My name is Mark, and I’m the game developer for Tales from Trinity City and writer of Webtastic Stories.
This Amazing Gaming Production blog is on Positive Character Arcs.
Positive character arcs (PCAs) inspire people to be their best. They tell us we are held back by past wounds and irrational goals and behaviour that result from them.
That is why the stories that show characters going through personal growth inspire us. A character who believed there’s were powerless finds out they are powerful faces the antagonist and defeats them in a battle of wills.
Thor needed to learn humility and sacrifice to defeat his brother Loki. Tony Stark needs to heal from his Father’s disappointment to find a cure that saves his life. Tobias and Lelia must accept their love to overcome the odds of the tournament. Revan must accept his failures to save the galaxy from Malak!
There is a formula for how the change of character happens, based upon the regular story arc – and this is all related to the theme of your story – you define the difficulties the character must go through.
Nobody is perfect. We all have wounds that hold us back – and this is where you start. Ask your MC what terrible traumas have they endured, which pushes their irrational behaviours.
With a Positive Character Arc – you have a lie the character believes, the ghost that haunts them, what they want, and what they need.
The lie the character believes is pretty self-explanatory. It could be the irrational belief that the Angry Fire God, the New World Order, is lying about covid, it is a hoax, and people who take the vaccine are corrupting their blood.
The lie they believe will happen when they accept what they need. In this case, taking the vaccine is safe and will protect you from Covid. Nobody planned the pandemic, and the New World Order doesn’t exist.
The wound is what creates the lie in the first place. Something happened that taught them to distrust vaccines. Maybe someone important to them was injured, or they have an autistic child and blame the vaccine companies for it. Some people distrust certain groups politically because of bad online behaviour, so they won’t trust taking the vaccine because this group changed immediately after a political win.
The character starts a journey where they initially want to prevent more vaccine injuries and cure autism. Ultimately this ends with them acknowledging the New World Order doesn’t exist and they are wasting their life on paranoid rantings similar to the end is nigh on Dec. 21st, 2012.
When you create a character, ask them what kinds of things they believe. They will help you define the lies they have accepted – like over responsibility. They must solve everything, or they have failed everyone. Or it might be blind loyalty to unreliable people.
What lies does your character believe? What truth do they need to set them free? What wounds in their past have led to the lie? What do they want?
For Red Dead Redemption 2 (RDR 2), Arthur Morgan believes he has to be loyal to Dutch and the Gang and live for them. Arthur lost his first wife and child to gangs and declared an oath to Dutch after losing them. Arthur has to accept the truth that Dutch’s plans always end badly, and he should become independent from him.
Once you have the plan, you need to start plotting out how the events of your story. Both Arthur’s and John’s stories fit a PCA perfectly if you build your characters to be honourable.
The Opening scene needs to show the main character’s (MC) flaw – and for Arthur Morgan, it is his blind loyalty to Dutch. The gang is escaping Blackwater because one of Dutch’s plans went wrong, and the authorities are after them. Instead of leaving Dutch for greener pastures, Arthur is by his side.
Later in the opening, Arthur is infected by TB by roughing up someone on Straus – serving Dutch and his gang was a death sentence.
The Inciting Incident is the first opportunity for the MC to leave his lies behind, but they reject it. For Arthur Morgan, representatives of the Pinkerton detective agency asked Arthur for Dutch’s location, which would have changed the remainder of Arthur’s life. Arthur refuses and goes straight to Dutch to tell him.
The inciting incident will lead to the First Plot Point, which is a mini echo of the truth of the third plot point. Arthur and gang members rob the bank at Valentine while Dutch and others relocate the camp. They need more money, but because Dutch isn’t personally responsible for planning it, Arthur was, the robbery goes without a hitch.
In the 2nd act, the characters who fail to learn from their mistakes will find disastrous consequences, based upon the story’s theme. Every time Arthur or another gang member trusts Dutch’s plans, it ends badly. These plans going wrong shows the lesson of blind loyalty vs independence.
In the first pinch point, the MC experiences the antagonist’s power for the first time. While Arthur is on the lookout while Dutch negotiates with the O’Driscols, Arthur almost loses his life when a member of the O’Driscols rifle butts him in the face. Arthur did trust Dutch’s plan, but the O’Driscols knew more than they should have.
The Midpoint is the moment of truth of the story. It shows what is wrong and gives a moment of grace. When Keiran goes out to scout for Dutch, the O’Driscols catches him, decapitate him, and use his body as a distraction before a shoot out. They posed Keiran’s body on a horse with his decapitated head in the hands of the body. The shootout and Keiran’s death shows nobody should trust Dutch’s plans.
The 2nd pinch has the MC acting on their agency instead of reacting. The gang decides to rob the bank in Saint Denis to escape and go to Cuba. Of course, because they trust Dutch, this goes wrong. Many members die, including fan favourite Lenny!
The third plot point is the dark moment of the soul. The sixth chapter would be this in Arthur’s story. He learns he has TB and is dying. He goes on a personal quest to help people instead of being one of Dutch’s thugs. He ultimately gives his own life to help John Marsden escape – showing how far he has come from the man who got TB because he beat someone up.
For John Marsden, he was just as loyal to Dutch as Arthur was. After Arthur and Sadie rescue him from prison, John starts to see the light, Dutch’s plans never work. His plans always end up costing people their freedom or their lives.
He goes on the third act to build a life for himself, Abby and Jack. He constructs a ranch for them to live happily ever after. Later he goes after Micah for killing so many of the gang. He resists the temptation of killing the snitch Sadie found. They track down Micah, and in a standoff, John waits until Micah starts to pull his gun before shooting him.
Red Dead Redemption 2 has some powerful Positive Character Arcs. Both John and Arthur learn how bad Dutch was for their lives and move on with their lives. Once they renounce their blind loyalty, they live much fuller lives, inspiring anyone who plays the games.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I hope it has helped you learn how powerful a positive character arc is.
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Have a great day, guys!