Catalysts and Character Arcs

Turns out, my main character is the catalyst at two critical points in my villain’s character arc.

At one point, my heroine witnesses the suicide of a man who turns out to be the elder son of the woman who saved her life thirty years ago.

(That woman — her rescuer — becomes the strongest and most determined villain in the story.)

“You set everything in motion,” the man tells her. “Because of you, my mother is a different person. And my father is dead.”

He tells her more, but not everything. He charges her with finding his mother and telling her about how he died. He gives her everything that identifies him — his wallet and passport holder — before he pulls the trigger.

I was working on the story earlier — not re-writing anything and not so much as peeking at my first draft — but just writing about events in the story from my main character’s perspective.

I wrote the first draft from the point of view of an omniscient narrator, because that’s how it sounded in my head.

My “NaNo prep” was jotting down a lot of answers to “what if” questions, but when November 1st came, I pantsed all the way to the night of November 30th, just typing like mad to get everything out of my head and onto the pages.

And now, I’m not really editing, yet, but I am looking at my story from different angles, taking a harder look at what my main character really wants (other than the predictable stuff), because just making sure she and her love interest end up together doesn’t make for a satisfying ending.

Something is missing. And it’s not just my main character’s third dimension, though it’s probably related to it. In fact, I’m sure it is.

She wants to marry Elliot. She wants the door to keep appearing and opening every night, wherever she is. But there’s something else.

Her growing dependence on alcohol — not to obliterate her ability to remember the past but to take the edge off  — is something that Elliot becomes more and more aware of. He sees the quilted half-pint jar a third full of golden liquid every time he comes at night to walk through the door with her.

Why does she need it? And why does she only drink it alone?

She reaches a turning point when she confronts the demon who has pretended to be her guardian angel — and who has been trying to convince her to break things off with Elliot, lying to her about what really happened thirty years ago.

Maura confronts her true guardian angel, too, though — asking him the questions that have haunted her since the day her rescuer’s elder son made her the witness of his suicide.

Why did I survive — when the other children didn’t? Why did I make it home alive? 

How about you? Have you been making changes to your first draft, even without looking at it?

Have you been playing with different points of view and learning things about your characters that eluded you before?

Or maybe, like me, the core truth of your main character still eludes you.

I’d love it if you’d share your thoughts below. 🙂

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