this arc is made up of the events in your story — the sequence of occurrences in the plot — and determines the peaks and plateaus that set the pace. the narrative arc is to the story what the character arc is to a character. the de-facto introduction to your book, the exposition is act one of the story arc. whatever the circumstances, the key trigger is the event that rolls the dice and causes a series of events to escalate, setting the rest of the story in motion. on the flip side, a bad climax is the easiest way for a reader to feel cheated and chuck your book at the wall.
okay, so you’ve gone and banged out a climax that knocks the reader right out of the park. all questions are resolved, all ends are wrapped up — and the reader can shut your book with peace of mind. all this is to say, there’s plenty of room within the arc to explore and experiment. in the end, that’s what a strong story arc does: it gives a story shape. readers invest a lot of time in a book and a disappointing climax is a turn off. pathos is a literary device that uses language to evoke an emotional response, typically to connect readers with the characters in a story.
narrative arc overview
in both cases, a great deal of beauty and complexity is possible simply by repeatedly interlocking units of the same basic shape. a major discovery is made and the results of that discovery have instant consequences for our hero’s journey. finally, in act v, the protagonist confronts the forces of opposition and some resolution is effected. three: the hermit takes luke to a cave which as yorke has told us is the classic site of third-act drama.
five: to conclude luke now knows that his destiny lies with obi-wan and that together they must find a way off the planet to rescue the princess. two: luke makes a journey into the woods (or in this case to the jawa sandcrawler) and begins haggling with the jawa traders. in fact, we will find the same structure that we expect to see in a completely developed story repeated in each of its acts and even the dramatic scenes which compose those acts. the night king, the face of the ultimate war to come, is introduced for the very first time. rather, the dramatic arc of story–where an inciting incident leads to a journey, that journey to a discovery, that discovery to a crisis, and that crisis to some sort of confrontation–is a natural formation, which repeats in sometimes dazzling combinations.
a story arc, or narrative arc, describes the shape of the change in value, whether rise or fall, over the course of the story. according to reagan and the researchers at the university of vermont, this is one of the most popular structures, and the most popular arc with a happy ending. now you know the six story arcs, but there are three that researchers have shown to be the arcs of more bestselling stories. in this arc, the exposition has little to no movement and is primarily to acclimate the reader to the world of the story and its characters.
she unlocks from the station and is descending to earth when a fire starts. in sitcoms, these two or three (when a c story is involved) arcs are usually independent from the overall arc of the series. now that you understand the six main arcs and how the shapes of stories interact with a story’s core value, how do you actually use this information to write great stories? this moment is usually found at the very bottom of a dip in a story arc or the very top of a peak. he is also the author of the new book crowdsourcing paris, a real life adventure story set in france.
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narrative arc guide
a story arc (also called a narrative arc) is just another term for the plot of your story. something happens to our character that changes things forever, and they have to go do the rest of the story because of it. in a romance, this is the meet-cute. in a superhero movie, this is the bad guys turning tail and going back to wherever they came from.
this isn’t a comprehensive list of story arcs, but it’ll give you a good idea of what to look for and what to replicate in your own writing. there might be some drama along the way, but the drama shouldn’t get in the way of the story being, ultimately, positive and triumphant. figure out what the regular, expected beats are for your book genre and your story type. in this story arc, they have to grow to love each other over the course of the novel. and that’s what you want—set up your characters and story, with all its quirks and subversions, and then make sure it pays off in a compelling, motivated way.
your job in act one is to set up the story by introducing your protagonist and any necessary supporting characters. the narrative arc works because it provides a coherent structure for your story. the key here is to show the reader how the protagonist’s flaw is affecting their life in a negative way, and to show how they live life in their everyday world. with this in mind, your protagonist should reach the surprising, yet inevitable, conclusion they need to leave the everyday world behind once and for all.
enter plot point 2. this is where something bad happens to your protagonist and they experience their lowest moment in the story. beowulf kills the dragon, so we think this is going to be a story with a “happy ending”, but, in a shocking, last-minute twist, beowulf dies from his wounds. at its heart, the da vinci code is a thriller, and it’s common to have the discovery of a dead body at this point, because the protagonist is compelled to solve the case. the story arc activates readers for a reason. it’s been around for over 2000 years and it’s the form our brains love.