Story Arc

I really liked my kitty story but while working on it, I had to ask myself, was this the best story? If the characters and conflict were the same, was this way the best way to tell it?

I had to back track. Write down the motif of the story, and then rephrase the theme in a question: which would you choose…? I then looked to Freytag’s pyramid, which outlined the specific pieces of a story arc in the form of a “heartbeat” – seems fitting for a story that’s supposed to have a life of its own. I checked to see if I had all my pieces in order.

freytag pyramid

Image courtesy of Ohio University. 

This is a good way to either check your work or help construct a story. Mainly because all stories should have a beginning, middle, and end no matter how much you protest. If you cut off a movie before the ending, you’re going to have a crowd of angry people wanting their money back. So even if you want to break the “pattern,” you’re still going to have to include the most basic parts of a story.

Exposition: setting up the story with the main character, background, setting

Incident: the initial conflict

Rising actions: the complexities of the conflict evolve

Climax: the high point of the story, the tipping point when the character makes a difficult decision. This is when the reader should be feeling most anxious.

Falling actions: all the consequences of the climax play out

Resolution: events are wrapping up, everything’s about fixed

Denouement: the end

Now, not all stories will resemble this strict single “heartbeat.” Others will take the form of an actual life with multiple “beats” as the story moves up then down and repeats itself through multiple conflicts, straining to reach the overall resolution of the character’s goal. But this is a good place to start!

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