Coming up with intricate story arcs that keep your readers craving more can seem daunting when you sit down to create your outline. Literally anything is possible, anything goes, so how do you go about choosing the best twists for your story arcs?
WHAT IS A STORY ARC?
A story arc can be defined as the rise and fall of action, drama, tension and emotion through various characters or plot developments in your novel.
They can in regards to people, inanimate objects, locations, plot twists, etc. The only rule I’ve seen that is must be adhered to is that the arc must make sense.
Story arcs, when done well, will connect all of the associated action, drama, tension and emotion in a meaningful way that both answers lingering questions and resolves remaining action.
It wouldn’t do to create arcs that go unaddressed, leaving the reader to wonder why they were mentioned in the first place, now would it?
Even so, sometimes I’ll create a concept that sounds cool in theory, but refuses to be worked out in practice. In those moments, I refer to the list of tricks below to decide if I can resolve the arc issues I’m experiencing or if the story arc needs to be redesigned entirely.
WHAT MAKES FOR KILLER STORY ARCS?
After doing some research, I learned that the best story arcs have five crucial components in common that help ensure an entertaining read:
A great story arc derives from a thick and influential backstory that drives the arc forward while giving it purpose.
When arcs reveal themselves over the course of a whole novel, it gives the reader ample opportunities to enjoy the suspense and intrigue of it all.
You know you have a great story arc when it intertwines with a slew of lead or supporting characters.
If your arc stems from an emotional center, you’ll most likely have something great on your hands. Most epic story arcs have an emotional core that drives the character(s) toward it.
Even if the end result is outrageous, it must only be so according to what you reasonably made possible. Far-fetched arc endings that weren’t made realistically (no matter how much you wish they were) only leave the reader feeling cheated.
Keeping those five tips in mind, I try to apply them as much as possible to ensure that I create something juicy. No sense wasting my time writing anything but!
But what if you’re still at a loss for creative solutions? What if your story arcs still lack the emotional necessity or understandable intention? How can you revive an arc that’s gone flatline before you’ve even reached the climax?
3 TIPS FOR CRAFTING KILLER STORY ARCS
If you find yourself struggling to piece epic plot points and character motives together, take a stab at these three tricks that significantly helped me realize the rationale behind many of my own story arcs in Snowe Storms.
1. PLAY JOURNALIST
Did you ever learn about the five W’s of good reporting? The who, what, when, where, and why of a story?
If yes, then get to it! Great story arcs can address all of those W’s with ease.
If not, all you need know is that you should answer each of those W’s for your story arc. For example: who is Voldemort? What does he want? When does he want it? Where will he get it? Why does he want it?
Simple, right! Play journalist with your story arcs and make sure you can answer all five W’s.
2. ROLLAR COASTER YOUR MIDDLE
Go download the Outline Genie Spreadsheet to get an outline of your story in place.
And then make sure that your middle isn’t flat-out boring. There’s nothing worse than losing your reader mid-book, or losing your interest in writing it to begin with…mid-book.
Pump up the action in the middle of your book by keeping things moving forward. Throw in some obstacles, shake things up a bit, keep things uncertain.
3. FOLLOW A FORUMLA
Don’t feel pressured to create a completely new type of story arc. Keep it simple from the onset and work off of a tried and true formula.
Adrienne Lefrance details the six main arcs in storytelling, calling them the ‘core narratives’. They are as follows:
Rags to Riches (rise)
Riches to Rags (fall)
Man in a Hole (fall then rise)
Icarus (rise then fall)
Cinderella (rise then fall then rise)
Oedipus (fall then rise then fall)
These ‘archetypal’ narratives are common patterns that story arcs tend to follow. Granted, you can step outside of the formula and create your own arc style, but as an amateur, I find it’s easier to stick to a formula.
Doing so ensures your story arc will be entertaining for your readers 🙂
Did these tips help you develop a killer arc?
Leave a comment below telling me what story arcs you’ve come up with, or what other tips you have for developing killer arcs!