64 | Character Arc

arc 1: the apparent path described above and below the horizon by a celestial body (as the sun) Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition

A character arc is the transformation or inner journey of a character over the course of a story. - LINK

There is no refuge from confession but suicide, and suicide is confession.

Daniel Webster, summation in murder trial of John Francis Knapp, 3 Aug. 1830, in Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster 11:4 (J. W. McIntyre ed. 1903)

The writer’s holy grail is character arc. From Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces to Chris Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, to Robert McKee’s Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting, we’re taught unless the protagonist changes at the end, there’s no story. In Colin Wilson’s A Criminal History of Mankind, in the end the Right Man destroys himself.

In March 2011, when I phoned Cherrie at The Verandas, the assisted-care facility where she was living, the first thing she said was Duane’s still alive, isn’t he? Her fear was unmistakable. After Duane committed suicide, I called Cherrie’s ex-husband Hank who asked me not to tell her. Cherrie outlived her brother by more than six months, but never knew. Frightened, embittered, convinced coming forward with Duane’s confession was the worst mistake of her life, she died in a nursing home on Thanksgiving Day 2013.

Duane’s suicide bookended Betty’s murder. The parallels are stark: violent death by massive intentional trauma to the head, at home where the body would be found by a family member. Suicide by shotgun blast to the head is a uniquely brutal and horrific act that leaves an indelible mark on survivors. Doing it at home—where Lynn lived with him—ensured someone he knew would not only find him but would also be shocked. Duane’s act of guilt, violence and rage ended his family’s arc.

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