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.


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.

Creating Character Arcs: Part 2

Character Arcs, Act 2: Leaving the Lie

This act centers around the fallout around the Lie being stripped away from our protagonists. Writer, Brandon Sanderson describes it as the point where the hero starts taking, “real, proactive action — with often bad results.”

Thor: Thor still clings to his Lie when he arrives on Earth and is forced to live as a normal human being. He makes demands when confined to a hospital bed and throws his title as the son of Odin around.

But instead of receiving the usual fawning treatment he would at this declaration, he just gets sedated and treated like he’s unhinged. Thor has to spend the rest of act 2 learning humility and building relationships with the people on Earth.

He becomes invested in Jane’s research and life. His inability to left Mjolnir shows that he isn’t worthy because of his attachment to the Lie that might makes right. So, he has to earn it back by showing compassion and selflessness. This leads Thor to take on Loki’s Destroyer robot and facing down with his brother in the final confrontation.

The Prince of Egypt:

Meanwhile, Moses is still in his own environment, but he’s forced to view it from a different perspective. When Moses’ pleas for the overseer to stop whipping an old slave don’t work, Moses pushes the overseer off the scaffolding, accidentally killing him.

Moses’ action against the Lie of his previously sheltered existence in a dramatic way. This is Moses’ first steps towards tearing down the system of slavery.

Unlike Thor, Moses then goes into self-exile, hating being surrounded by the Lie that defined his life. He then makes a new life for himself among the people of Tziporah, the woman his people took as a slave. After some inevitable awkwardness, Moses finds his place among his new home as a Shepard and eventually falls in love with Tziporah.

Moses has successfully left the Lie behind and constructed a new life. That is until God recruits him to return home and free his people. This leads Moses to confront his brother, who stubbornly refuses to free the slaves.

The conclusion has the heroes facing down the Lie and the antagonists who refuse to let go of theirs.

Creating Character Arcs: Part 1

Character Arcs: Act 1

Compelling, fun and memorable character arcs that leave a big impression are something we search for in media. We all love to see a flawed character grow and change onscreen. It’s a challenge to create a good story with characters you want to follow. But the right structure can help shape both character and story.

Writer, K.M. Weiland describes character arcs in her book, Creating Character Arcs. She outlines a defining “Lie” a character tells themselves about their identity that shapes their world-view.

In what Weiland describes as a positive change arc, the plot takes the Lie that’s holding the hero back and dismantles it throughout the story. And in the end, they come to understand a new truth about the world and themselves.

Turning to popular culture, two great examples of well- structured positive change arc are the first Thor movie and DreamWorks, The Prince of Egypt. They work so well because they’re both about entitled princes whose Lie is that they think the world revolves around them. Everything is fine and the system they live in because they’re comfortable living at the top. However, they’re rattled out of their apathy by life-changing events that force them to start caring.

Act 1: Introduction to the character and their Lie
 So, the first act in the three-act structure is all about set up. We’re introduced to the main character and the world they live in.


The first time we see adult Thor, he’s grandstanding in front of a crowd, and later, flipping over a table when he doesn’t get his way.

We’re shown is Lie vividly from the start, and that’s his right of kingship, and that swinging his hammer around should fix every problem.

The Prince of Egypt:

After we’ve shown the situation of the slaves and how Moses came to be in the care of his adoptive family, we cut to Moses and Ramses as young men. We first see them in the middle of an intense and reckless chariot race. There’s property damage and Moses nearly rammed his adoptive brother into the side of a wall in the name of fun!

What’s Moses’ Lie? His father’s kingdom is his playground, and everything exists for him and his family.

This is how you show where your character is at the beginning of your story and constructs the basis for their arc. You show their normal environment and how they act in that environment.

The Inciting Incident:

Now we have the set-up, the story is ready to leap into the inciting incident. This propels the narrative forward, taking the main protagonist from their known world and challenging their Lie in a dramatic way.


The first Thor does this by having Thor and his friends travel to Jutonhiem to fight the Frost giants behind Odin’s back. Thor gets busted because of his jealous little brother, and as a result, he loses everything. In a fit of rage, Odin takes away his son’s hammer and title, banishing him to some backwater place called Earth!

