Writing Tips – Revising Your Novel – Strengthening Your Character Arc – GAME ON

I have been revising my middle grade novel, Game On, about a boy and his sister who become stranded in the Australian wilderness.


Jack the main character is a techno head who can’t survive without his wifi or his favourite video game, Crocodile Run.

But he has no choice when a family holiday goes disastrously wrong and Jack and his sister end up stranded in the Australian wilderness, and all Jack has are skills learned in a virtual reality to help them survive real world challenges.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo help with my revision process, I’m using A Path to Publishing‘s, Revise Your Novel in a Month videos  produced by Jill Corcoran literary agent and Martha Alderson, the Plot Whisperer. There are eight videos in the series, and you rent them for 12 months for $75 USD. I can highly recommend them.  They cover everything from character, to plot, to energy in the story, to detailed line edits.


This is the first in a series of posts where I’m going to talk about how they helped me with the revision process.

In my head, I knew how my character had changed. He started the book as an unfit city kid who only entered the real world when forced to, and whose biggest physical challenge was lifting pizza to his lips and wrestling virtual crocodiles. By the end of the book, he was skinning kangaroos and fending off real crocs.

Constructive criticism can't hurt you *

So clearly, the physical arc was there. It wasn’t until I started revising using the videos that I realised I hadn’t paid enough attention to Jack’s internal arc. How would fighting for his life in the wilderness mentally and emotionally change a wisecracking 13 year-old boy?

For my character, it results in a deeper connection to his environment, a deeper understanding of consequences, and a deeper love for his family, particularly his little sister who is his companion on his real life survival quest.

I found that I’d shown a big change in my character by the end of the novel. It was kind of easy because circumstances necessitated certain actions so Jack had to be a certain way in order to survive.

What was missing from my story was the transition. I needed to go back and put markers in my story – to look at the physical events that brought about his change and made sure they reflected the mental and emotional journey as well. I needed to show that he hadn’t suddenly gone from being one kind of person to another – that his character had evolved due to circumstances and to his own self-knowledge.

DINGOSo these are the things I asked myself about to Jack in order to strengthen his character arc in the story:

1.  When does he come to understand the part he played in ending up in the situation he’s in?
2.  How does he behave under pressure?
3.  How does this behaviour change over the course of the novel?
4.  How does his understanding of himself change over the course of the novel?
5.  How does he come to realise what he has been doing wrong?
6.  What does he decide to do differently? How does this change him as a person?
7.  At the end, what is he able to do on a mental and emotional level that he wasn’t able to do at the beginning of the story?
8.  How does this help him achieve his goal?

CAMELIn my story, my character’s story goal actually changes and increases in intensity as the events unfold, so this necessitates greater change in his character.

One of the other things I realised is that the problems my character encountered needed to be a lot more due to his own actions rather than natural hazards or bad luck.

This increased the emotional stakes for him, the need for change, and a bigger character arc.

I hope this post helps you develop the character arc in your story.

If you have any tips to share or experiences with developing your character arc, feel free to share them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing and revising:)






10 thoughts on “Writing Tips – Revising Your Novel – Strengthening Your Character Arc – GAME ON

  1. Those are excellent questions you’ve asked Dee. I’d think they apply to any protagonist. Sometimes once I’ve worked out the external action arc it’s easy to be a bit slack and less thorough with the internal one. I’ve saved your questions in my ‘keeps’ file.

  2. Oh how they help. Always helps. Thanks Dee. BTW, have you read Tristan Bancks’ Two Wolves? Jack’s emotional change and ‘hero’s journey’ reminded me the central character, also a young boy in this novel and perfectly aligns with your character arc exercise. Great stuff.

  3. Hi Dee! I’m doing the same thing you are (revising along with the videos from Jill and Martha). My MG book is already much stronger and I’m only 1/3 of the way through. Thanks for sharing your character questions – they are great!

  4. Hi Dee,
    Your tips are Fantastic!!
    I’m revising my Super Kids book “Josh and the It.”
    Your sentence rang true for me…
    “Problems my character encountered needed to be a lot more due to his own actions rather than natural hazards or bad luck.”
    I’m going back to analyse Josh’s reactions to see if they ring true for the heroes journey and developing a strong character arc and change.
    Many Thanks,
    Karen 🙂

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