Character Arcs


If the Plot & Players stage focuses on the more logical plot-oriented aspects of a narrative, Character Arcs focuses attention on the emotional considerations of growth within both the Main Character and Obstacle Character Throughlines.

The Main Character is the Player through which the audience witnesses the story. They are the audience's eyes and ears into the conflict, and their Throughline is about a personal struggle or conflict that everyone can relate to.

The Obstacle Character is there to challenge or influence the Main Character to deal with their personal justifications. Everyone has a blind spot, and everyone needs an Obstacle Character to help them see through them.

You cannot have a Main Character without an Obstacle Character. Just as there is no "up" without "down", and no "internal" without an "external", there is no personal Main Character point-of-view without an external challenging perspective to define it.


It's worth noting that the Obstacle Character may or may not be the Antagonist, they don't have to be, and very often aren't.

Antagonist is an objective character function.

Obstacle Character is a subjective point-of-view.

The Importance of One's Resolve

The emotional growth of the Main Character of a complete story is measured by comparing their responses to conflict at the end of a narrative with how they behaved at the beginning.

The Appreciation of this growth is known as the Main Character Resolve.

There is one rule that you must follow in order to maintain the integrity of your narrative:


One Player will maintain their resolve and grow into their initial motivation, the other will have their resolve changed by the interaction and will abandon their original motivation.

In other words, either:

  • If the MC is CHANGED, then the OC remains STEADFAST
  • If the MC is STEADFAST, then the OC is CHANGED

Both cannot be Changed, and neither can both be Steadfast.

If both "change" and abandon an old way of doing things (and by abandon we mean a complete 180) then the story will be broken and won't make much sense to the audience. The meaning of one's change is only meaningful in relation to the other remaining steadfast. (the same way there is no meaning of "external" without a complimentary "internal" to measure it).

In Subtxt, the Changed arc is signified by a two color gradient that shifts from one element to its polar opposite.

This 180 degree shift will ALWAYS be from one Element to its polar opposite (Dynamic Pair). Avoid will always change into Pursuit, Disbelief into Faith, Order into Chaos, etc.

The Steadfast arc is signified by a single color gradient that shifts from one shade to a deeper shade of the same color.

This shift will always be a leading into (or away) from the initial Element. Hinder will always grow into more Hinder, or less Hinder. Control will grow into more Control, or less Control. Neither will shift completely into Help or Free (as those are the polar opposites of Hinder and Control respectively).

More or less of an Element communicates to the Audience the impact of having too much or not enough of a particular Element (see Too Much or Not Enough in Methods and Illustrations.)

There is still growth in the Steadfast arc, just not complete change--that's why you want to be able to still see where these Steadfast Players start, and where they end.

The Elements of Growth

The growth of perspective in both the Main Character and Obstacle Character Throughlines will consist of two specific Elements. If the Changed Throughline, these two Elements will be a Dynamic Pair. If Steadfast, these two Elements will be the same Element.

Problem and Solution

The Changed perspective will grow out of a Problem and into a Solution. The Solution does not necessarily bring everything to a "happy" ending. It's more about finding a solution that resolves the inequity brought about by the initial Problem.

Problem and Evolution

To help mark the shift from Problem to Solution in the Steadfast perspective, Subtxt offers the concept of the Main Character and Obstacle Character Evolution. This Evolution is meant to capture of the increasing or decreasing aspects of the initial Problem.

Condition and Revision

For Female Mental Sex narratives and for the Relationship Story Throughline in a Male Mental Sex narrative, the emotional growth from beginning to end equates more accurately to Condition and Revision. Condition is the initial condition upon which an intention is set, whereas Revision marks the meaningful shift in direction from the original path.

In Female Mental Sex narratives, all Throughlines focus on Condition and Revision as the concepts of Problem and Solution become less meaningful.

In a Male Mental Sex narrative, the Relationship Story Throughline functions better as a measure of growth from Condition to Revision, rather than Problem and Solution.

The Emotional Anchor of Your Story

You can adjust these four Storypoints as you see fit and re-generate the individual Character Arcs. Subtxt will use the information you provide here to help plan out the rest of your story.

Think of this section as the emotional anchor for what is to come for the rest of your writing process. It's important to keep in mind the emotional journey of your characters as it's a crucial part of the story. The Main and Obstacle characters' arc will help you to create a compelling story that resonates with the audience.


The Elements found within the Main Character and Obstacle Character Throughline "arcs" are not random--they connect directly to the Objective Story Throughline.

In a narrative where the MC Resolve is Changed, the Main Character Throughline will share the same Problem and Solution as the Objective Story Throughline.

In a narrative where the MC Resolve is Steadfast, the Main Character Throughline will share the same Focus and Direction as the Objective Story Throughline.

In this way, complete stories are neither "character-driven" or "plot-driven", they are intimately tied to one another.

As you continue to develop your story, you can come back to this section and make adjustments as needed. This page is a useful tool that will help you to keep track of your characters' emotional journey and ensure that it aligns with the overall narrative of your story.