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Writer's Room => Chapter Books, Easy Readers, and Middle Grade (MG) => Topic started by: erin-beth-duddles on September 03, 2019, 10:44 AM

Title: Character flaw arc vs. save the world arc?
Post by: erin-beth-duddles on September 03, 2019, 10:44 AM
I'm in the gritty editing stage and am second-guessing my character's voice and flaw. My earlier drafts had the MC with a over-confident, opinionated voice with two flaws: unable to stand up to authority figures and unable to ask for help from those he feels superior to. The potential problems with this is that I might be trying to juggle too many flaw/arcs and I should simplify and pick one. If so, which one?

One solution idea is to make the world more harsh. The character isn't the one with the problem, the world's just messed up and the MC can't fit in.
The world has a medieval fantasy flair and I could corrupt it further to make it more oppressive to my main character, who is a rabbit. Maybe make all the talking animals subservient to the humans so the beginning is a more Harry Potter in the closet, or a day in the life of District 12 (Hunger Games). This rewritten version wouldn't have so much of a character with a flaw and an arc. He would probably have less of a voice too, since it would be more of a "common guy changes the world" story.

The reason I'm rethinking my character voice and flaw is because I've realized that my opening chapters are not a stasis=death (I've been reading Save the Cat writes a Novel). I think there's more I can do to drive up the tension and urgency to make it stronger before the inciting incident (my MC, a rabbit, is an animal companion to a human girl who disappears).

I plan on reading a bunch of MG books to get an idea of some published "solution options" to my question, (maybe the fantasy genre leans toward more "save the world" narratives?) but I was hoping to get some help from the writing community too:

Would you/your MG children/your MG readers prefer a story about a character that...
...learns how to solve an important question we have about growing up in an surface-idyllic* world?
...suffers in an unfair world of harsh rules and fights to set things right?

*kidnapping children for magic experiments (similar to The Golden Compass).

Thank you for any thoughts/opinions you have on this topic!  :eh2

PS. Let me know of any recent MG books I should look at as I research. Thanks!
Title: Re: Character flaw arc vs. save the world arc?
Post by: Debbie Vilardi on September 03, 2019, 06:19 PM
Either of the books you describe could appeal if done well. It's my firm belief we do well what we put our hearts and souls into.

That said, since that doesn't help you much, I don't know that you can't have two flaws or one flaw and great voice. Rabbits are underdogs by nature. Over confidence is a flaw in itself. It means not wanting to accept help from those beneath but also not being able to admit to those above you that maybe you aren't all you said you were. To me, this is a single flaw that shows itself in more than one way, as often happens. I think you can keep that flaw and up the stakes at the same time.

We don't love Harry or Katniss because of their harsh beginnings or flaws. We love them because they grow into their own destinies and voices and stand for what is right even when it's hard. We love them despite those flaws.

Just some stuff to think about. (I've never read a Save the Cat book.)
Title: Re: Character flaw arc vs. save the world arc?
Post by: erin-beth-duddles on September 03, 2019, 08:10 PM
Thanks for your input Debbie! This was super helpful!
My heart and soul is in the flawed characters figuring things out. I'm going to brainstorm on how to raise the stakes in the beginning.
A root flaw that manifests in different ways/behaviors is definitely what this sounds like.
I'm relieved. I was bracing myself for another rewrite. I think sometimes I get so focused on doing my story the "right" way that I forget that there is no one right way to write a good story.  :bangbreak
Title: Re: Character flaw arc vs. save the world arc?
Post by: Pons on September 04, 2019, 07:56 AM
Try using your main character's major flaw to set the plot in motion. The only examples that are springing to mind at the moment are from Shakespeare, but here goes:
MacBeth's tragic flaw is unchecked ambition. It leads directly to murder.
Lear's flaw is arrogance, which leads to the destruction of his family and war.
Hamlet's flaw is procrastination laced with indecision which leads to a stage littered with dead bodies.

Your MC may be a small rabbit, but that doesn't mean he and his character flaw can't set much bigger things in motion. Of course, you don't have to do it this way.  Just a thought.
Title: Re: Character flaw arc vs. save the world arc?
Post by: David Wright on September 05, 2019, 03:11 AM
I'm not sure I see your MC as necessarily having two flaws. It seems to be one flaw: insecurity, manifesting itself in different ways. As nervous as asking for help from those 'below' him because it makes him seem weak, uncomfortable around power because he knows he has none, and boastful as a fa├žade to hide behind.

Anyway, to answer your question: I don't have a world preference (idyllic or harsh) but I do want the conflict to mean something beyond the MC's education/self-growth. I want the world to change (if only just a little).