimed method for achieving memorable and moving character arcs in every book you write.

By applying the foundation of the Three-Act Story Structure and then delving even deeper into the psychology of realistic and dynamic human change, Weiland offers a beat-by-beat checklist of character arc guidelines that flexes to fit any type of story.

This comprehensive book will teach you:

How to determine which arc—positive, negative, or flat—is right for your character.
Why you should NEVER pit plot against character. Instead, learn how to blend story structure and character development.
How to recognize and avoid the worst pitfalls of writing novels without character arcs.
How to hack the secret to using overarching character arcs to create amazing trilogies and series.
And much more!

Gaining an understanding of how to write character arcs is a game-changing moment in any author’s pursuit of the craft.

Bring your characters to unforgettable and realistic life—and take your stories from good to great!

214 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 2016

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About the author

K.M. Weiland

32 books2,296 followers
K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso.

She is the award-winning and internationally published author of acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs, as well as Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic.

Her fiction includes the gaslamp fantasy Wayfarer, the historical/dieselpunk adventure Storming, the portal fantasy Dreamlander, and the medieval epic Behold the Dawn.

When she’s not making things up, she’s busy mentoring other authors on her award-winning blog HelpingWritersBecomeAuthors.com.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 417 reviews
Profile Image for Vicki.
1,207 reviews145 followers
February 7, 2017
This is a book I will keep close, there is a lot of information and instruction in this book and I will be using it from here on out. This has opened a door into a more complex and better-plotted story in the future. It has allowed me to see what was lacking in my own work and how to repair that deficit before it goes to print.

Highly recommend this book to any writing that wants to improve. And isn't there always room for improvement?
Profile Image for Meg Sherman.
169 reviews427 followers
November 3, 2016
This book completely revolutionized how I look at plotting a novel! Every writer should read it. Now instead of seeing ‘plot’ as a series of random events I somehow have to tie together (perhaps through that ever-illusive concept of ‘theme?’), I now see it as a logical and specific chain of trials designed to test and strengthen my protagonist. No need to stare at a blank screen wondering what should happen next. Thanks to Weiland’s insights, I know!

Most helpful was the section on Positive Change Arcs. In it Weiland describes vital ingredients needed to prompt true change in people, real or fictitious, and ties each element into where it should occur in relation to major events in the story’s structure (First Plot Point, Midpoint, Climax, etc.). Brilliant!

Most surprising was the section on Flat Arcs. I never thought I would enjoy writing or reading a Flat Arc novel, since I equate the form with brain-numb action flicks in the tradition of James Bond. Turns out some of my favorite stories are Flat Arcs: Hunger Games, Captain America, or Gladiator, anyone? According to Weiland, the power of a Flat Arc story is not in the change the protagonist undergoes, but rather in the change he affects in the world and characters that surround him. I’d heard this concept before, but thanks to the way Weiland articulated it I finally understood. Genius! Now I can’t wait to tackle my first Flat Arc or Negative Change Arc story, because thanks to Weiland I finally understand their potential and power.

Buy and read this book as soon as you can! It’s so full of valuable insights, and so devoid of unnecessary fluff, that when I tried to highlight the ‘important concepts’ in red I basically ended up with a solid red book. Every word is precise, necessary, and brilliant.

Also, don’t forget to check out Weiland’s website at HelpingWritersBecomeAuthors.com and sign up for her twice-a-month newsletter – it’ll rock your fictitious world.
Profile Image for G.H. Eckel.
Author 2 books135 followers
May 12, 2019
This book is helpful for authors. It follows protagonists through all the permutations of their ups and downs. The book's message kind of operates in the background as you're writing.
Profile Image for Amanda Tero.
Author 27 books525 followers
August 17, 2017
After hearing about K.M. Weiland's books and reading portions of her blog for a while, I've finally read one of her books on writing!

First off, I appreciate how CLEAN this book is as far as content. Many writers dive into vulgar or morally corrupt examples. While Weiland used some examples from movies or books I'd personally not watch/read, she was tactful in the information that she shared (like, "FINALLY, a writing book I can hand to my younger sisters!")

Now, for content. I haven't read many books about character structure, so there were many things that I now have to think about when creating characters. While I had known about character arcs, Weiland gives an understandable overview of how they work--Positive Arcs, Flat Arcs, and Negative Arcs--and gives plenty of examples from various books and movies.

It took me about ten chapters to get into this book. Perhaps it was because I hadn't read any of Weiland's other books. In some ways, it seemed like she has her own "code" for writing (for example, all of the capitalized words: Truth, Lie, Thing He Wants, First Plot Point--which, just for me personally, cluttered the reading space and distracted me). It took me a while to get used to that and to figure out exactly what she meant by all of them (many were things I knew of, I just didn't know how she was using them). Once I got used to that, it was better. So I'm not sure if that's just me and maybe my brain doesn't work like Weiland's.

