forum Who would like to discuss...negative character arcs?
Started by @Reblod flag

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@Reblod flag

I know my main protagonist has a huge negative character arc throughout the story.
I wanna hear about yours…
Who were they before the story?
Who were they after?
What happened to change them?
How did this affect the world/characters around them?
What are their beliefs?

(honestly just thirsty for more negative character development)


Negative character development is majorly underdone. I mean, I haven't actually finished any stories to have blatant negative character development yet, but I intend to include negative character arcs in my stories because I think they're important and realistic. Not everything is good in real life or in fiction.


oh BOY do I have a negative arc

Before everything, she was a little withdrawn. She felt out of place in the world around her, and depended almost entirely on her sister, shaping her personality around their connection. She was studious and a little snobbish. When alone, she felt panicked and aimless with no one to anchor her. Art and books and music could help, but the anxiety of missing her sister remained. She didn't know who she was without someone to lean on. Part of her hated herself for it - she felt weak, secondary, but she could never seem to break away. Somehow, attachment felt safer.

After everything, she was raw ambition. She was rampant paranoia. She was a furious kind of murder, doing dark deeds with flamboyance to show off her vast skill. She'd depended on the wrong people for too long, and who she was around them had poisoned her. At long last, she broke free of dependency and became a leader… but it was too late to be a good one. The years of training and hardship and ascension had hardened her. The months of doing everything on her own had made her unable to delegate and trust those around her. The endless days of darkness had made her angry and hungry for more, always more.

During everything, she was scared. Her sister was gone, and she was frantic without her anchor. She tried to latch onto someone kind; this person was taken from her by another, darker force. By circumstance more than by choice, she came to depend on her mentor, the woman who made her strong and taught her to never stop thirsting for greater things. She learned how to defend and how to kill, how to fight and how to run. She learned how to stay quiet when it was necessary. She learned how to follow orders blindly. She grew very skilled at this craft. But her mentor's lessons of ambition stuck, brushing against her old loathing of dependency. And so a seed was planted.

During everything, she grew hungry. She attached herself to another person, wrongly believing that he was not her anchor because she no longer needed one. She followed him blindly. It was with him that she again saw her sister, for the first time in many years. The sight of her didn't fill her with joy as she had expected, but fear. She was afraid that she would become someone soft and reserved again, someone who was always second, never strong. In her confusion, she lashed out, drawing even further from her sister and who she used to be.

During everything, she fell in love with the wrong woman. Her lover stroked her ego, whispering promises of greatness to come if she would just rise up for once. She was about to - and then she was returned to her old life abruptly, too soon for anything to come of her resolve. Forced into a world she no longer knew and associated with an irrational fear of her old self, she lashed out again. She cut ties with every anchor she had, leaving her in her frantic, aimless state. Holding on to her ambition, she fought hard to rise to the top of the heap. Once she made it, paranoia kicked in. Doubt spiked everything around her. Her choices were made of fear, and it was turning people against her. It really was no surprise when they rose against her.

The world around her is a mess of pity and pride. Her sister feels great sadness for who she has become; her mentor and new anchors feel pride at her skill and loyalty. For a time, her sister tries to save her. Eventually, her sister tries to stop her.

She doesn't really believe in anything now. She used to believe in innovation and learning. She used to believe in the power of art and beauty to affect positive change in the world. During everything, she lost that. Then she believed in loyalty, power, strength, and fear. She believed in fighting for a place at the table, and using your loyalty and skill to earn every scrap they gave you. And when she finally reached all of her goals, she realized that there was nothing left for her here. And so she believes in holding her power tightly and never letting it go - but she has no reasoning behind this, other than her terror to be powerless again.

i wrote that VERY dramatically OH boy but hey it's nothing if not a negative arc (her name is Natalie, she's lovely, and she ends up as the villain). Um… enjoy, I suppose !!

@Reblod flag

Negative character development is majorly underdone. I mean, I haven't actually finished any stories to have blatant negative character development yet, but I intend to include negative character arcs in my stories because I think they're important and realistic. Not everything is good in real life or in fiction.

Yes. As they say, everyone is capable of bad things and everyone has a breaking point

@Reblod flag

She seems like a really interesting character! I love the dramatic contrast between the two ends of the arc. It's my favourite when they essentially become the antithesis of themselves.

@Young-Dusty-the-Monarch-of-Dusteria group

I can't say much about the character that fits this from my story because it's the one plot point I've managed to keep a secret all these years, but essentially I have an originally good MC who takes a nasty dive from an inferiority complex to a god complex over the course of the series, and finishes as a villain. I'm simultaneously very proud of this character and very insecure that they don't make any sense lol.

@chescalynn groupWrite What You Are

Negative Characters/Negative Character Arcs are some of the most fun to write in my opinion. My most 'Negative' main character is named Augustus (goes by August) and he's incredibly chaotic. Self-serving, rude, lazy, one-liners that would make your mom want to wash his mouth out with soap.

However, something I don't really touch on until later down the line is HOW he got there. Turns out, he grew up in a very abusive rich family that forced him to be someone he wasn't. Think the Draco Malfoy of my book series. He had to become like his equally asshole-ish family to survive. From that stemmed a deep self-hatred that he projects onto other people.

