5 Strategies for Building Strong YA Main Character Arcs

Don’t pamper your characters. Show their pain, their fears, their humanness. Your characters are like your children; raise them as such. PLEASE don’t give them the “I’m not like other people” trope! Here are some ideas to apply to your character so you can avoid it:

  1. Give them consequences. How often do you read about a main character who seems invincible or immune to the consequences of his actions (whether good or bad)? I’m sure we are all familiar with the “assassin” trope that has become so popular in recent literature. It almost seems like humanizing the bad guy still makes us fall short of seeing their consequences for their unwise actions. Why is this? Probably due to the stigma that has arisen that if we should sympathize with the villains, the best way to do that is to erase accountability. Please don’t do that.
  2. Give them a goal. Don’t just have your character walking around all willy-nilly without a purpose. While they may not know their purpose yet in the story, it is always a good idea to give them an objective (that may or may not be thwarted by conflict later in the story) that may help flesh out their personality.
  3. Acknowledge their weaknesses. People have weaknesses right, so wouldn’t it make sense if the person in your story did too? Not only will it help make your character more human, but it could be a way the reader can empathize with the character or make connections with the story.
  4. Don’t allude to their importance. This can be applied whether it is from your own point of view or from the supporting characters. Too many times do things happen to characters in YA literature that only happen “because they are the main character.” In Twilight, we see this with our main character Bella, as well as in other YA romances like Fallen’s Luce and Myra Dyer and the Myra Dyer Trilogy.
  5. Have them learn something. Whether it occurs at the story’s resolution or throughout, when a character learns something constructive (whether through their consequences, pursuing their goals, etc.), it not only strengthens the believability of the main character’s arc, but it also reinforces the connection between the reader and the story.

Hopefully this list will help you flesh out your main characters a little more when you craft your stories!


Published by Ashley Weaver

Author of historical fiction with a hint of the supernatural/fantasy

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