Overall, there were helpful things in this book and I'll probably go back to it for specific sections.
Profile Image for Diz.
1,563 reviews88 followers
February 13, 2019
This book attempts to teach readers how to create interesting story arcs for their characters. Based on the examples, it seems that this book was written primarily for screenwriters. Unfortunately, it's a bit too formulaic for my taste. There are large sections of the book which consist of questions to ask about your characters. Also, there are long lists of examples from movies that illustrate the points being made. However, some of the examples given will leave you scratching your head. For example, Disney's Treasure Planet is given as an example a few times. I'm not really sure that writers want to take lessons from a movie that was a flop.
Profile Image for Marie Tankersley.
119 reviews
August 2, 2019
I didn’t like this book in the beginning. The positive change arc section was quite long and it was the one that I knew best and that I would expect others to know best as well. It was very detailed, and didn’t need to be, though if you are unfamiliar with the basics of character development it may be useful.

The next two sections of the book were excellent. The flat change arc was very well described and it wasn’t too drawn out. The negative change arc section was also very educational and because of these two last sections, I ended up really enjoying the book.
Profile Image for Lili P.
117 reviews1 follower
May 29, 2021
This was so extremely helpful! When I first began reading it a year or so ago, it discouraged me because I felt like there was a lot I needed to fix, and it would be impossible. Then I picked it up again, and everything worked so well! I read it and took notes and answered the questions for my book, tweaking things here and there, but really this book just made everything stronger. It was also cool to see how much I’ve already done right without even knowing it. It made me so happy I couldn’t help smiling.
88 reviews41 followers
February 4, 2021
Concise. Interesting. Helpful if you're into learning the craft (theory) of storytelling in any form.

This was in a recommendation list of Like Stories of Old, and Lessons from Screenplay, so had to read it!

Profile Image for Coralie.
543 reviews86 followers
February 16, 2022
This is an absolutely stellar resource and tool for writers. The more I engage with Weiland's work, the more I just have mad respect for the woman.

First off, Weiland is a great teacher. She explains things so simply and straightforward. There's no guesswork about the point she's making or convoluted circular logic. She makes her point, reinforces it with numerous examples, and provides practical questions for application to your own writing. Boom.

I know people learn in different ways, but I connect with Weiland's teaching style. And I'm so thankful. I've been studying characters for years and this book is GOLD I tell you! Not only is her explanation logical (and often threaded with humor), but she takes the time to explain how character arcs relate to plot points, which is really useful as a writer who struggles with external plot elements. If I can understand how the character's journey functions and how the character arc moments relate to the plot development, I can then begin to understand what I need in my plotting to make the story work well.

I work best with examples, and there was no shortage of them in this book. Weiland takes well known and loved books and films and uses the same examples consistently throughout the book to illustrate the development of the character arcs in those stories. It was incredibly enlightening for me to have those examples to follow, not only for each individual point, but through the arc as a whole. And often where one example was a little weak (which she did a good job of admitting and pointing out), four other examples present were strong. Her examples honestly made me want to rewatch/read the stories to specifically look for the things I was learning through the book.

And, of course, her applicational questions <3 I love Weiland's heart for being practical and useful. She doesn't stop with excellent teaching or relevant examples. She forges on and gives numerous questions at the end of each chapter to help writers tease out their characters and write strong arcs.

Furthermore--you ask how can there be more, but oh, there is--she considers the different kinds of arcs in story and commonly asked character and character arc questions. This book is an all-in-one, comprehensive character arc resource. If you write, you need this book on your shelf. If you're an ultra nerd like me and just want to better understand story--whether you write or not--this book is an easy, quick, and incredibly useful read. Go. Get. This. Book.
Profile Image for E.C..
Author 1 book76 followers
March 16, 2021
A while back, I went into this book expecting a read on how to create unique characters and was minorly disappointed. Well, couple-year-younger me, you clearly weren't reading the title right. XD

After a re-read, I've concluded that this is a really good book on character arcs and story structure without being dry or boring. K.M. Weiland's author voice still shines through!

A few aspects were a bit confusing, but the questions at the end of every chapter were tools that I'll definitely be using for a future novel.

