Every story has a beginning a middle and an end. They have lots of fun bits in between but essentially they need to follow what is called a story arc. We’ve been taught story arc in basic form from the first story ever read to us.
There are many ideas on how a story arc should be presented, the most famous and reliable being the hero’s journey. Any quick google search will turn up oodles of examples of what we basically already know.
The arc of a story is to bring purpose and dramatic structure to the story. The guidelines for the reader who need them badly.
Two prominent types exist; the fall from grace and get back up again to succeed or the successful protagonists fall from grace to rediscover what they lost etc. The art of the Arc is in how it is created.
The beginning of the story should be the exact opposite from the end. The beginning or opening scene should establish the protagonists position and toss them into their first crisis or conflict to start the chain of events.
Each following conflict or crisis should be more dramatic, build the tension and progress the story-line without hesitating or going backwards.
As the story reaches climax all pieces should be in place for the final conflict or crisis to make sense and be exciting.
The resolution can be exciting or a slow come down from the high of excitement. It should make sense and fit in with the ultimate goal set out within the first few conflicts.
The end should conclude the story. That doesn’t mean there can’t be hints or set up for following stories, but the main arc of this one should be done. The reader should close the last page feeling satisfied with the conclusion. If a following story was foreshadowed, the reader should be excited for it knowing that the next one will be different yet just as fabulous.
There can be as many crisis/conflicts as I want so long as I keep them pushing the story forward and tension up. There are more than one mini story arc or arc-within-arc going on at any given time. These are the side stories. These can be simple or complicated but are best served if they tie into the main story arc in some way.
Types of side arc’s:
Inter character relationships developing such as romance, friendship, animosity and hate to name a few.
The growth and development of a secondary or tertiary character
The story of the antagonist (I call these the anti-arc since they seem to go backwards-ish)
Soul searching of any kind – re-finding ones faith in whatever they have lost it in
Any form of personal growth or overcoming a tragedy or even overcoming a weakness
I’m sure the idea is clear. When I write side or sub characters I love to give them their own little story to go through. They can be helpful to the protagonist or hinder them. On purpose or by accident. The options are only bound by the limits of imagination.
There are moments when I think about it too much and it all seems so daunting. Especially when I look at the technical aspects of it all. Then I remind myself I already know how to use an arc I just need to stick to it and make sure the tension goes up in a steady incline.
My advice about story arcs.
Whether the main or sub story, keep them on track so your readers get excited. Regarding the crisis or conflicts, make sure they have purpose to the end. Pointless action will annoy a reader if there is too much of what boils down to nothing of importance.
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