A character arc is the inner journey of a character, beginning in the opening chapters of a story and ending at the climax, in which the character changes in some profound way. My favorite character arc is what I call the redemption arc. This character arc involves a character who is either “bad” or imperfect at the beginning of the story, who evolves through the course of the story so that when finally facing the pressure of the story’s final crisis, he or she rises to the moment and shows him or herself to be a hero. While we love characters who from page 1 are champions of justice and goodness, we seem to be especially drawn to lesser characters who “make good.” There is something about this character arc that seems to be universally appealing.
We’ve all experienced missed opportunities, moments when we behaved in a manner that we knew was beneath us (pettiness, meanness, losing our temper, succumbing to temptation), events we wish we could do over differently. We tend to accumulate regrets and carry them forward, while forgetting the moments where we were kind or generous or forgiving or brave. It’s just human nature. Few of us see ourselves as shining paragons of heroism. Most of us see our own flaws all too clearly. We strive in our lives to be better people. Seeing a character make the transition and experience the growth that we long for ourselves is cathartic and satisfying.
In my legal thriller Informant, the second book in the Jessie Black Legal Thrillers series, the character Reggie Tuck undergoes a redemption character arc. He begins the story as a con artist and jailhouse snitch. I won’t tell you where he winds up at the end, because that would ruin the fun of the book. Based on emails I’ve received, Reggie seems to be a favorite character among my readers. I think that’s in large part because of his character arc.
Informant is available in ebook, paperback, and—by the time you read this—audiobook versions. If you haven’t read it yet, pick up a copy now!