Tag Archives: character arc

Character Arc ala Michael Hauge

A while back I wrote a blog post about Michael Hauge’s Six Stage Plot Structure, which I’ve found to be an incredibly powerful tool for plotting my characters’ inner and outer journeys, as well as the story’s turning points and black moment.

Today, I want to talk more about character arc.

A character needs to grow and change. He starts with one viewpoint at the beginning, but the events in the story serve to change that character’s viewpoint by the end. Michael Hauge says, “The character arc is the transformation from living in fear to living courageously. A character will arc when he moves from his identity to his essence.”

Identity = emotional armor (facade) worn to protect himself from some wound.

Essence = who the character is when the emotional armor is stripped. True self.

At the beginning of the story, a character will have an emotional need that he may or may not be aware of. The emotional need will probably manifest itself as a physical goal (the outer goal). But the physical goal is primarily a symbol representing the emotional need (the true inner goal).

For example, the hero’s outer goal might be to win the big promotion at work. But what does the hero truly desire? What is his emotional need? Perhaps the promotion will give him the approval he’s been seeking. Or perhaps a sense of accomplishment.

Why does this character have this emotional need?

An emotional need grows from an emotional wound. This wound creates the character’s beliefs. The character will make choices and decisions in his life based on these beliefs.

If our example character desires approval, it could be because his girlfriend’s parents dislike/disapprove of him. Or perhaps he desires a sense of accomplishment because he has failed too many times in the past.

The character’s wound will create a fear. In order to never experience that fear again, the character creates an emotional armor, his facade (his identity). If our example character fears disapproval, he may become a doormat, letting people walk all over him or take advantage of him at work. If he fears failure, he may cheat or lie in order to get the promotion

Though the outer motivation is the same–winning the promotion–each unique wound and fear gives rise to different inner motivations resulting in different story conflicts.

The essence is who the person really is or really wants to be. By the end of the story the character discovers their true essence. In a romance (which I write), the hero will chose to live in his or her essence, giving the reader their happy ending.

To sum it all up…

From a character’s wound grows a fear, which gives way to his identity (emotional armor). The only way he can obtain his emotional need is to step out of his identity and into his essence (true self).

“The character arc is the transformation from living in fear to living courageously.” – Michael Hauge

For more information, check out Michael Hauge’s website.

~KM Fawcett

Michael Hauge’s Six-Stage Plot Structure

When I was offered a two-book deal in April, I was both thrilled and terrified. Thrilled the editor loved my story enough to buy it, and terrified she wanted the sequel, which hasn’t been written yet. Yikes! I’m such a slow writer. How am I going to get this book done in six months when it took years to finish the others?

Frankly, I learned two things: (A) Fear is a great motivator. And (B) I needed structure. No more wasting time writing, rewriting, and polishing scenes or chapters that only ended up getting changed or deleted altogether because the story veered off in a different direction. I had to know my plot, my character arcs, and what direction the story was headed from the moment I sat down to write. But what tool would help me do all that?

Hello, Michael Hauge’s Six-Stage Plot Structure.

I took out my notes from Michael Hauge’s workshop at last year’s RWA nationals and read what he had to say about character arcs and plotting. The following are my notes taken from his workshop, as well as his website and YouTube videos. I hope it helps you as much as it helped me. (It enabled me to clearly outline an entire 100,000 word story in only three weeks. My editor gave her approval the next day to start writing it with no suggested changes. Woo hoo!)

A character arcs when he moves from his identity to essence.

Identity = emotional armor (facade) worn to protect himself from some wound.

Essence = who the character is when the emotional armor is stripped. True self.

What is your hero’s wound? From the wound grows a fear. This fear gives IDENTITY (emotional armor) to the character.

The character should have a physical goal, but that goal is primarily a symbol. It represents an emotional need (the true goal). The end reward must satisfy the character’s emotional need.

