Levels Of Character Arc To Improve Your Screenwriting

How can screenwriters elevate their characters?

Most movies are about the positive transformation of your main character from a lower egocentric self to an elevated spiritual state. There are a number of such states ranging from the conscious to the unconscious common in screenwriting.

The more types of changes your main character experiences during the course of their story arc, the better developed they will be and ultimately more satisfying. Not all these changes can or must simultaneously be moving in the same direction in order to generate internal and external conflict.

They may achieve a positive change in some parameters and a negative one in others. For instance, they may lose something, but also learn something in the process.

However, there must be an overall positive change for your hero. This is even true of villains and anti-heroes since their primary goal is to create chaos and destruction.

I’ve listed some key types of character arcs ranging from the conscious to subconscious.


These changes relate to the superficial story and your main character’s outer goal. They often relate to physical changes such as arriving or leaving a tangible location, acquiring or removing an object, stopping a threat, or completing some external change which makes your hero better suited to their environment.


These changes relate to emotional changes that your main character may experience. Have they got their uncontrolled emotions under control or is their perception of a situation different? A story such as coping with death often involves the emotional changes associated with grief, ranging from initial shock to acceptance and hope.


These changes are purely logical and relate to the gaining of knowledge and facts. Movies such as cracking a cryptic code largely involve cerebral changes to your main character.


These changes are a hybrid of emotional and intellectual changes. Wisdom relates to how a character’s world view changes after gaining knowledge following a positive or negative life experience.


These changes are a metaphor for discovering a deeper level of consciousness and self awareness. In essence, it’s finding God. Spiritual changes are the most subtle changes that  a main character experiences, but the also, the most profound. In some cases, the main character may not even be fully aware of their spiritual arc.

Not all main characters achieve a spiritual change. They often stop at a situational and perceptual mid level changes.

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