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.
WHAT IS A STORY ARC?
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.
WHY DOES A STORY NEED AN ARC?
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.
HOW DO YOU DO A GOOD STORY ARC?
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