At the end of act 1, Thor lost everything that he’d built his identity on. Act 2 begins with him literally run over a car and tasered. All his pride is thoroughly stomped on by the narrative.

The Prince of Egypt:

After an encounter with his biological sister and brother, Moses is forced to question his heritage. He then stumbles on the “history etched on every wall” that shows the Pharaoh ordering the deaths of all the children of slaves. Moses’ Lie that he’s deserving of all he has because of his birth status is completely shattered.

Like Thor, everything he built his identity on has been stripped away. Act 2 will focus on the fallout from their Lie being taken from them, and how they move forward from there.

The Last Aboriginal: Tasmania’s Fanny Cochrane Smith

If you ask about the Aboriginal population, or lack thereof, in Tasmania today, it raises a huge question mark. The answer is tragic and seldom addressed. Colonialism either killed or drove away the Palawa, which translates to Tasmanian Aboriginals. Fanny Cochrane Smith was officially the last Indigenous Australian in Tasmania. Her voice carries the only records of the Palawa people.

Abducted in early childhood, Fanny endured abuse and attempts to indoctrinate her and her family into Western beliefs. Fanny’s mother and father, Tanganutura and Nicermenic were sent to Flinders Island, where their lives were ruled over by Rev. George Augustus Robinson and the other religious authorities.

Fanny was born at the Wybalenna establishment on Flinders Island. There are no records of Fanny’s original name. Reverend Robinson chose Anglo names for all the children on the Island.

However, she still had a connection to her culture, that lasted throughout her life. Fanny’s parents and the other Aboriginals on the island often escaped into the bushlands. Away from the Colonial authorities, they would perform the dances of their people, told stories of the Dreamtime (creation tales) and sing their traditional songs.

Likely fearing this connection, the religious authorities removed Fanny from her parents care at only five-years-old. She was forced to live with Robert Clark, the preacher at Wybalenna.

Judging the spirited Fanny as too unruly and independent, Clark sent Fanny to an orphan school in Hobart when she was eight. There, she was taught domestic skills and subjected to harsh punishments for refusing to throw away her culture. She was returned to Wybalenna at thirteen and continued to work for Clark and his family. He kept Fanny in squalor and beat her whenever she rebelled.

Thankfully, Fanny would eventually escape from her life as a domestic servant. In 1847, the Wybalenna settlement was closed down. The 46 survivors, including Fanny and her family, were relocated to Oyster Cove in the south of Hobart. After many years of forced separation, she was finally able to live freely with her family and community.

Fanny married an English sawyer and ex-convict in 1854. William Smith was a dependable hardworking man, who was sent to Australia after committing the of stealing a donkey.

The two developed had a deep respect for another and developed a strong partnership. Wanting to provide a safe haven for the downtrodden, Fanny and William started a boarding-house in the centre of Hobart.

Fanny’s brother, Adam frequently stayed with them, along with the rest of her people from Oyster Cove. Fanny worked to ensure her boarding house was one of the few places her people could find refuge.

When Adam passed away in 1857, Fanny and William moved to Oyster Cove, so Fanny could be close to her mother. She also opened the doors of her home in Oyster Cove to her people whenever they needed somewhere to stay.

Fanny welcomed her friend Triganini into her home, who is often, mistakenly, recorded in history as the last of the Tasmanian Aboriginals. However, that title fell on Fanny’s shoulders when Triganini died in 1876.

After the loss of Triganini, Fanny felt the weight of an entire culture’s legacy rested on her shoulders. With an ever-pressing need carry on her people’s culture and beliefs, Fanny performed the songs and dances of her people for the public.

In recognition of her status as last Aboriginal, the Tasmanian government granted her 300 acres (121 ha) of land. Fanny spent the rest of her life there. 
 Fanny spent her life navigating between the European world, and the world of her people. As a devout Methodist, Fanny hosted an annual Methodist picnic. People would come from all over the country to see her perform the Palawa songs and dances.

In 1899, she shared the songs of her people at a concert held in her honour. Out of fear they’d be lost forever, Fanny recorded the Palawan songs on wax cylinders. When not performing, Fanny spent her time on the land diving for shellfish, hunting, and basket weaving.

