I recently caught an
of ‘Just Write’ about character arcs and it made me think of
my own.

In a nutshell, when
you’re in a negative arc you’re letting the lie lead your life. In
some cases with quite drastic consequences, like Walter White (Classification: M – Some strong language). If
you’re going through a flat arc, you’ve taken hold of your truth (the
thing that energises you and by osmosis you end up finding ways to
give value to others) and see the end of your chapter through. If you’re in a positive arc, one sign of
progress is you’ll get epiphany after epiphany that would help you
let go of the lie you’ve been holding onto.

Once you find where you
are, here are some strategies on moving forward:

1.) Negative

This is tricky, because
sometimes we get so consumed with being in a spiral (as usually
happens with negativity) that we don’t notice the kind of destruction
it’s inflicting upon our lives. Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould notes something
interesting in Walter’s arc culminating during Season 2: Walt did not have a healthy view of himself (Classification: M – Some strong language). This prevented him accepting ‘the out’ that was offered to him that would have satisfied his ‘why’ (taking care of his family).

“I think the interesting thing is not exactly what happened but the fact that Walt hasn’t let it go over all these years. He has no perspective on himself. He gets to the point where all he can really do is try to justify everything that he’s done.” – Peter Gould

As long as you are able to push your ego away and admit: ‘I made a mistake‘ — you would have an easier time exiting a potentially negative arc (even if there aren’t obvious signs of the negative effects).

2.) Flat

Clutch on to your truth
pretty tightly
! Sometimes you may have to pivot to get there. The
trick is to shrug off the naysayers and listen to your patrons.

One interesting example of this (in addition to Wonder Woman and The Martian) is what Diane Lockhart goes through during ‘Day 478‘ (Season 2 Episode 11) of The Good Fight in which she finds herself back to where she started (able to retire). She gets the news from her accountant that she has made back her money she lost during ‘Inauguration’ (Season 1 Episode 1).

3.) Positive

Even if it’s a positive
one, it’s still going to be difficult. Sometimes you wouldn’t even
know what you are walking towards. One strategy is follow your
curiosity. Then couple that with doing something that you feel like
you couldn’t possibly do — the hope is that would lead you towards
unearthing your next project.

So what of my arc? I’d
say I am currently on a flat arc: embracing the truth that it’s just
a matter of time that I find the right number of my true fans as a
composer. After that? Well…another awesome chapter begins.

I probably should end
this by saying: I also believed a lie at some point and had to go
through an arc to let go of the lie. What was it? Because the music I
made didn’t come in a similar package similar to the kind of music I
was listening to…it meant that I should just stick with what I’ve
been doing for more than 20 years: support the music director or the

And like all positive
arcs, it took an inciting incident: I suddenly found myself with a
lack of musicians I connected with. This forced me to experiment on
my own, trying online collaboration…and
that led me to a day in 2009 when I came across a progression that slowly shook the avalanche of
that was there to unearth (though I’d say it’s more my
leaning strategies to build a track from an idea), and now I’m in the
process of releasing an album a year for the next four years.

It was only when I
started shopping around my music — to people open to hear new music
— that I knew that even something that I didn’t think would find an
audience (like ‘Walk In My Shoes‘), actually would have a niche. One
of them being something a parent can sing along with their kids.


What kind of signs have you been noticing that confirms the kind of arc you’re currently on? I look forward to your thoughts via Twitter!

For more content click here for my other pieces and here for previous entries from the Music Discovery Project.

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  • Leigh Lim

    Thrive Global Contibutor

    Leigh is a Sydney composer helping brands accelerate their influence. When she is not doing that, she can be found pondering story ideas for a music discovery project.