Writing Definitions

This article was originally published in The Writer’s Everything, Issue #008.

Like any career or hobby, there’s a whole world built around writing that you may just be beginning to scratch the surface of. And let’s face it, we’re not born knowing how to respond if someone on Twitter asks if the MC in your WIP finds the McGuffin, or if it was just a red herring all along. 

Well that’s what the Writing Definitions guide is going to be for. Rather than spending countless hours trying to develop a feel for what  all these various terms mean, a few specific terms will be defined with each issue of The Writer’s Everything. I hope that as this magazine continues, these terms can come to be so familiar to you that they become second-nature.


An ideal or typical example. An archetype is a pattern that you can use to help develop and understand your characters. There are many different archetype systems that identify characters in different ways.

Iconic Character

Characters that stand out from, and elevate, the stories they are in. They’re characters you love to spend time with, and wish you could continue to do so with long after the stories are done. They are not necessarily the main characters.

Character Arc

The transformation of a character over the course of the story, pictured as a line arching across a graph. There can be positive, negative, and flat arcs, depending on the state of the character at the end of the story.

Positive Character Arc

A character arc in which the character improves as a person over the course of the story. That is to say, they start the story with negative qualities or beliefs, and gradually shed them. An example would be Scrooge from A Christmas Carol.

Negative Character Arc

A character arc in which the character starts with positive qualities or beliefs, and gradually loses them, becoming a worse person by the end of the story. An example would be Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequel trilogy.

Flat Character Arc

A character arc in which the character stays the same throughout the story, but generally tends to influence the world around them because of their firmly-held beliefs. An example would be Indiana Jones in the film Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The Writer’s Everything

This article, as well as many others, have been featured in previous issues of my writing journal, The Writer’s Everything, in which I, along with occasional guest contributors, provide essays, guides, encouragement, motivation, writing prompts, character bio development kits, and anything else that can help you turn your dream of becoming a writer into a reality.

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