Throughout her life, Fanny experienced great brutality and witnessed the subjugation of her people. Her passionate voice that proudly carried the language of her people, remains in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. Today, it is the only known recording of the Palawan language. It is at least one successful attempt to keep something of Aboriginal culture in Tasmania alive.

Review: In This Corner of the World

In This Corner of the World is like few films I’ve ever seen before, seamlessly balancing a raw anti-war message with a charming slice-of-life backdrop.

Directed by newcomer Sunao Katabuchi and adapted from an award-winning manga by Fumiyo Kuno, the story primarily takes place during World War II-era Japan. It follows the artistic and gentle daydreamer, Suzu’s life in Kure, a port town near Hiroshima, with the family she married into.

Gorgeously animated, the film uses watercolors to recreate the Japanese countryside. The animation’s detailed depiction of everyday life is interwoven with whimsical touches by the creative Suzu.

The first scene involves the clearly exaggerated and fun tale of when a young Suzu was lost in Hiroshima, before the war. Her mind and drawings, feature monsters, sea rabbits and crocodiles. The viewers see the world from Suzu’s perspective, as the mundane blends with her fantastical imagination.

Even as the film delves deeper into the horrific nature of war, the movie still injects her artistic interpretations into the world, no matter how bleak it becomes. This isn’t done to undermine the seriousness of war. Instead, Suzu uses her imagination as a coping mechanism to understand and process the traumatic events that affect her and her family. The film revolves around Suzu’s ability to find joy and wonder in the small things despite her traumatic surroundings.

While it does have a romantic plotline that’s fairly uninteresting, at its core, In This Corner of the World is about family, and how it changes and grows in unexpected ways. Much of the film’s charm and humor comes from Suzu’s interactions with her new family, especially her snappy, yet generous-hearted sister-in-law.

One of the film’s most impressive aspects is its dedication put into depicting WWII Japan. Director Sunao Katabuchi and the animators went to great length to accurately depict a pre-atomic bomb Hiroshima. They collected rare photographs of pre-wartime Japan and interviewed the locals who grew up Hiroshima before the bombing. The filmmaker’s dedication to making a historically accurate war film, that focuses on the civilian population is strongly felt throughout the movie.

Gently paced, heart wrenching and hopeful, In This Corner of the World is a beautiful and powerful film. Through the perspective of the main heroine we see the devastation of war, and the everyday joys of life, making the film a deeply important and unforgettable experience.

Review: Big Fish and Begonia

Based on a Chinese myth, Big Fish and Begonia (2016) is a bright and vividly animated movie. Its otherworldly creatures, surreal visuals, and grand atmosphere might give the appearance of a sweeping epic. But for all its visual splendor, the plot feels disjointed and full of unfulfilled potential.

Directed and written by newcomers Xuan Liang and Chun Zhang, the film is adapted from the Taoist classic text, Zhanagzi. In a realm that exists beneath the human world, magical beings with a deep connection to nature, venture to the human world for a short time as a rite of passage. When sixteen-year-old Chun goes to leaves in the form of a red dolphin, her family warns her to stay away from humans. However, she becomes fascinated by a young boy. After he saves her life from a fishing net, the course of both their lives will be changed forever.

At first, Big Fish and Begonia does manage to immerse the audience with beautiful animation and a captivating set-up in its first act. The film builds a strange mystical world with demons and spirits through stunning visuals and a kaleidoscope of lush colors. However, it all falls apart in the second act, as the pace becomes rushed, and we’re told rather than shown the many plot points.

The film introduces an array of characters, relationships, and ideas that are never explored to their full potential. Characters are introduced, only to exit abruptly with no explanation or followup. The relationships between the characters lack any real depth or chemistry, and it rushes through Chun’s conflict at such a breakneck speed, that the audience can’t become invested. Big Fish and Begonia is built on the expectation that its animation and basic concept are enough to carry the film. As a result, we’re left with a plot that feels hollow and underwritten.

Big Fish and Begonia is built on the expectation that its animation and basic concept are enough to carry the film.

Confusing and rushed, Big Fish and Begonia’s concept and animation are spellbinding, it just fails to channel them into a coherent story with any real depth or impact. Its themes on the flow of life, and the consequences for disregarding it had the potential to make a gripping story. However, by the time the credits roll, you’re left in awe of its visuals, and confused and unsatisfied in every other respect.

