What Exactly is a Character Arc?
We've all heard the loose definitions, "It's how the character changes during your story." Or, "It's what happens to your character to change him." Your character should travel an arc, which redefines his or her understanding of life. But, can we be more specific? We've found and isolated two specific kinds of character arc.
Change in Behavior
Usually when we talk about "character arc," we're referring to the movement a character makes from unhealthy behavior in the way they live life, to realizing they're making a mistake, to changing views and behavior. Let's see if we can create an example of this type of arc.
This is still fairly simplistic, but gives you an idea of what a character arc should do. There's another form of character arc where we don't see a change in behavior. The story goal remains the same, but the reason for completing it changes.
Change in Motivation
The classic example of this is Luke Skywalker. He begins his journey by joining the rebel fight against the Federation for revenge -- they killed his aunt and uncle. By the end, his motivation has changed. He's now part of the more universal fight of good vs. evil. He's also trying to impress the Princess, but mostly, he's joined the rebels in heart and action. His actions are the same, but his motivations have become noble. Let's see how this would outline:
The bottom line with character arc is that some established characteristic in a person changes. By the way, this is not always for the better. In a villain's world, he may become more desperate and dangerous. He slips down the slope towards a less healthy position. But, in the hero's world, she becomes a better person in the process with a new and improved view of the world.