Redemption arc is the trope we all know and love, and it is present in almost any show or movie nowadays. A redemption arc in a story focuses on a villain character going through a type of redemption and becoming a hero character by the end of the story.
I’m going to be discussing how you can create a great redemption for your mangas, comics, and light novels. First of all, before you begin making a character redemption, you first need to ensure that your character meets the right criteria for a redemption arc, for a character should go through a true redemption.
Types of redeemable characters
They often need to be two things: The first is a failed hero, and the second is a villain.
Failed hero: The failed hero is someone who used to be here at the start of the story but then they become a villain for the story. So the failed hero character is someone who had good morals and values at the start of the story. But throughout the story, they might descend into becoming a villain.
Filter characters can remain a villain for the rest of the story, which is the case for many failed hero characters. However, the circumstance when you’re creating a redemption of this failed hero character would likely start as a hero, become a villain, and then redeem themselves into becoming a hero again.
Villain: The second type of character that can go through a redemption arc is a true villain. A villain is a character who is someone bad from the start. You reveal the bad morals and values from the very beginning and show what makes them into the villain character. So this is to have a character that needs to have certain qualities.
4 criteria for a redemption arc
Any character can go through a redemption, provided that they meet the correct criteria for having that redemption. There are four criteria your character must meet if you want them to go through a realistic redemption arc.
- The first is that they must have redeemable qualities.
- The second is that the change must be foreshadowed.
- The third is that they must have a turning point.
- The fourth is that the other characters must acknowledge the change.
What is a redeemable quality to decide how to make your villain character into someone redeemable? You need to set out what must be changed for that character to be redeemable. You decide if your character can be redeemed or not. Also, you need to consider what the villainous character does. That is so bad, and if that bad thing can be shifted into something good.
- Give them redeemable qualities that make it easier for you to shift them into a redemption arc and turn them into a good character.
While your character might be a thief and steal many items, they might still use these items to try and help their family or their loved ones. Villains can usually be redeemed if they don’t want to be a villain in the first place. They usually have to be an excellent ulterior motive that makes their actions a little less evil.
Some villains can’t be redeemed, such as Berserk Shortcut from Fullmetal, Alchemist, and Tamaki from Deadman Wonderland. Lots of character does so many bad things, and it becomes impossible to turn them into redeemable character. That is what you want to avoid with this step.
You want to give room for your character to become a good character. So first and foremost, you want to ensure that you give your character a redeemable quality. That means they have a good ulterior motive for the bad things they do.
The change must be foreshadowed
You must foreshadow the change of becoming a true hero character. Otherwise, it would feel unnatural. If your character is a villain one moment and then a hero the next, you need some room and space to hint that your villain will eventually become a good character.
The foreshadowing must happen slowly, and you must scatter the foreshadowing throughout the moments where they might be doing all the wrong things. Your villain character might hesitate before they do something wrong. They might have that moment of self-reflection, or they might feel regret when they have done something bad.
- Slowly adding this foreshadowing is key because people don’t change overnight.
There needs to be a slow change, and the more your character slowly shifts into becoming more of a good character, the more foreshadowing you should have. Then it makes a lot more sense for you to have the turning point where that character finally becomes good.
You must consider that there must be a turning point for your character to go through redemption. So you have planned out the foreshadowing, it should be natural to add the turning point. The turning point at this point should feel easy to add once you have led up to it with the foreshadowing.
- The turning point in a redemption arc is when your character shifts from being a villain to finally becoming a hero, even if they are heroes with some traits that they still need to work out.
It is the point where they do become a hero in your story, and they are no longer bad characters.
Acknowledge the change
The final criteria your characters must meet if you want them to go through a natural redemption arc is that you must show the other character’s response to the change. Having the other characters accept or acknowledge your character’s change makes it more natural in the world of your story. If the character’s responses to your character don’t change, even after they have gone from being a villain to a hero, then it’s pretty unnatural.
So you need to ensure that there is a response or an acknowledgment of your character’s change of heart. It’s up to the heroes to forgive them and accept them as being a nearly good characters and vice versa. With the villain characters, they might feel betrayed by this villain who is now become a hero.
So it’s up to you to decide how different types of characters you have in your story would respond to a villain who is now become a good character. So that’s how you set up the character to become redeemable and set them up for redemption.
5 stages of the grief process
Let’s talk about how you can set up the redemption and present it in an easily digestible way to your audience. When writing a redemption, follow the five stages of grief because usually, a villain going through a redemption will go through a similar thought process.