Emma Miller: The Mother of a Revolution

Australia is in the habit of forgetting many of its brightest figures. A seamstress who led a political movement with both wit and grit is one of them. Emma Miller, otherwise known as “Mother Miller” was an Australian revolutionary. Seamstress, suffragette, leader and avid supporter of trade unions, Miller was working class hero.

Emma Miller

Born in England, Emma migrated to Queensland in 1879, bringing along populist ideals that would change Australia forever. Throughout Emma’s life, she was an active promoter of women, workers’ rights, and the idea one vote for every person. Emma was a small woman, yet her spirit and determination were larger than life.

As a prominent member of Brisbane’s Free-thought Association, she was an unyielding campaigner for equal pay and the rights of the working class. In that time, she built her reputation as a bold radical thinker.

She also developed a name as a strong and charismatic public speaker. Emma was invited to speak at numerous public meetings on women’s suffrage. In 1890, she took she created the first women’s union in Brisbane.

Being a tradesperson herself, Emma gave evidence at the Royal Commission into Shops, Workshops, and Factories in 1891. “Back in the day,” women workers commonly received less pay and were subject to harassment.

Emma was elected president of the Women’s Equal Franchise Association (WEFA) in 1884. Emma was a woman before her time, believing that gender inequality and class were overlapping issues. However, many disagreed with her, believing that the exploitation of the working class was a separate issue to the poor treatment of women.

Meanwhile, the upper class continued to rule over the country. Farmers were entitled to a vote for each of their properties. And the rich farmers would buy, or inherit multiple properties.

Emma continued to campaign for one vote for one person, and that included women. Something that was predictably unpopular with the elites. The Telegraph newspaper called Emma and the other members of WEFA “autocratic,” and accused them of “hijacking the Labor Party.”

Emma would accept nothing less than complete fairness in Australia’s voting system. And in 1904, women in Queensland were the right to vote in federal elections. Emma took another step in advancing equality one year later. She became a member of the Brisbane Political Labor Council.

But the battle for equality continued. After members of the Australian Tramways Association were sacked for being members of a union, the historical General Strike of 1912 began.

At 72-years-old, Emma played a pivotal and notorious, role in the protests. On 2 February, which would go down in history as Black Friday, protesters were denied permission to march that day. Still, Emma organised the 300 women who had come to protest, and they moved forward. When the police couldn’t stop the strike, they resorted to violence, lashing out at the women with their batons.

Emma fought back with only a hatpin. She stuck it into the rear end of the Police Commissioner’s horse. The Commissioner soon found himself on the ground, thrown from his stead in a very undignified manner! Emma’s actions that day were celebrated by her friends and fellow unionists as a victory against the oppressive authorities.

Even after being diagnosed with cancer, Emma remained active. During WW1, Emma joined the committee for the Anti-Conscription Campaign and often gave speeches on the need for peace.

In 1917, Emma passed away after a long struggle with cancer. On the day of her death, Trades Hall flew the Australian flag at half-mast in honour of Emma activism. Fiercely protective and brave, Emma Miller was called the “Mother of the Labor Party.” She was a tireless campaigner for the downtrodden and working class, making her story one that needs to be told.

Where are the Women? Lessons From Louisa Lawson

If you ask most people if they know the name Louisa Lawson, they’ll say no. Mother of bush poet, Henry Lawson, Louisa (1848–1920) played a vital part in women gaining the right to in NSW. Louisa Lawson’s struggle to find a voice can give us insight into our own times.

From the Museum of Australian Democracy website

Louisa possessed sharp wits and a gift with words, but poverty and family expectations held her back. She eventually rose to become an influential figure in Australian literature and politics. With ingenuity and business savvy, she created a platform for herself and other, traditionally unheard, voices.

As a teenager, Louisa’s mother denied her the chance to become a student-teach at Mudgee National School. The farm and her eleven siblings took priority in a family struggling with poverty. Louisa never forgot this missed opportunity, and it spurred her on to create success in adulthood.

