Mostly True Memoirs
A Story Arc Template
What is a story arc?
Whether you’re penning a novel, a screenplay, or a short story, they’ve all got a story arc. Understanding the story arc is crucial to engaging your audience and delivering a compelling narrative.
Defining The Story Arc
In essence, a story arc is the overarching structure that shapes the flow and development of a narrative. It represents the progression of a story from its beginning to its climax, leading to a resolution or denouement. A well-crafted story arc takes readers or viewers on an emotional rollercoaster. This immerses them in the protagonist’s journey of growth, change, and triumph or tragedy.
Types of Story Arcs
- The Hero’s Journey. Popularized by Joseph Campbell, the Hero’s Journey is a classic story arc found in numerous myths, fairy tales, and epics. It follows the protagonist as they embark on an adventure, face challenges, discover their true potential, and ultimately return transformed.
- Rags to Riches. This arc showcases the rise of a character from humble beginnings to prosperity, both material and emotional. Dickens’ “Great Expectations” is a wonderful example of a rags-to-riches story arc through Pip’s journey from an impoverished orphan to a gentleman.
- Tragedy. The tragedy arc delves into the downfall of a character. This is often due to their flaws, mistakes, or to circumstances beyond their control. Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” is a poignant illustration of a tragedy story arc. In this case, the protagonist’s pursuit of vengeance leads to a tragic ending.
- Rebirth. A rebirth arc involves a character experiencing a profound transformation, often after hitting rock bottom. Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” portrays Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey from a miserly recluse to a compassionate and generous soul.
Examples In Literature
- “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. The story arc in “To Kill a Mockingbird” follows young Scout Finch and her brother Jem. They witness their father, Atticus Finch, defending a black man accused of raping a white woman. The arc begins with curiosity and innocence, evolves through racial tensions and moral dilemmas, and culminates in the revelation of the town’s prejudice and injustice.
- “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien’s epic fantasy saga features a hero’s journey. Frodo Baggins embarks on a perilous quest to destroy the One Ring. The story arc takes readers through countless trials, battles, and moments of doubt, leading to Frodo’s eventual growth and triumph over evil.
Crafting a Story Arc Template
To help you craft a gripping story arc, here’s a simple template to guide you through the essential stages:
- Introduction. Introduce your protagonist, their world, and the ordinary life they lead. Establish their goals, desires, and the conflicts they may face. This is the starting point that sets the stage for the journey ahead.
- Inciting Incident. Trigger the story’s central conflict with an inciting incident. This event propels the protagonist into action, forcing them to face challenges and embark on their journey.
- Rising Action. Build tension and momentum as your protagonist confronts obstacles, meets allies or enemies, and begins to grow and change. This is where the bulk of the story’s action and character development occurs.
- Climax. Reach the highest point of tension and drama in the story. The climax is where the protagonist faces their most significant challenge. This is the pivotal moment that determines their ultimate fate.
- Falling Action: Gradually ease the tension as the consequences of the climax unfold. Resolve secondary storylines and tie up loose ends to bring the narrative closer to its conclusion.
- Resolution/Denouement. Provide closure to the story by revealing the aftermath of the protagonist’s journey. Show how they have changed, the lessons they’ve learned, and the impact of their actions on the world around them.
Incorporating a well-structured story arc is the foundation of captivating storytelling. By understanding the different types of arcs and their real-life examples in literature, you can tailor your narratives to evoke specific emotions to keep your audience engaged. Use the provided story arc template as your compass, guiding your characters through their transformative journeys, and creating a lasting impact on your readers or viewers.
Everyone has a story to tell.