Lately I’ve read several stories in which the main two characters dance around each other. They both push and prod and there’s no balance, no drive to bring them together. Sure, there’s plenty of hard lust, sweat, and great sex to be had, but no real affection. No real plot reason to be there. So when I see their happy ever after at the end I’m left confused and annoyed.
The character arc is what your two main characters go through. It’s their inner emotions and drives. This is also where they choose to part their ways. The story arc, however, is the unstoppable force that keeps slamming them together despite their best intentions.
Take one of my favorite movies for example: The Fifth Element
*warning…plot spoilers ahead*
Leeloo, the fifth element and kickass supreme being, needs to get the stones and stop the apocalypse. Despite her initial interest in Korben Dallas (and his interest in her), nothing else matters but the mission. Fortunately for them both, his mission to save the world forces Leeloo’s group to take drastic action and steal his passage ticket so they can continue on their way. When he arrives and stops them, Leeloo acts as his wife and the two characters are forced to be in close proximity for the duration of the trip.
More action and suspense continue, but every time they are emotionally pushing the other way, an action or event in the plot forces them back together. It creates a gorgeous tension that shakes their foundations and compels them to reevaluate their positions.
Character arc cocktail: take two characters that spark well together, shake them up, and see how it changes the flavor.