Overall, a great read for anyone who's interested in writing strong character arcs, and. . . *checks title* "uniting story structure, plot, and character development."
Profile Image for Matt.
835 reviews
April 15, 2019
I had a lot of enthusiasm for this book when I bought it. Perhaps I am not a good enough writer to appreciate the extensive information regarding the authors extreme interest in discussing character arcs and how they relate and are developed in the three acts of a novel. I contemplated donating this book but on second thought perhaps I will appreciate it more as I improve as an author. Maybe then I will be able to assimilate the pearls of wisdom the author has embedded in this book.
Profile Image for Mrs. Y.
229 reviews45 followers
December 7, 2018
If you have been following on Twitter, no doubt you followed my NaNoWriMo whim. In November I settled on writing the novel that I had in my head and wanted to do so as quickly as possible. This post is not about what I wrote, as much as it is why I read this book. Though I did not get to this book before NaNo, I have read it before taking my rough draft to my first draft. Want to know more? Want a more structured story? Well, follow along with my friend, and set your expectations at the door and be ready to embark on a review of “Creating Character Arcs” By KM Weiland.

Instinctively as a reader, and as anyone who reads, we all know that certain things must go together to have a good story before us. However, it takes someone who is immersed and can teach a craft to help others to improve theirs. I do not have a degree in writing, and frankly, I’m not sure I could handle that kind of schooling. I am however someone who does well with instruction manuals and putting them into practice. For me, this book was terrific for my style of learning.

KM Weiland I think is the best kind of teacher. She teaches with demonstrations and examples, and the pacing of this book is just right for pausing and trying again. Everything is broken down very well, and in pieces that anyone should be able to understand. It also was eye-opening. There are some stories I’m drawn to, and I found out that my favorite kinds of protagonists are the ones that are in the negative change arcs. I knew what that was, but I didn’t realize it had a name to it. I love it when someone learns a lesson from negativity, and I’m not sure why that is important to me, but it is. To me, this seems far more realistic than definite change arcs. It’s much more difficult in my opinion for someone to turn out with a happy ending, rather than a grey or muddled one.

So to hear what it is that makes a book work in a character arch, was eye-opening and helpful. While I loved and knew some of this by instinct, I know it much better after reading this book.

I also want to point out this is not written as a book of “Well I know better than you ever will so listen to me.” There are several books about how to write books which are pushy just as I mentioned. “I’ve sold so many millions of books you would be stupid if you didn’t listen to me” is not the kind of thing I want to hear. Anyone can sell millions of books if that book is desirable, but that does not mean their methodology is what I can utilize for my writing style. KM Weiland makes no such claims in this story that she’s either better than I am nor that I’m obligated to listen to her or else. Instead, it’s written as a friend would give instructions, not some rabid taskmaster. I like that. I’d instead learn from a friendly approach than a relentless, cruel teacher.

Those of you who are familiar with how I review “How To” books, will know I have to test it before I can officially evaluate it. So I have been, I’ve gone through some of the stories I love to check myself and see if the methods hold. Sure we can get into very technical things about structure and plot points, but this book is about character arcs specifically. I can say after checking several things; this book is very accurate to what it is saying. Indiana Jones has a positive change arch from the first movie to the Last Crusade. Sean Connery as Doctor Jones had a flat one. These are some subtle things I love, knowing what it is I’m watching helps me.

I do recommend this book if you have no real training formally in writing. I’m not sure how this fairs with those who like to have “Oxford coma wars” with others on Twitter, but for me it’s helpful.

I am going to 94% because it is so helpful. This makes it a 5-star review on Amazon and Goodreads. I am thinking about getting more of her books to understand writing as a craft better. This may also help me with book reviewing as well, as I will have an easier time pointing out what it is that I have noticed along the way.
Profile Image for Josiah.
825 reviews177 followers
November 4, 2016
Disclaimer: I have received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

I’ve followed Weiland's blog and read her books for several years now, so I had high expectations for this book.

Weiland not only matched my expectations, but even surpassed them.

There were certain things I was expecting Weiland to do a great job at: carefully explaining how to develop a thematic arc as a war between a lie and a truth; comprehensively showing how the truth can overcome the lie in the course of a novel; and helpfully using a strong plethora of examples to show these principles in action. All of this was great, and while she focuses the most on a positive character arc, she still spend a lot of time delving into the flat and negative character arcs, and her three-fold division of the negative arc in particular was really helpful. All of this was excellent work, and I expected that.

What I didn’t expect in this book was how much Weiland ties the character arc to the truths of human nature. The idea of a character arc isn’t just a central idea for fiction. It’s a fundamental fact of human psychology, and Weiland delves into this with the depth it deserves. She constantly brings back the structure of the character arc to the reality of human nature, and it's this constant return that absolutely sold me on the value of this book.

I cannot recommend Weiland’s book highly enough. The book does everything it’s supposed to do and more. For anyone who wants to learn more about writing themes and compelling character arcs, this book comes with my highest recommendations.

