A character arc is the way a character changes or grows throughout the course of a story. The change can be physical or emotional, and it doesn’t have to be major, but you want your main characters, especially your protagonist, to experience some sort of transformation along their journey.
At the beginning of your story, ask yourself the following questions about your main characters:
The answers to these questions can be broad or specific. For example, here are what my main characters want in my novel Wait for the Rain, which is about three college friends who reunite on a tropical island to celebrate turning forty:
You get to decide what your characters want, so keep those answers in mind as you write. Also know that your characters don’t have to get what they want. Or maybe they do get what they want, then realize they don’t want it after all. The important thing to remember is that if your characters behave throughout the story in a way that is consistently in pursuit of what they want, an arc for each of them will naturally develop. And the arc will feel genuine, not forced.
Character arcs are important because they give readers something to invest in. If readers reach the end of the story and think, “No one changed at all,” they will sense that something is missing, which will also leave them feeling unfulfilled. Well-developed character arcs satisfy readers, and satisfied readers turn into fans!