The Flat Character Arc


The flat character arc follows a character who already knows their truths and doesn’t change or grow throughout the story, but they change the world around them.

You see flat character arcs more often than you realize. After reading the definition above, do any come to mind? Some examples that come to mind are Diana from Wonder Woman and Colonel Quaritch from Avatar. Who did you come up with?

If your protagonist follows a flat character arc, then how can we have any kind of arc? Let’s dig into the flat arc with our examples above.


Your starting point for the flat arc is often the comfort zone for the protagonist. It will often embody their truth or principles that they hold dear. While there are many ways to destroy an idealistic life, there are two common approaches: destruction of home, or leaving home to protect it.

Diana holds her truth that love conquers all. In the 2017 Wonder Woman film, Diana begins her flat arc at home surrounded by those who mirror her ideals and values. The first part of the movie draws the viewer in with the structure and unity of the culture around Diana. And it isn’t until someone threatened her home does she realize she must leave her home to protect it.

Colonel Quaritch may embody the military stereotype, but the flat arc is addressing the resistance to change. He begins with his belief that the Na’vi are savages that will reply to only two forms of interaction, cooperation, or destruction. The Colonel is trying to protect his belief that the human’s assets are a benefit to the Na’vi.


Whether your flat character arc influences people or the world, this is the point where you challenge your character’s truth. A new tempting lie will appear and threaten to shake their resolve. Often, you’ll see a character act against their truth for a small taste of the lie.

Diana starts the midpoint by charging the enemy lines after hearing about the horrendous attack on a nearby village. This act of aggression counteracts her truth that love conquers all. This inspires those around her to attack, but once again in support through anger and pride, not love.

Colonel Quaritch’s attempts fail to keeping his inside man true to “his fellow humans”. While Colonel Quaritch sticks to his truth, he creates the first divide between himself and Jake Sully. The raw reaction to what the Colonel sees as Jake’s betrayal turns his truth on its head as he tries to bring Jake back in. He thinks the savages have tainted him, reinforcing his truth.


At the end of Wonder Woman, Diana faces a great personal loss, one that could send her forever away from her truth, but Steve’s last words save her. By accepting that humankind isn’t inherently good or evil, and that they will respond with love if given it, she loses her final barriers and kills Ares. This ends the war and saves the world from Ares’s destruction. Diana becomes a protector of humankind once more.

At the end of the movie, Colonel Quaritch hasn’t changed, but he’s shown how his “truths” influence the world around him. The destruction he brings to the Na’vi and even his own kind is drastic. You could say that the Colonel’s only purpose was to drive the theme, but he also helps move the story along and contrasts Jake Sully’s (Protagonist) growth.


The flat character arc is popular for heroes and villains, and more prevalent than many realize. The examples above are just a few, and I’d love to hear some more from you. A flat arc can be challenging to analyze, as it’s sometimes hard to see past the changing world around the character. So, is your character need a flat character arc that pushes their truth to those around them? Could your character change the world with what they believe?

Check in Saturday for the next installment of Frozen in Line and next Tuesday for The Destructive Character Arc.

As always, stay fresh, my nugs!

Previous: Transformational Character Arc

Next: The Destructive Character Arcs

2 thoughts on “The Flat Character Arc

  1. Pingback: The Transformational Character Arc – Myers Fiction

  2. Pingback: The Destructive Character Arcs – Myers Fiction

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