Rating: 4.5-5 Stars (Extremely Good).
Profile Image for Eldon Farrell.
Author 14 books95 followers
March 11, 2017
Everything you need to know about this book really is right there in the title. K.M. Weiland takes you step by step through the process of constructing the three main character arcs (positive change, flat, and negative change) as well as slight variations on each.

Each chapter follows pretty much the same structure and layout which makes returning later to check your own work rather easy. I feel every writer should read this at some point as it's not just for beginning writers. We could all benefit from something here.

The only issues I had with this book were that most of the examples seemed to be odd choices. As Weiland steps through the major points of each featured example a lot of time ended up being devoted to such choices as Chicken Run, or Cars, or What About Bob? Even Thor and Batman Begins received the treatment. The common denominator with all of them obviously being movies. Weiland did touch on some classic fiction but I would've preferred more fiction examples as opposed to the screenplay heavy variety she chose.

Aside from that, I still chaff at the very notion of such formula heavy writing. I still view being told where to place plot points and how to transition between acts as stifling to real creativity. But alas...her advice did cause me to view my own manuscript in a new light and so she earns the 5 stars.

Any book that makes you think is one well worth reading.
Profile Image for Searska GreyRaven.
Author 14 books12 followers
April 23, 2019
Books on writing tend to be very hit or miss, but this is one of the few really good ones I've come across. Solid advice on how to build a character arc, different kinds of arcs, and even a few short chapters on adding arcs to a longer series. My one gripe would be the over-arching assumption that the main character is always male. Several examples were non-male, but whenever the author spoke of a main character, it was always male. Got on my nerves after a while. FFS, mix it up a bit.
Profile Image for Rosey Waters.
Author 1 book11 followers
March 2, 2017
This book slapped me in the face. As it turns out, I haven't been writing a change arc story, I've been writing a flat arc story. This is both good and bad -- major re-writes loom over my future, but I think they will be positive.
Profile Image for Kayleigh Idea.
29 reviews10 followers
January 8, 2021
After reading this, I’m questioning everything I ever knew about character arcs. 😂 But seriously this book is so in-depth and perfect for plotters like me. Will definitely be implementing everything I learned in my next book.
Profile Image for Jeremy Ray.
Author 6 books291 followers
February 11, 2022
This book is wonderful, especially in the later pages. So many books talk about the "Positive character ARC" in a hero's journey. Weiland invests the first half on it and has solid insights, but the real treasure for me came in the second half of the book. It was illuminating reading about the "Disillusionment ARC", "Flat ARC", as well as learning the difference between the "Fall ARC" and "Corruption ARC". Highly recommend... especially to anyone who wants to go deeper with their character-building.
Profile Image for Schuyler.
Author 1 book68 followers
December 28, 2016
Every author knows the delight of sinking your teeth into a powerful writing craft book. It gives you a further glimpse into your craft, opportunity to mull over how you do things, compare it to how others do things, and find YOUR happy process along the way.

But lest this book seems strictly writer-related, it's far from it! If you love to read, and want to learn more about the science behind how characters are created, then pick up K.M. Weiland's newest release (today!) Creating Character Arcs. Before you know it, you'll be bossing around terms like "flat arc" "midpoint" and "bleak moment" for everything from Beyond the Mask to Doctor Strange. It makes viewing and reading that much richer, and conversations with bookish friends that much more fun.

I've read Ms. Weiland's blog, so her thoughts on characters weren't completely new to me. But reading it all in one book cover to cover was far easier than opening dozens of internet tabs in my quest to improve my characters. Katie has a relaxing, fun, and informative style to her writing books that make it easy to read, while every section is packed rich with information to improve your writing. She includes concrete tips, examples from film and literature (both classic and modern) and great questions at the end of every chapter to get you thinking how you're doing with your own characters.

When I finished writing War of Honor this spring, I remember walking away feeling like my main character had no arc. It was just the thing I was afraid would happen. But as I went through her book, and answered some of the questions at the end of each chapter, I was very happy to discover that my character was grappling, learning, gaining tools, and finding defeat or victory moments at just the right places. I'm sure much of that came from instinctual absorption of Katie's teaching, and reading Creating Character Arcs was just the confirmation I needed to know that I have been following good structure--now all I need in draft two is to shine it up and polish it.

I highly recommend this book for an informative read for writers and readers alike--character arcs are super fun to discuss, and I'm even using what I learned from this book to think through the story of Esther that our pastor is preaching about!

Head on over to Amazon and treat yourself to a copy!

