Arc – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Screenwriting Glossary Terms

What is an arc in screenwriting?

In screenwriting, an arc refers to the transformation or journey that a character undergoes throughout the course of a story. This transformation is essential for creating dynamic and engaging characters that evolve and grow as the plot unfolds. A character arc typically involves a change in the character’s beliefs, values, or behavior, leading to a deeper understanding of themselves or the world around them.

How is character arc different from plot arc?

While a plot arc focuses on the sequence of events that drive the story forward, a character arc is centered around the internal growth and development of a character. Plot arcs are external and often involve conflicts, obstacles, and resolutions that propel the story towards its conclusion. On the other hand, character arcs delve into the emotional and psychological changes that a character experiences, adding depth and complexity to their journey.

What are the key elements of a strong character arc?

A strong character arc is built on several key elements that contribute to the character’s growth and transformation. These elements include:

1. Conflict: Characters must face challenges and obstacles that force them to confront their beliefs and values, leading to internal conflict and growth.

2. Change: Characters should undergo a significant change in their attitudes, behaviors, or beliefs throughout the story, resulting in a transformation that is meaningful and impactful.

3. Resolution: Characters should reach a point of resolution or realization that brings closure to their arc, allowing them to move forward with a new perspective or understanding.

4. Emotional depth: Characters should display a range of emotions and vulnerabilities that make them relatable and human, allowing audiences to connect with their journey on a deeper level.

How can a character arc enhance the overall story?

A well-developed character arc can enhance the overall story by adding depth, complexity, and emotional resonance to the narrative. Characters with compelling arcs are more engaging and relatable to audiences, creating a stronger connection that drives the story forward. Additionally, character arcs can provide thematic depth and meaning to the story, exploring universal themes such as redemption, forgiveness, and self-discovery.

How can writers effectively develop and execute a character arc in their screenplay?

To effectively develop and execute a character arc in a screenplay, writers should follow these steps:

1. Establish a clear starting point: Introduce the character’s beliefs, values, and flaws at the beginning of the story to set the stage for their arc.

2. Create obstacles and challenges: Force the character to confront conflicts and obstacles that challenge their beliefs and values, pushing them towards growth and change.

3. Show internal conflict: Explore the character’s internal struggles and emotions as they grapple with their transformation, adding depth and complexity to their arc.

4. Provide moments of realization: Allow the character to have moments of realization or epiphany that lead to a change in their perspective or behavior, driving their arc forward.

5. Show growth and resolution: Demonstrate the character’s growth and transformation through their actions, decisions, and interactions with other characters, leading to a satisfying resolution of their arc.

What are some examples of memorable character arcs in film and television?

Some examples of memorable character arcs in film and television include:

1. Walter White in “Breaking Bad”: Walter White starts as a mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher and transforms into a ruthless drug kingpin, showcasing a complex and compelling character arc.

2. Michael Corleone in “The Godfather”: Michael Corleone evolves from a reluctant outsider to a ruthless mafia boss, grappling with his family’s legacy and his own moral compass throughout the series.

3. Elizabeth Bennet in “Pride and Prejudice”: Elizabeth Bennet undergoes a journey of self-discovery and personal growth, challenging societal norms and expectations in her pursuit of love and happiness.

4. Don Draper in “Mad Men”: Don Draper navigates the complexities of identity, ambition, and relationships as he grapples with his past and struggles to find meaning and fulfillment in his life.

Overall, character arcs play a crucial role in shaping the narrative and emotional impact of a story, creating memorable and impactful characters that resonate with audiences long after the credits roll.