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Using The Story Arc to Develop Your Plots

If you want to develop the plot and structure of your story chapter by chapter, I suggest using “The Story Arc.”

The Story Arc is an 8 Point Arc that is used to structure a plat.  It is as follows:

  1. Stasis
  2. Trigger
  3. The Quest
  4. Surprise
  5. Critical Choice
  6. Climax
  7. Reversal
  8. Resolution

When you structure a plot, you should focus on the steps below in order.  This structure helps because you would develop a plot and stay on track with your writing.

When writing your chapter, you have 3 main parts…

1) Beginning

2) Middle

3) Ending

Remember, “tension” is highlighted throughout your entire chapter, but that tension rises and falls.

Part 1) The beginning (before you write) you should have an idea on the gist of your chapter.

Once you have the idea, you can build using a narrative question.

What is a major dramatic narrative question?

A narrative question is putting yourself in the mind of your readers. You should know what they are thinking as they read your chapter. When readers are thinking, they have questions and want answers to those questions. This is where the dramatic narrative question comes into play. You would want to write out the happenings that will answer their questions.

You will also want to introduce your characters during this phase.

Also, you should figure out where you want the main setting to take place.  Think about your everyday activities of living. 

Last, but not least, start slowly building up the tension by thinking about your overall plans for your chapter.  Once you have come to the gist of your plan, find out what will be a trigger to set off to reach the climax.  Triggers can be positive or negative. 

For example, with a positive trigger, there could be a relationship developing between two friends. 

Figure out what action steps need to happen by your character(s) once the trigger happens.  These action steps can be positive or negative.

For example, you could introduce the characters in the setting by “showing” the development of the story.

Part 2) The middle of your chapter is where your climax should be at an all-time high level.

What actions cause a rise to reach the climax? Conflicts, trials/tribulations, obstacles, complicated situations, relationship development, etc. 

For example, what are your characters facing that gets between them and/or the protagonist reaching his or her goals.  

Surprise the reader by the character(s) in a situation that peeks at an all time high.  In other words, the tension in your story has hit the fan, so to speak.

Part 3) The ending is where the tension from the climax falls.

How does the tension decrease, but keeps your readers hooked? Your ending should come to solutions, resolutions, questions answered, etc. 

The decrease in the climax will cause your character(s) to react to the result of the tension that was during the climax.

Think about how your character(s) will positively resolve their issues.  It’s best to leave a good impression with your reader by showing the strengths of your main character(s.)  For instance, how did your Protagonist overcome the situation?

The Story Arc focuses on two areas of your story:

  1. Character(s)
  2. Plot and/or subplot

As your characters develop, their actions will move the plot or subplot of your story forward. 

Screenwriters write their scripts broken down into 3 acts. 

The following 3 acts apply to writers who are writing a book. 

  1. The Beginning – Act One
  2. The Middle – Act Two
  3. The End – Act Three

If you look above, I have already broken the process into the 3 acts. 

In a nutshell, throughout all 3 acts, there is tension created to keep the character(s) moving from the beginning to the end of the plot or subplot. 

If you have used, “The Story Arc” to develop your plot, congratulations!!! I would love to hear how this process has helped you.  Did it work for you or not? Please state why it did or didn’t work.

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Comments (3)
  • I like that it is a plat, that is feminine.

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    • Nice post Tishawn. Very useful to me as I am focusing on the craft while I plan my first novel.

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      • Much appreciated thank you 

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