All right get your heads out of the gutter. I’m not talking about orgasms here. This week’s topic is about story arcs. Most writers plot out their stories with this concept in mind and follow a relatively typical pattern to achieve the common arc.
The arc goes something like this: There is a beginning that hopefully starts with an enticing event. The action builds until there is a climax. Yes, it is actually called a climax. Then there is falling action and finally resolution. Resolution is where you tie up all those loose ends. Without the resolution stage, you have the very frustrating cliffhanger. Even in a series, some authors will create a kind of resolution where most of the loose ends are tied up, but they may leave one or two as a way to continue the series. Other authors prefer to have a weak or no resolution ending and the dreaded cliffhanger is a result.
Believe it or not, this whole concept of a story arc was researched back in 1863 by a man named Gustave Freytag, a German novelist. It’s called Freytag’s Pyramid where he explained how every arc goes through five dramatic stages.
Here’s where I am having a huge issue with my current story. Some people say a climax should occur at around the eighty to ninety percent spot in your novel. I am almost at thirty thousand words and already to the point where I do the big reveal. Granted, this is not necessarily the peak, because how the characters deal with this reality has the potential to ratchet up the action. And yet, I have only a vague idea of where to take the story after the reveal.
On the other hand, sometimes I question how well a normal arc works in my novels. When I think back to my previous books, I haven’t always followed this perfect little pattern. I’ve done more of a roller coaster version. Lots of peaks as the twists and turns unfold. I can use the analogy of sex. Sometimes it can be quite fun to do something called edging where you bring someone to the edge (peak) several times before letting them tumble over (orgasm). The trick is not to do that too many times before you let the readers have their release.
The difference with the novel I am writing now is that I haven’t really engineered a way to achieve multiple peaks. Thus, I’m peaking too soon. Having to create the arc within a three-day span of time is more difficult than I thought it would be. In the past, I’ve had a lot more time to develop relationships or the plot. Maybe I should study the TV show 24. They certainly packed a lot into 24 hours.
For those of you who have read my books, what do you think? Did I follow this tried and true story arc concept or deviate as is my perception? More importantly, did it work? If you haven’t read my stuff to know, well….you know the drill click on the links below.
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