In 1866, Louisa married Norwegian sailor Niels Hertzberg Larsen at 18-years-old. Niels spent much of his time away from home mining during the Gold Rush and working for his father-in-law. In, 1883, Louisa moved to Sydney with her and Niels’ four children, Henry, Charles, Peter, and Gertrude. She worked as a seamstress and boarding house manager to support her family. In 1887, Louisa used the money she’d saved to buy a journal called The Republican.

The Republican was Louisa’s gateway to realising her ambitions. While the publication only ran for a year, The Republican let Louisa share her poetry for the first. The Reformers created a public storm with its daring challenge to corrupt authority.

“We lead the way, we lead the way …

We turn the sod, we stir the pool,

We point the way to those who rule.

We cheek the rogue, we chide the fool,

We point the way to those who rule.

Louisa started a new journal called The Dawn in 1888. This journal, “led the way” for women to have one of few public voices at a time when they couldn’t vote. In its 17-year run, The Dawn became a popular monthly journal both in Australia and overseas.

The State Library of New South Wales

In The Dawn’s first article, Louisa Lawson spoke about the need for women to have representation in the political sphere:

“Men legislate on divorce, on hours of labor, and many another question intimately affecting women, but neither ask nor know the wishes of those whose lives and happiness are most concerned.”

Louisa’s words reflect someone who’d known hopelessness because of circumstances beyond their control. So, she created the first journal ran and produced entirely by women. The Dawn covered subjects considered taboo at the time, like divorce, domestic abuse, and legal rights.

Shortly after the launch of The Dawn, Louisa founded The Dawn Club. Louisa created it as a space for women to gather and discuss issues of the time. Louisa’s group soon became the centre for the New South Wales Women’s Suffrage League.

Thankfully, we no longer live in such restrictive times. Women can vote. Women can be politicians. Although, a lack of representation in parliament probably still sounds familiar to most modern-day Australians.

You can hear echoes of Louisa ’s concerns in recent controversies over a lack of women in parliament. The resulting debate prompted the idea of quotas to be put forward. This was met with protests that women should be hired based on “merit.

Former Chief of Staff for John Howard, Grahame Morris scoffed at the idea of quotas. He referred to the women in the opposition party, who do have quotas, as “dregs.”

Although, he did apologise for his comments, admitting that they might discourage women from entering politics. However, Grahame Morris’ comments still sting when you consider the International Parliamentary Union’s findings. Australia is ranked 54th in the world for representation of women in parliament.

If Australia is only 54th in the world when representing women, and appointments are based on merit, then that implies Australian women just aren’t suited to politics.

By Ron Tandberg

People talk about merit like it’s a hard-and-fast metric system for measuring someone’s worth. This attitude seems odd when you consider there’s a proven connection between height and leadership positions.

Tall men are more likely to gain managerial positions than shorter ones, because of an association with height to dominance and power. Science Direct says, “the current study found a positive relationship between male leaders’ height and their followers’ perceptions of charisma, while no such relationship was found for female leaders.”

In the famous Harvard study, “Heidi vs. Howard,” students were handed the same CV, but with different names. The students had a much harsher opinion of “Heidi” Roizen’s CV than “Howard” Roizen’s. According to students, Heidi was too aggressive to hire.

One thing we can take from Louisa’s story is that change takes time and work. In 1888, Louisa launched the first journal for and by women, speaking out about issues of the time. In 1902, 14 years after the launch of The Dawn, the bill allowing women to vote passed in NSW.

At the “dawn” of the twentieth century, Louisa achieved her goal of giving herself and other women a voice in politics. The Women’s Suffrage League introduced Louisa to members of parliament as, “The Mother of Suffrage in New South Wales.”

Her journey from a poverty-stricken young woman, to an icon of a movement, was long and hard. And overcoming old ideas about who does and doesn’t belong in power will take many generations of work.

Louisa Lawson’s son, Henry, carried on his mother’s legacy of expressing truths through the written word. Henry’s poems and short stories were known for their boldly realistic insights into the everyday struggles of Australians. The Drovers Wife was a short story about a woman’s struggles to care for her four children while isolated in the outback.

Henry Lawson has earned a place in history for his unique take on Australian life in his writing. Louisa’s name isn’t as well recognised. But, from her writing and activism, it seems fair to say that Louisa has earned enough “merit” to be remembered as well as her son.