I received an advance copy from the author. All opinions expressed are my own.
Profile Image for Faith.
Author 49 books233 followers
March 12, 2018
Title: Creating Character Arcs
Written By: K.M. Weiland
Genre: Writing Helps/Non-fiction
Recommended Ages: Any

I had never really thought much about character arcs until recently. So I picked up this book and read it. It was amazing!

Clarity: 1/1
Everything in the book is well thought out and easy to understand. K.M. Weiland uses examples from well-known stories. Some I knew and some I didn't, but even with the stories I didn't know, I figured out enough to have them help me make more sense of what exactly needed to be done.

Usability: 1/1
Extremely usable for any author. I highly recommend it.

Readability: 1/1
The format and words used were definitely readable.

Overall writing quality: 1/1
K.M. Weiland has an easy-to-read style to her writing that makes it enjoyable to read her books whether they are fiction or non-fiction.

Un-put-down-ability: 1/1
Due to the amount of information in this book, I did have to put it down a few times just to let my brain get a little rest, but otherwise it was hard to set aside.

Every author should read this book. No matter how good they think they are at character development.
Profile Image for Sherrie Marshall Spitz.
51 reviews1 follower
November 10, 2016
After I read Structure Your Novel by Weiland, I snatched up every instructional writing book this author has published. Creating Character Arcs is one more gem in my resource library of books on craft. This book makes little things like characteristic scene moments and characters who act on false assumptions understandable and easy to balance. Using the clear thought provoking questions at the end of each chapter deepen the entire writing process. Not only am I impressed enough to own a digital copy of the book, I bought a hard copy so that I can flip to pertinent sections that relate to my current WIP.

Weiland's instructional style has changed how readers perceive my writing. So many have commented on the major improvements I've made. I owe this to Ms. Weiland and her command of the crafted word. Creating Character Arcs is a timely publication that will be relative to authors for years to come. Don't miss this one!

Sherrie Marshall
Profile Image for Malcolm Logan.
Author 3 books35 followers
July 15, 2017
A helpful corollary to the organic method of composition, this step-by-step examination of the psychological transformation of fictional characters encourages the writer to identify each place in the story where the character grows or regresses in order to build dramatic tension and sustain reader interest. I found it most useful in combination with an already existing plot line. It allowed me to go back and re-jigger plot points to make them fall within a "best practices" continuum.

Ultimately, the same structure can be arrived at by a more organic method, but it will take longer. For this reason, the book’s main value, it seems to me, is as a helpful reference during the plotting process, to speed things along, and not as a how-to for constructing a story from scratch. In other words, know your character first, have some idea of how you want your plot to unfold, and then reference this book as you put together your plot line. I will definitely use it again.
Profile Image for Alex.
283 reviews5 followers
September 19, 2019
An indispensable resource for writers or story lovers who want to better understand story structure. Uses lots of old and contemporary examples from films and novels to illustrate its claims. Arcs covered include the positive change arc, the flat arc, and the negative change (corruption or fall) arc.

I got a lot of useful information from this book and will try incorporating the interplay between lies and truths that characters believe in my own attempts at fiction. Great narration in the audio book as well, and it doesn’t overstay its welcome. If anything, it might even be too short. 4.5/5 but giving it a solid 5 because I kept saying “YES!” and nodding along as I listened. I mean, not really, but you get the idea.
Profile Image for Charly Troff (JustaReadingMama).
1,129 reviews25 followers
May 22, 2021
3.5 rounded up.

This was a very informative, well formatted book. I found the negative character arc section the most useful, as it was the one I knew the least about.

I found some of the explanation a little vague and hard to follow at times. I usually got it in the end, with the examples at the end, but I wish it had been clear from the beginning.

If you are just starting off, this is a good resource. I found it a little repetitive of information I've learned in other places, sick as Save The Cat! Writes a Novel. I think the most helpful thing this book offers is the perspective of the lie versus the truth.
Profile Image for Julia Garcia.
307 reviews68 followers
April 30, 2021
I'm so glad that I decided to read this book this month! It was exactly what I needed to help me fix areas that were wrong with my story that have been bugging me for six years. I'll definitely be referencing this book a lot in the very near future.
Profile Image for Faith Rivens.
Author 5 books45 followers
September 5, 2017
KM Weiland does it again.

Full review to come but a highly valuable resource for writers looking to strengthen character arcs!
Profile Image for Kartik.
242 reviews39 followers
April 9, 2022
Pretty basic stuff, but still important to know. Without a proper knowledge of writing foundations one cannot use them nor break them and try something out of the box. I will say that the writing of this book was VERY dry so using the audiobook was helpful as it allowed me to passively listen to it like a podcast.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 417 reviews

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