The only way the character can get to his longing (his emotional need) is to step out of his IDENTITY (emotional armor) and into his ESSENCE (true self).

Once you’ve established your hero’s WOUND, FEAR, IDENTITY, ESSENCE, EMOTIONAL NEED and PHYSICAL OUTER GOAL, we can move onto The Six Stage Plot Structure. Note: Stages are the Inner Journey. Since I write romance, I’ve included two Inner journeys–one for the hero and one for the heroine. Turning Points are the Outer Journey (the physical goal).

Stage ISet up: Living fully within Identity (facade)

  • Heroine:
  • Hero:

First Turning PointOpportunity: Change from stable to unstable world

Stage II – The New Situation: This is where we…

  • Glimpse the hero’s essence (true self):
  • Glimpse the heroine’s essence (true self):
  • Introduce Nemesis:
  • Introduce Reflection character: (sidekick, mentor, partner who helps hero achieve outer goal)

Second Turning PointChange of Plans: Something happens that makes the hero realize he must do “this” (a specific, visible, established goal).

Stage III Progress: Moving towards Essence without leaving identity. Hero/ Heroine makes a plan to accomplish goal, which seems to be working until…TP3.

  • Heroine:
  • Hero:

Third Turning Point – Point of No Return: (in a romance this could also be the 1st kiss/date/sex) traveler is closer to destination than origin. Hero is so committed to his goal that there is no turning back. Character has changed so much she can’t go back to who she was at the beginning.

Stage IV – Complications and Higher Stakes: Fully committed to Essence but growing fear. It’s more important to achieve goal, but more difficult. There is more to lose than “failure,” they will lose their Destiny.

  • Heroine:
  • Hero:

Fourth Turning Point Black Moment: All is lost (H/H will never be together)

Stage VFinal Push: Last attempt to achieve goal or die trying. Living one’s truth (ESSENCE) with everything to lose.

  • Heroine:
  • Hero:

Fifth Turning PointClimax: Turns everything back to stability. “Wins”

Stage VIAftermath: The Journey complete. Destiny achieved.

  • Heroine:
  • Hero:

For more information on Michael Hauges Six-Stage Plot structure, please visit his website at www.Storymastery.com. If you will be at the RWA national Conference in Anaheim, CA this July, be sure to attend his workshop!

~K.M. Fawcett

What Does She Want From Her Hero?

Scott and I on Tsuken Island (Okinawa, Japan)

After recently turning in my manuscript, synopsis, and blurb to my agent to pitch, I’ve been brainstorming my next novel and could use your help. The hero of this story is the brother of the last story’s hero, so his personality, goals, and motivation are pretty well defined already.


This is a romance novel and my hero needs a heroine. I’ve been racking my gray matter trying to come up with the kind of woman this hero needs. I figured since he has a strong personality, and thinks a little too highly of himself, he needs a strong woman who isn’t impressed by his macho attitude (he’s not really macho, he just thinks he is…think Howard Wolowitz on the Big Bang Theory, only not as nerdy or creepy).

Back to the heroine.

I want her to be physically strong, confident and teach karate (hey, everyone says write what you know, so I figured why not a karate instructor?) and she comes from a big family. My hero only has one family member so this will be a big adjustment for him especially when confronted with a few protective older brothers. 🙂  Not that the heroine needs their protection. She’s pretty good at handling things herself. Oh, did I mention she’s the hero’s sensei? Yup, the hero figures he can’t become a vigilante if he doesn’t know how to fight, and so joins her karate dojo. But he soon learns there’s more to being a “superhero” than punching and kicking.

Now for the part I need your help with…

If the heroine is already a strong, confident woman who owns her own business, what can she learn or gain by being with the hero? What is her vulnerability? What is her character arc? How does she grow to be a better person? Why does she find love with this hero and not anyone else?

Perhaps the answer lies in her reasons for her becoming a dedicated martial artist. I just wish I knew what that reason was. Any suggestions?

~K.M. Fawcett