Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Character Arc

(Personal Note: Sorry for my 'blog'-absence...been on the road!)

While on the road, a student in a seminar asked me concerning a scene I had handed out to her "...what was her 'character arc'?" I asked her what her understanding of that term was. She responded: "...the through-line of the character". When I asked her what that meant, she said she really didn't know.

[NOTE: Acting jargon, while sometimes true and logical, is often a dangerous thing. It is often like quoting 'sound-bites' in a political discussion: the facile/cuteness of the expression often hides or obfuscates meaning more than it reveals it.]

A character's arc is the inner emotional trajectory a character follows as they move through the vicissitudes of the plot toward goal. It is the path of inner revealed character truth. It is the increasing revelation of a character's personality as they deal with the events of the story; it is sometimes referred to as character development, or the character's developmental journey toward self-illumination and self-discovery--actualized as the character partakes in and reacts to the actions of the piece.

Note that by the use of the term 'character arc' and not 'character through-line': the path to inner discovery to is not a straight affair. It is a curved trajectory. It moves to its final point of self-discovery indirectly; in a bend-able-fashion, if you will.

Therefore, character's arc bends in the inner progress of a character's revealed emotional life--and assumes that the character will almost exclusively wind up at an unexpected emotional place from where the character first aimed, assumed and anticipated.

The audience becomes privy to that ever progressing developmental 'arc'--what one actress calls the "peeling of the character's 'onion' layer by layer"--by observing the way the actor-as-character lives/feels moment-to-moment, event-by-event as the character progresses from point 'a' of plot-and-personality to point 'b' of plot-and-personality, to point 'c', etc; and the character arrives at the revealed end of the journey. The 'onion' heart is layed bare, and the
final moment of inner emotional self-discovery and self-recognition occurs.


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