I apologize that this question is inherently vague; I am still in the very early stages of planning a series and don't have many details to offer as of yet.

One of the things that irks me most about some modern film series is that the writers often seem to invalidate the past growth of characters at the start of a sequel, so that they can grow more in said sequel. For example, this happens a lot in the MCU (which is notorious for bad writing, I know, but it's a good example of it); for instance, Bruce Banner in the Incredible Hulk ends the movie seemingly happy with his relationship with the Hulk, but in the Avengers he doesn't have much control over it. By the end of the Avengers, he seems to have developed a better relationship with the Hulk, which was his arc in that film, but this is thrown away in the next few Avengers movies as he once again struggles to control the Hulk. This feels annoying and repetitive as his previous growth is invalidated as soon as a new movie comes along.

I am hoping to write a long series of stories focusing on a cast of central characters. I want the stories — though set in an interesting fictional world — to be extremely character-centric, and focus on multiple arcs happening with multiple characters in every book. Obviously, the main character would have his own character arc every story as well.

I am wondering how I can create a unique & satisfying character arc for my main character for each book. Something that feels like a unique challenge for that story, builds off & doesn't invalidate previous arcs, and leaves room for improvement in future arcs that still allows for a pleasing ending to the current arc.

Any advice is appreciated, and any examples of a popular series where this is done well would be very helpful!

1 Answer 1


The reason your examples feel like such hollow character arcs is because they bend the character to the plot rather than having the character grow and develop because of the plot. Or act because of the plot.

The most important thing with character progression is logic. How did the character get from point A to point B? Cause and effect.

Characters respond to conflict which invokes change within them. They gain understanding, power, wisdom, etc. This changes their outlook on life and then they act accordingly.

Death of a loved one might make an innocent character more jaded. Finding a new friend or finding love might make a character more open and friendly. Betrayal may make a person less trusting in the future. Etc.

Even little things can change a person's point of view. A story they hear, a conversation, a strange coincidence.

People constantly grow and change, but it's gradual. Step by step.

Bad character development jumps around randomly. There is no rhyme or reason. The character changes to fit the plot. That's how you know it's bad writing.

Is the character supposedly a genius? Sure, but the plot demands that they get outsmarted by an idiot in this scene. So a lazy writer will make their super-genius dumber for no discernible reason.

Has the villain so far been a cool, collective individual with no sign of remorse or hesitation? Sure, but the narrative demands they have a redemption arc. So a lazy writer will randomly flipflop the character's personality and say "The villain's a good guy now." Did they do anything to prove it? Did they work on their personality? Save the heroes? Become friends with them? A good writer has villains put in the work to redeem themselves. Bad writers flip the characters around instantly.

The same with reboots or new movies. Imagine a character getting three movies of development only to go back to square one on movie 4. It's infuriating because it feels like the other movies were pointless. It could be a personality regression. That happens sometimes. Like a smoker or a gambler falling back on an old habit. But you can't have an innocent kid fight a ten year war for three movies and then, on movie 4, regress into the same naive rookie he was at the beginning. That's incredibly aggravating.

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