Catch the wind

Catch the wind

Sunday, August 26, 2012

... arc stuff

on a short story i wrote a long while ago one of my blogger friends said  i did a good job on the arc. i gotta be honest and tell you i didnt have not one idea what she was talkin about. ack! but i was pretty proud a cool author like miss dianne salerni could say i did a good arc even if i didnt know what is was.
i been thinking about that arc stuff and wondering just what it is and why a good story needs one and how to do a good one. i been researching and now im gonna share out with you what i learned.
a story arc is a long storyline that moves the story from start to finish and shows changes in the mc or mcs or whats happening. it gets the story rising til it reaches its peak and then brings it back down to the end.
an arc moves the story from one point to the next and makes sure theres changes in situations and in your characters. it helps measure the progress of your wip and helps give it a real good structure.
it doesnt matter if youre a plotter or a panster. it does matter how your story moves from the start to the end and what changes happen and how things get resolved.
i found a cool article called how to sturcture a story: the eight-point arc by ali hale. he got the 8 points from the book writing a novel and getting published by nigel watts. im not gonna sharing out the whole thing just only the 8 points. WOW! its really good arc stuff!
1. STASIS: This is the "every day life" in which the story is set. Think of Cinderella sweeping the ashes, Jack (of Beanstalk fame) living in poverty with his mum and a cow, or Harry Potter living with the Dursley's.
2. TRIGGER: Something beyond control of the protagonist (hero/heroine) is the trigger which sparks off the story. A fairy godmother appears, someone pays in magic beans not gold, a mysterious letter arrives.
3. THE QUEST: The trigger results in a quest - an unpleasant trigger (e.g. a protagonist losing his job) might involve a quest to return to the status quo; a pleasant trigger (e.g. finding a treasure map) means a quest to maintain or increase a pleasant state.
4. SURPRISE: This stage involves not one but several elements, and takes up most of the middle part of the story. "Surprise" includes pleasant events, but more often means obstacles, complications, conflict and trouble for the protagonist. Watts emphasizes that surprises shouldn't be too random or too predictable - they need to be unexpected, but plausible. The reader has to think, "I should have seen that coming!"
5. CRITICAL CHOICE: At some stage, your protagonist needs to make a crucial decision; a critical choice. This is often when we find out exactly who a character is, as real personalities are revealed at moments of high stress. Watts stresses that this has to be a decidion by the character to take a particular path - not just something that happens by chance. In many classic storits, the "critical choice" involves choosing between a good, but hard, path and a bad, but easy, one. In tragedies, the unhappy ending often stems from a character making the wrong choice at this point - Romeo poisoning himself on seeing Juliet supposedly dead, for example.
6. CLIMAX: The critical choice(s) made by your protagonist need to result in the climax, the highest peak of tension in your story. For some stories, this could be the firing squad levelling their guns to shoot, a battle commencing, a high-speed chase or something equally dramatic. In other stories, the climax could be a huge argument between a husband and wife, or a playground fight between children, or Cinderella and the Ugly Sisters trying on the glass slipper.
7. REVERSAL: The reversal should be the consequence of the critical choice and the climax, and it should change the status of the characters - especially your protagonist. For example, a downtrodden wife might leave her husband after a row; a bullied child might stand up for a fellow victim and realize that the bully no longer has any powere over him; Cinderella might be recognized by the prince. Your story reversals should be inevitable and probable. Nothing should happen for no reason, changes in sgtatus should not fall out of the sky. The story should unfold as life unfolds, implacably and plausibly.
8. RESOLUTION: The resolution is a return to a fresh stasis - one where the characters should be changed, wiser and enlightened, but where the story being told is complete. (You can always start off a new story, a sequel, with another trigger).
how do you make sure your storys got a good arc?
...hugs from lenny



  1. Wow, Lenny! Thanks so much for the great info. I knew what a story arc was, but didn't know there were 8 points involved.

    Glad to see you back on the blogs.

  2. I don't know if I've ever seen the arc laid out in 8 points this clearly before. I do a lot of my writing intuitively, but I'm learning to plot more (finally) and I love the way is laid out! thanks :)

  3. Brilliant post, Lenny. Story arcs are so important and it's great news that your short story had one even when you didn't realise it!

    I plot my stories before I write them so I take careful note of the story arc as I'm planning the story.


  4. I'm still learning...I hope NAH has a good story arc. I'm going back and adding a bit more adventure to the second part of the book....

    Great post, Lenny!

  5. Thanks, Lenny! I'll definitely keep these in mind, and congrats on your story!

  6. Hi, Lenny! Thanks for the shout out!
    You know, a natural writer knows how to do a story arc without even knowing that's what it is. And you are definitely a natural writer!

  7. SUCH a good post, little man. The arc is very important to any story. Honestly, I never know if I'm on the right track or not. I just try to make sure I have all these elements you mentioned here.

    I miss you a ton!


  8. Lenny, I didn't have a good sense of character arc when I first wrote. Great tips! Glad you learned you did it right!

  9. Great stuff!! The Plot Whisperer is a good source for this exact thing too. All her videos are well worth watching!

  10. Great advice Lenny! The arc is so important for a good story..and yes...I'm still learning about all of it. ;)

  11. What a thorough job! Wonderful. Just popped over from fb to read your post and join your blog.

  12. Thanks so much Lenny for explaining it so well. I love the point arc, though I've heard it discussed in different ways. It's a great way to plot out your story.

    And so glad you're blogging. I miss hearing from you.

  13. Great tips, Lenny! And I'm glad to hear you're doing it right!

  14. You have worded this perfectly, Lenny! Thanks for sharing. It's so helpful to get feedback and find out you are doing it well. Way to go, buddy!

  15. Love your posts Lenny! All great stuff here and I love that you just keep learning and learning new things all the time. Go you!

  16. Hi, Lenny! Great tips. Thanks for sharing them.
    : )

  17. Lenny, you are such a good researcher. I love how you hear about something and then do everything you can to learn about it. And I definitely learn from you. Thanks for sharing this. It really made me think. :)

  18. Hi Lenny .. I struggle with my blog posts - let alone a story - great news re Ali Hale - she's well known for her informative posts .. great tips you've given us all ..

    So good to hear you again in print - if I can hear you!!

    Happy Labor day weekend .. hope you and the family are having fun .. cheers Hilary

  19. Love your breakdown here, Lenny! Great work.

  20. I always have to work hardest on my arcs, of all the different things. Great post Lenny! You are genius, as usual. :)

  21. Great research Lenny. Thanks for sharing:)

  22. Lenny, thanks again for my surprise gift! It was so, so nice of you! Thanks for the inspiration!

    BIG HUGS!!



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