Free Short Story Writing Course – The Story Arc

Creative Writing, Free Writing Course

In every story something has to change otherwise it’s just a narration.

Exposition – the reader finds out about the main character and the setting of the story. Keep this brief. Only tell the reader what they need to know to form an image of your character. In The Butterfly Effect the exposition is brief but further details are revealed as the story progresses.

The trigger – Something happens that sets the main character off on their quest or induces a change.

The action – The character is confronted by problems they need to solve.

Decreasing Action – Decreasing action, the problem is solved.

Resolution – They all live happily ever after or happy for the time being.

This is a very simple arc. A story can contain one main arc plus additional ups and downs or multiple arcs intertwined.

Agatha Christie again. We meet Hercule Poirot of Jane Marple in a setting that tells us something about their character (exposition). A murder is committed (the trigger). The character solves the problem (the action) and the murderer is revealed (decreasing action). Hercule or Jane return to their lives and the rest of the characters sigh with relief (resolution).

Positives and Negatives

We can also look at the story arc a different way; in terms of positives and negatives.

In the exposition our hero is living a contented life. All is going well until something happens or someone turns up – The trigger.

The problems start, and things get rapidly worse. Our hero is going to die/loose everything. It seems the bad guy/evil force is going to win.

There is a solution. If only they can find the magic charm, hit the right spot on the death star or break into the evil organisations headquarters.

The fightback begins. It’s tough, there are perils to overcome, setbacks, but they get there in the end.

Resolution – all is well and order is restored and life is even better than before.

Again, this is a simple arc and there are lots of variations but you get the idea.

References and further reading

What is a Narrative Arc?

How to Shape a Story: The 6 Types of Story Arcs for Powerful Narratives Joe Bunting

All Lessons

Read my short stories and poetry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *