AJ Reads ‘Plot & Structure’: Chapter 9

While Plot & Structure isn’t a character-writing technique book, the character arc is an important structure for a story, and Bell covers the basics here. While a character arc isn’t absolutely necessary for some stories (think of the formulaic detective stories like Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes), it deepens a story and the character(s) involved (think of the great classics).

The best take-away from this chapter by far is the “Force Field of Character Change”, which shows the various layers of a character that the force of change must work through in order to be realistic:

  • Opinions. Easier to change than
  • Attitudes. Harder to change, but easier than
  • Values. Still harder to change, but easier than
  • Core beliefs. The hardest to change, and the last.

Bell illustrates the four quite will with Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol. Opinions are very specific (such as “employees will always try to take advantage of a situation”). Attitudes are more general than opinions—you can think of them as everyday principles. Values are the weighing of one concept versus another, like money versus people. Core beliefs are the closest beliefs next to the self-image, the ones that are the most basic to a person.

It probably helps if you’ve studied psychology, which I haven’t. And it’s probably easiest to work from the inside outwards, the exact opposite of what I’ve listed here.

The exercises, like the previous chapter, are practical rather than something obtuse like “listen to music and free-associate”, although I may just be showing my ultimately pragmatic side.

The real gem of this book so far, though, has to be the next chapter.

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