The five stages of grief is a model developed by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. It focuses on people struggling with grief and the different stages they may go through to overcome this.
These grief stages can apply a lot to creating a character because when a villain becomes a hero, they go through similar grief stages. Also, they are letting go of their old self, and they are becoming new characters. That causes grief when they look back on their past choices, decisions, and betrayals by the people close to them. Now I want to talk about the five stages of grief and how this can apply to developing a villain in your story.
First is denial. In the case of the villain, this might mean that they start denying their villainous traits. However, this can go both ways at the beginning a villain’s arc. They may begin to deny the things that they believed in the past.
Moreover, they may deny their morals or their values. That denial is the start of their villain arc. As the story progresses and they become more heroic characters, other characters might start noticing their good sides and denying the hero.
Denial should go back and forth over the story as they have moments where they deny their villainous side and deny that they are becoming a hero.
The second stage of grief is anger. After the denial stage, the villain character will likely go through a period of anger at themselves for maybe falling down this villainous path and the people who may have lied to them or betrayed them throughout their life. They may even try to take it out on the hero characters who did not help them when they needed it.
Also, they try and blame the other characters around them for their current situation. Then they start to realize that they regret their choices and want to change.
Regarding a villain character, they might try to find ways to make up for what they’ve done, and this is where a lot of the foreshadowing comes in. An example of this is that they may try and help their character in subtle ways without directly showing that they are on the hero’s side.
The main villain controls them to buy themselves more time or get out of a dangerous situation. This bargaining comes in various ways, depending on the type of story that you are telling.
The villain character may come to a point in the redemption arc where they believe it is too late. They have done too much. That is wrong, and they feel regret for their choices. Moreover, they feel sad about where they are in life, and they get into a stage of depression where they don’t know where to go next.
So, they may not believe that they can do anything to change now because they’ve done too much wrong, and this causes them to fall into a very depressed state.
For a villain being redeemed, this is when they finally let go of their villainous side, and they decide that they need to change. For some characters, this might be hard. But for, some villains might realize that this is the change that they need to take all along.
Come to accept that they are no longer the character they were before. It is tough for them to accept, but it’s something that happens, and they realize that they have to let go of who they were in the past to change and become a better person.
How to write a redemption arc?
How you can make the redemption in your story feel realistic and believable because you want to show that the redemption is believable in your story. You don’t want your readers to be looking at this villain character. Also, you don’t want to make it feel unrealistic when the villain drastically changes all of a sudden to become a hero.
Consider what your character needs to leave behind to be redeemed. They will likely be previous thought processes, bad influences, and difficult situations that they will need to leave behind. This one needs to be considered when you are developing them. But when you are developing your villain to hear our characters, you need to consider what they must leave behind when they become a hero.
None of those things they were affected by before should be a part of their lives because they are wholly new characters. So you need to think about if you want to change them into heroic characters, what must they leave behind to do that?
Show the internal conflict
Internal conflict is significant because it shows how the character struggles to decide to become a heroic character. It’s a tough choice, especially if they have lived all of their life as a villain. They wouldn’t know what choice they need to make. You need to reveal that internal conflict. They both don’t want to admit their faults, and this is no exception for a villain.
When your villain character starts going through a redemption, they struggle with thinking about the wrongdoings they have done. So, they regret their actions, and they may think about the choices they will make in the future.
Let them do something opposite
If your character would normally steal as a villain, they need to give something back for them to be fully redeemed. I don’t have to be an object they stole directly. But if they give someone something, a gift or money or support, giving something can help them redeem themselves from being someone who used to steal things.
Make your character start doing opposite things to redeem them as characters. While that instance won’t immediately make up for all the things they’ve done, it is still a path to their redemption. It still means that they are taking action to redo their wrongdoings and trying to be better as characters.
Show the results of the change
The change is essential to all the characters in the story. You should show what has changed now that your character has become good. It may help people more. They will try and forgive themselves for what they’ve done, and they may do more opposite things. It may be a big internal conflict and struggle for them to go through, but it is something that your character should go.
If you want to turn them from a villain to a hero, that’s how you redeem a villain into a hero. It can be a complex process. But if you break down the steps and show the different structures, it can be fun and easy to do it.
I hope you enjoyed this article and it helped you with your creative projects. Please let me know in the comments section about your advice or opinion. Tell me what characters you’re creating in your redemption arcs because I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to chat with me on my social media.
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