Creating Character Arcs: Part 3

Act 3: Confronting the Lie and Conclusions

Traditionally, the hero is meant to overcome the things in their way. The heroes confront and overcome their Lie by facing their foil. In both Thor and The Prince of Egypt, their brothers are their biggest obstacles. Family dysfunction makes for good drama. Just ask Shakespeare.

Thor:

In Thor, Loki holds onto the Lie of kingship, while Ramses holds onto the Lie that the system he inherited must be upheld at all costs. Loki believes he can earn his adoptive family’s love by killing his people, the Frost Giants.

He wants to take the right of kingship and prove he’s worthy of his adoptive family. And he does this by taking on the same Lie his brother held about might making right. But by the time Thor confronts his brother, he’s rejected that way of thinking. He’s not the cocky prince out to start a fight anymore. He earned back his hammer and godly status by throwing putting aside his pride and acting selflessly.

The Prince of Egypt:

Ramses’ father pressured him to live up to his legacy as the all-powerful, “morning and evening star.” If Ramses failed to live up to these incredibly lofty standards, he would be the “weak link” that would bring down the whole dynasty.

Ramses defines himself by his status as Pharaoh and lives with his father’s admonition not to be the “weak link” in back of his mind. It becomes his driving force when Moses pleads for him to let his people go. Moses let go of the Lie of his own entitlement once his sense of identity was shattered but Ramses steadfastly holds onto it.

Thor and Moses’ brothers believe in the Lie, while they grow away from it. Having a foil who goes in the opposite direction to the hero is a great way to create compelling character drama. It also highlights how far your hero has come, while giving them not necessarily a villain, but an antagonist force who offers an opposing view.

The end of a positive change arc has the main character not just rejecting the lie, but overcoming it. Thor rejects his initial beliefs of might makes right by reaching out to his brother, both literally and figuratively in an attempt to help him. But Loki, unable to overcome his Lie, rejects his brother’s help.

Ramses loses his only son as a result of not letting Moses’ people go. But even as Ramses finally agrees to let the slaves leave, he plans revenge. The final hurdle Moses and his people must face is Ramses and his men, charging at them before leaving Egypt. This is one last show of power for Ramses while he’s grieving. Moses manages to start anew, guiding his people safely to a better life in a new land, while Ramses loses everything because of stubbornness and pride.

A positive change character arc shows the main character coming to a better place emotionally and often physically. And to highlight this, their foil often ends in the direction the hero could have potentially gone if they hadn’t changed.

All stories are based on a problem, often both internal and external, that the hero must solve. Building conflict and showing how they go about overcoming it is what gets people invested in a story. Writing a gripping character arc and weaving it into your plot can seem like a daunting task. But following a basic structure can make it flow naturally.

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