Heidi ho readers, and welcome back to the mini-series on the adventures of a nerd where I explain the four character arcs as simply as possible. I am finally back with part two and today we are going over Negative character arcs.
Character arcs are the inner journey the character takes over the story. If you missed the last post where we went over Positive arcs, you can find that right here.
Negative arcs, like it’s opposite, is based on ‘lie vs. truth.’ Your character’s misbelief vs. the truth.
There are multiple types of negative arcs. The Disillusionment arc, the Corruption arc, and the Fall arc. To make it simple (because that’s what this series is about), let me put it this way.
The difference between these three arcs is simply how your character reacts to being presented the “truth.” Weather that be they already believed the truth and was led astray by the lie, or they believed the lie and rejected the truth. And weather they thought the lie would bring them success and happiness (like Loki) or they believed the lie to be morally correct.
The Disillusionment arc
The disillusionment arc takes after a positive arc where the character must learn, and accept the truth, but instead of benifitting from it they meet it with devastating results.
The character’s lie will be glorified, giving the character a positive view of the world. Once they are presented with the truth, they will wrestle with it like any other arc, until they realize they have no choice but to believe it. They now see that the lie they believed was just an illusion. This shatters the positive outlook they once had. This will send character down a spiral of pessimism and bitter feelings. This might even cause character to lash out.
The Corruption Arc
The Corruption Arc occurs when our character starts the story already knowing the truth, when something happens that causes them to question it. They are now conflicted. Torn between the truth and the lie. Character is forced to choose. They choose the lie and now face the consequences.
The Fall Arc
In the fall arc, we see character is comfortable living with their lie. This arc follows the same path as a Positive arc. Only when the character is presented with the truth they reject it.
This doesn’t necessarily mean character thinks their lie is the best thing in the world. They don’t have to be happy with it, but they still think it’s better than the truth.
Now lets put this into action. I spent forever trying to think of a good character example, but I couldn’t think of any that were as good as Anakin Skywalker. I guess it’s safe to say Anakin has the best negative character arc.
Anakin has a corruption arc. Unlike other arcs, I think what’s most convincing about his is that we see it build. The hardships he faced as a child, and growing up under the strict rules of the Jedi order. And we watch him rebel against the Jedi code by marrying Padme. It makes sense to us that he would struggle between the lie and the truth.
Anakin’s fear, anger, and confusion play a major role in his arc. He is angry with the Jedi council for not making him a master, this causes him to question the integrity of the Jedi. This makes him weaker to the lie. Your character must be weak to the lie. They can’t just decide “Yeah that sounds right, I’ll think about it.”
Anakin, later on, has a vision of his wife dying, and he seeks dark ways to prevent it from happening. Your character’s fear drives every decision they make throughout the story no matter what kind of arc they have.
When Anakin meets Palpatine he is introduced to the lie about the Jedi order and is tempted to believe the lie because he thinks it will save Padme. Anakin wrestles with this and is soon forced to choose. Before he realizes his mistake, it’s too late.
We then see what choosing the lie does to Anakin. he believes his best friend has turned against him, he destroys the Jedi, and he even tries to kill his wife. Choosing the lie brings Anakin nothing but pain and hatred. And he suffers from that decision for the rest of his life.
This is what makes Anakin’s arc so good. He chooses the wrong decision and it brings him nothing but torment. There is no need to glorify Anakin’s decision because it’s evil and wrong. Modern fiction often blurs the lines between good and evil. But nothing is more impactful than a character who suffers for their mistakes.
For more ideas check these out:
And like I said, negative character arcs rest on how your character reacts to being presented with the truth, and whether they thought the lie would bring them happiness or they believed it to be morally correct.
Every story is different, so I can’t tell you how to write your arc, but feel free to leave any questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to help you out!
Thanks a bunch!