Through the series, he's often labeled as an asshole or a bad guy, hated by most people that aren't in his immediate circle. This leads to him becoming more and more self-destructive, more self-deprecating, until one day he pulls a Ron Weasly (Harry potter references seem to be it today), and just leaves. In the middle of a very important event. Instantly most people assume he's abandoned them due to his laziness or even switched sides and betrayed them. It turns out that he was actually in trouble, but nobody came to help him.

This eventually leads to him leaving the team altogether, and that's it. Readers only hear about him vaguely through other characters, and that's really sad to me.

The reason I chose this arch for him is because I want to speak to the readers about influence. He was the Ugly Duckling of the group, but instead of blooming into the swan he could have become, he just conformed to what they made him. Ugly. It's really sad, but character arcs like this are important. They push the readers to think about who matches that personality, and what could happen if nobody believes in them.

Anyways, that's my blurb. Hope you enjoyed!

TL;DR: Negative character arcs push readers to think about people in their own lives, and how they can help them.

@Reblod flag

That's actually very interesting! I was just thinking I have a character who is kind of similar but he goes through a very positive arc.
I think what you have is more of a static arc where the character doesn't shift either way in particular. It's very neat, seemingly coming up to an eventual redemption for a character like this but instead having them stay the way they are. After all, not everyone gets to have the experiences that can actually change their views for the better

@Reblod flag

@Young-Dusty I love good characters that end up as the villains. It's oddly satisfying. I suppose because characters who go down the bad path tend to be more relatable


Negative arcs are some of my favorites, here's a one of mine:

Tw for some dark themes, and brief mention of suicide and such.

From my tabletop game:
Who were they before the story? Arven was a man recovering from a life-long anxiety disorder, impostor syndrome, and low-key hatred of everyone - get them before they can get me. I say recovering, because he was finally put in a squad with the two people he ever truly felt loved by; his best friend, and his team leader. Under that influence, he was genuinely gaining back his confidence and his natural talent was shining through as it always should have.
Who were they after? Arven became totally consumed by his hatred of others, blaming every bad event in his life on them, especially those who he used to know, dare I say love. He was hurting so badly, all he could do is lash out in any direction he was pointed, and he was pointed directly back at his friends. He's a shell of a person, literally, barely even alive anymore, just a vessel of hatred.
What happened to change them? Hell. Actual Hell. After the betrayal of his team leader and supposed death of his best friend, he fought against the demons for as long as he could before he finally got imprisoned and tortured mercilessly, fusing his armor to his flesh, psychological and physical torment, etc, etc. Eventually he became so pained and twisted the demons were able to use him as a weapon, and he fought for them against his old friends. Even finding out that his best friend wasn't dead didn't snap him out of it, the grief had long since turned to rage.
How did this affect the world/characters around them? Well, his best friend was devastated. Arven also about to end up being a major pain in the butt for my players, given how hellbent he is on their destruction. He gave his ex-team leader yet another thing to feel suicidally guilty over

@Reblod flag

I realise I should probably share my own thing

(you can skip these four parts if you want)

Kado is the main protagonist of one of my stories. He starts off as a noble, naive and quite mislead by all the stories he'd read about adventures and heroes. He used to be kind and thoughtful. He'd rather put the needs of others before his own. He didn't resent his privilege by any means but he did wish he could help those worse off than himself. Even so, he still leaned on it and only when it was taken away did he realise.

Things generally go downhill from there and his life becomes filled with the hardships of surviving in the wild, constantly having to be alert for other people and creatures. His trusting and friendly nature had to be forcibly repressed and his mentor was always sure to stomp on his fantasies of bravado and heroics.

Aaand fast-forward a bunch. He's a trained and skilled warrior, hardened by his life in the world. His childish beliefs had been eradicated and under the influence of his mentor and closest friend his once strong perception of good and evil became a darker shade of grey. Taking life didn't seem like such a big deal anymore. The faces around him didn't seem so friendly anymore. It was only after his mentor betrayed him that he really started to change. He completely abandoned his past beliefs in favour for vengeance particularly after the brutal deaths of his family.

On top of this, Kado began using magic more and more which corrupted him. This corruption twisted his mind. Reality became distorted and he became unpredictable, lashing out randomly sometimes at nothing, sudden bursts of magic, the death of an ally. Usually people with this type of corruption are killed but because of his important role he was kept around (and also because most of the people around him were afraid of him).

If I don't stop I'll go forever. This is hard to summarise. Hang on let me try.

So, he started off as a really decent dude. Things in his life changed dramatically that led to him meeting someone who would be a bad influence on him in the long run. His experiences in the world altered his perception on life. The betrayal of his mentor caused him to become extremely bitter and, later, the deaths of his family caused him to become consumed with anger. His overuse of magic twisted his mind into something not himself. He eventually turns on his allies and becomes their enemy so it's sort of like: Big Bad > Kado > The People Who Are Trying To Save The World. By the end of the Final Battle™ he is fractured and has lost the large majority of what made him Kado.
Before his magic corruption, he was still himself just more reserved, distrustful and morally dark grey. After his corruption you'd be lucky to see his old self shine through.


@Oakley-is-Oaken-Bull He sounds like a really cool character!

Thank-you thank-you! he's one of my favorites <3