A character arc is the status of the character as it unfolds throughout the story, the storyline or series of episodes. Characters begin the story with a certain viewpoint and, through events in the story, that viewpoint changes. Definition courtesy of Wikipedia.
No matter what genre or age group you read, you want to connect to the characters. These stories are the ones you reread and tell your friends about. You know what they share? Characters who have overcome their flaws and weaknesses to triumph in the end.
It doesn't have to be becoming the President or throwing Precious back into the fiery chasm of Modor...um what was I saying? Oh, your characters can do something little like realize beauty is only skin deep or learn responsibilities. But they have to move the story forward.
Your arc needs to provide conflict to the character and story line. The changes your people go through can be either negative or positive. A good example is Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind. Scarlett starts out a spoiled young girl and develops into a strong mature woman. I like to think about how I want my characters to be at the end and then write them the opposite at the beginning. It's good to have your people flawed, it gives them somewhere to go and creates more situations for trouble.
Most of the time the character doesn't want to grow and learn. They think they are perfect just the way they are. Don't we all? So, then comes the challenges and obstacles of the character arc. The hard road to redemption your protag or antag must travel down. Hopefully in the end they've done a pretty fine job of it.
I recently came close enough to the end of my first draft to call it finished. Or, in other words, I'm tired of it and want to move on to revision. I skimmed over my characters flaws and weaknesses, sort of making a linear map of their growth through out the wip. I came to the conclusion that my main protag doesn't grow enough. She's not really a bad girl to begin with and by the end she's still the same girl. In revision I'm going to back the story up some and show more of a normal happy life. In the end she will have to mature and just maybe save the world. After all we do need more female super heroes.
Are your Character Arcs bright and loud or are they more subtle? Do you have a problem making a smooth transition to the end? Do you have any tips for others or great links about character arcs?