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Character Arcs

This is one of the most important things in a novel. What situation or event leads the main character to do what they do; take the decisions they take. In my first book my main character wakes and finds the body of his girlfriend. Her hands are tied behind her back and she is hanging from the wardrobe by her neck. It’s drunken S&M gone badly wrong. How Jimmy Wayne reacts to this situation decides the whole direction of the book. If he calls the police, it’s going to be a very short novel. He doesn’t do that. Instead, I make the ghost of his dead girlfriend appear from the bathroom. It’s never explained whether it is a ghost or just Jimmy, in his fragile mental state, imagining her. If it’s resolved too early it will kill the plot and character development.

So, I have the arc of the main character and his dead girlfriend, who is now still available to me, to develop the arc. To further enrich it, when he wakes up, apart from his girlfriend’s body he also finds a song, written in his own handwriting. It’s a brilliant song. Jimmy is a washed-up singer who can’t write songs, but this one is different. Wendy, his dead girlfriend, realises that it’s the killing that releases this gift to write great songs. If Jimmy is to become a star, he needs to write great songs and the only way he can do this is by killing folks.

So, by bringing his girlfriend back as a ghost or imaginary character, I have changed the whole arc of Jimmys story and intertwined it with Wendy and multiple murder. This then sets up the plot for the whole series. The death of Wendy is clearly accidental but by burying her in the desert, at her suggestion, she has made him appear to be a killer. Jimmy is really a good guy; I need him to be sympathetic. It’s not easy to be a likable serial killer. To achieve this I only allow Jimmy to kill bad people; Gangsters and scumbags. Wendy stays around to help, which keeps their story arc together and developing through the series. From the arc that is caused by Wendy’s death, I have now written three books and the fourth will be out in 2024. If you want your characters to grow, you need to give them an arc that will create longevity.

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