K.M. Weiland’s “Creating Character Arcs” is a treasure trove of applied theory for Narrative Coaching.
Today we examine her chapter on “the lie the character believes” which I find to be amazing concept.
The Change Arc is all about the Lie Your Character Believes. His life may be horrible, or his life may seem pretty great. But, festering under the surface, is the Lie.
In order for your character to evolve in a positive way, he has to start out with something lacking in his life, some reason that makes the change necessary. He is incomplete in some way, but not because he is lacking something external. A person in a prison camp can still be entirely whole and balanced on the inside, while someone floating in a Malibu mansion’s swimming pool may be one miserable son of a gun. – K.M. Weiland
The concept here is of a human who is incomplete on the inside. They are harboring some deeply held misconception about themselves, the world, or, probably, both.
The Change Arc, at its simplest manifestation, is all about the protagonist’s changing priorities. He realizes the reason he’s not getting what he wants is because either a) he wants the wrong thing or b) his moral methods for achieving what he wants are all wrong. – K.M. Weiland
This aligns with the “Crucial Conversations” concept of the stories we tell ourselves.
K.M. Weiland breaks it down into three types of arcs:
Positive Arc – the character works his way to the truth and out of the lie he believes
Flat Arc – the character knows the truth and uses it to circumvent obstacles.
Negative Arc – the character works their way deeper into the lie. They double down instead of working their way out.
Obviously as a coach, my goal is to move my clients through either a Positive Arc or a Flat Arc.