on Writers Helping Writers:
As writers, the classic arc-plot diagram is burned into our brains. The one conveying that our characters should move through our books in one steady climb, both externally and internally. But what if the visual of a smooth line is sabotaging the way we convey our character’s journey? What if it’s not presenting the reader with an accurate picture of how diverse and rigorous a character’s journey really needs to be to deliver them to a satisfying and believable ending?
If we think of how a story filled with obstacles and victories plays out, a better visual representation of story looks more like a zigzag. Think of the old adage one step forward, two steps back.
Speaking of stepping back, let’s talk about why an arc-plot model fails to serve us as writers. Internally, if the protagonist only moves forward in their development and experiences constant wins, there’s a sense that the misbelief they had when we first met them wasn’t such a big deal after all. If it’s that easy to change, the story seems less crucial.