Girls Write Out
Wednesday, February 01, 2012

If you've lived any amount of time, hopefully, you've seen your friends (and yourself) grow in character. As writers, we must always consider what our character's arc will be. How they will grow and become a better person. Character is often forged in tragedy. As I was watching "Hoarders" last night, I thought how incredible it is that some people who are raised so abysmally can go on to do great things and overcome their struggles. And some people can turn all that tragedy inward and self-loathe until their house becomes a garbage dump and everyone who ever loved them, leaves.

It is so tragic when people don't overcome their circumstances -- a waste if you will. I think that's why I'm so attracted to really strong characters who take longer to get the message. I mean, I admire Job, but I get King David easier. David was a stubborn character. I mean, God was there for him. God delivered him, but when faced with the beautiful Bathsheba, God forgot about those times. Isn't that the beauty of grace though? It's why I love the Gospel message because nothing can separate us from the love of God.

In today's economy, people are really struggling and we can have so little grace for one another, but if we're on God's character arc, we get to keep trying. I have friends who are really religious, go to church every week, teach Sunday school, etc, but in 20 years, i can't say I've seen any character growth. (God is their judge, not me, I'm just saying from the outside looking in.) And yet, at the same time, I've watched friends go through alcoholism, divorce, church splits and addiction to become better people. Children of God who get why they need Christ.

What kind of Character arcs do you enjoy? Is David too up and down for you? Is Jonah too depressing? What kind of characters either in the Bible or in a book give you encouragement?

One of my favorites is Jack Nicholson in "As Good As It Gets" -- not remotely perfect, but better. Sometimes, that's as good as it gets.

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posted at 7:30 PM  
  Comments (7)
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At 8:06 AM, Blogger Timothy Fish said...

In many of the stories I have enjoyed, the hero begins in a place of weakness, but he ends in a place of strength and leadership. But I'm also intrigued by Gomer’s journey. She began in a place of strength and ended up broken and humble. Come to think of it, so did Samson.

Your comment about the religious, church going, Sunday school teachers is interesting. I think many people have the idea that as long as they do all the right things, they have no need for growth. We’ve perpetuated that idea by implying that those who are spiritually mature will be religious, church going, Sunday school teachers. But God often teaches by putting hardships in our lives. If we are weak, we learn to overcome the hardship and it makes us strong. If we are overconfident in our strength, God humbles us, so that we can see how weak we truly are. We must humble ourselves or God will do it for us.

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Colleen Coble said...

For me to get into a book, the character has to have SOME strength. I was rereading my Michael Hauge notes the other day and he gave the list of things that make a character compelling to readers. There are 5 of them. He says to use at least 2 in the opening scene before you reveal any character flaws. Good advice! I hate a scene where the character is weak and whiny.

At 10:09 AM, Blogger Timothy Fish said...

Colleen, I think all characters have SOME strength, just as all people have some strength, if we're willing to look for it, but some characters start off in a much weaker place than others. Also, I think it can make a difference whether the character is male or female. A female character that is weak appears to be whiny, when what we would like is for the character to learn to use the inner strength she already has. A weak male character (Luke Skywalker for example) comes off as immature, but that's okay because we want to show him learning to be a man.

At 10:13 AM, Blogger Colleen Coble said...

I've attempted to read books with a character that is weak in the beginning. I just hate them and don't finish them. LOL I'm too busy to read a book that doesn't grab me from the beginning. There are too many good books out there to mess with one I dislike. So I only give it maybe 2 chapters.

Michael Hauge says the same thing--the opening is hugely important!

At 11:08 AM, Blogger Timothy Fish said...

Colleen, I’m sure that’s why George Lucas began with a space battle instead of focusing on his main character.

At 11:49 AM, Blogger Kristin said...

We can have weak characters at the beginning, but we have to use other things to make us identify. With As Good as it Gets, it's humor and he's good at his job. So we know he's competent.

With Luke Skywalker, we get his dream that he wants something more when he's talking to Obi Wan, then, we get the sympathy when his family is gone.

At 8:26 AM, Blogger Sandie said...

I was reading a book the other day and as I was reading the beginning chapters I thought to myself I hate this guy. Why would anyone fall in love with him? I came close to putting the book down but persevered and finished it. Someone DID fall in love with him. I did like him a little better by the end of the book.

When I was reading your post I thought of LOST and how some of those characters were in one place when the story began - we saw them as enemy (or friend) and by the end we were supposed to see them as the opposite.

The Bible character that came to mind was Ruth. She had a sense of loyalty and character that I admire. She left all that she knew to start a new, difficult, life in a strange place because of her love and sense of responsibility toward Naomi. She was rewarded for her hard work.

Sometimes love - falling in love and keeping love - is hard work. Romance novels romanticize the process, but still shows the journey.


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The Authors
Kristin Billerbeck
Kristin Billerbeck is a proud Californian, wife, mother of four, and connoisseur of the irrelevant. She writes Christian Chick Lit; where she finds need for most of the useless facts lulling about in her head.

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble writes romantic suspense with a strong atmospheric element. A lovable animal of some kind--usually a dog--always populates her novels. She can be bribed with DeBrand mocha truffles.

Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter writes women's fiction and love stories with a strong emotional element. Her husband says he provides her with all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too.

Diann Hunt

Diann Hunt writes romantic comedy and humorous women's fiction. She has been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, chocolate, her dog, and well, chocolate.

Hannah Alexander

Cheryl Hodde writes romantic medical suspense under the pen name of Hannah Alexander, using all the input she can get from her husband, Mel, for the medical expertise. For fun she hikes and reads. Out of guilt, she rescues discarded cats. She and Mel are presently taking orders from four pampered strays.

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