I hope my story makes it better than this explanation below. Somehow, it’s seems overcomplicated when it shouldn’t be. Sigh.
I’d like to use my own story for this exercise, so you could help me and point if I’m going in right or wrong direction. I didn’t write the last third of the book yet, but I have an idea/plan for it.
To achieve Justyna’s goal and marry for green card, she must surrender love. First, none of the three offers of marriage is from the man she loves (Jay), so if she accepts the offer, she would go against her heart. And at that moment, she already understands that even a fraud marriage is not just a simple gentlemen agreement. By refusing the offers, she is losing her chance to live in the USA (fails her goal) but she saves her belief in true love.
However, I plan to torture her more. Jay and Justyna had a fight and broke up. Those are the dark days for Justyna. Veronique doesn’t know it and attacks Justyna again. Justyna saves Jay (I plan to make it a little epic/heroic from her part). Jay—to thank her for saving him—asks Justyna to marry him. Accepting his offer would be her perfect answer for her ultimate goal. Unfortunately, he doesn’t say he loves her, only how much he appreciates her sacrifice for him, so now he would like to repay her. And this is going to be her big decision moment— she will refuse. Because it’s not the love and marriage she believes in (like her parents’), since only one side would be in love. She doesn’t know that Jay really loves her but he doesn’t want to or is afraid to admit it, even to himself. Her problem is, to make Jay go away without telling him how much she loves him, she will lie to him and tell that she accepted another marriage offer.
Since I’m terrible with the analyzing part, I’m not sure about the bulleted factors I used here if any. I’m afraid, Justyna’s character arc doesn’t grow as she is still lying and is too proud to tell Jay the truth. On the other hand, she doesn’t take the easy way and marry whoever, but sticks with her belief in true love.
Now, with her artistic want, she accepts she doesn’t have enough talent to shake the artistic world but learns to appreciate the little things as well: painting just for pleasure or using her eye for design for commercial purposes. With this part, she is able to dismount from the high horse. She will learn/understand her artistic limits gradually through the book, I don’t plan to make it as an epic moment.
There will be one more scene after the epic rejections and parting (I hope to make them epic somehow). I’m not sure it can be considered a change in her arc because even when she finally makes herself to tell Jay her feelings, she is too chicken to do it face to face, so she only leaves him a message at the very last moment when she is leaving the USA. And she does it only because some time before, she promised Jay to tell him when she will be going back to Poland.
Oh, I’d have the Depended on Agency factor for the HEA moment. Justyna’s best friend tells Jay she is leaving. Jay, afraid he’d lose her forever, realizes he loves her, runs to the airport, and is able to get her and tell her his true feelings.
PS. I’m reading The Black Echo per your advice. Thank you for the example. I read the series many years ago and I don’t remember much but I know for sure, I didn’t analyze the book as well you did. How can you force your mind into analyzing when the story pulls you in? I have to admit, I tried a few times to read Shawshank Redemption purely for analyzing the craft and never was able to do it. The story always got me.