Writer’s School: Story Arc

Phew. Thanks for hanging in there with me. I apologize for the delay in this post. The last few weeks have included: a rather annoying bought of the flu, a ton of work including this week’s National Suicide Prevention Day!, the storm to beat all storms and a corresponding leak in the kitchen ceiling, having very little energy because of that darn flu.

Also: my garden died because I paid zero attention to it for a week while in bed sick. And my dog is all of a sudden fat. Seriously. Nelson is packing on the pounds thanks to warm weather and his gentile inability to walk more than a few miles with all that adorable permed hair. Subtext: COME ON FALL.

zebra

Now, where were we? The story arc. A story, regardless of size, should have at least two conflicts. These should not intersect, and ideally, they should not wrap up the same characters in both. They should both give the reader more information about your main character.

An example: remember the book and movie, “The Devil Wears Prada?” The primary conflict concerns the main character and her desire to work in the fashion industry. She doesn’t’ think she is thin, fashionable, cool or clever enough to get in with her boss, an Anna Wintour type. The secondary conflict concerns the main character’s relationship with her boyfriend and how things fall apart because she is chasing the first conflict with everything she’s got. If I remember correctly, there is also a third conflict that involves the main character’s best friend and a drug problem.

Conflict 1: main character struggles to meet the demands of the job.

Conflict 2: main character and boyfriend struggle to keep relationship together.

Conflict 3: main character’s best friend gets involved with bad stuff.

Insights to the main character include her willingness to change for the job, including time her boyfriend and best friend were used to receiving. If such a story becomes a cheesy movie, as it is in this case, there is also often a moral hammer that is dropped. Will she fight for her sweet boyfriend? Will she fight for her friend? Or will she succumb to the greed and gloss and fancy of a stylish New York life?

You get the point. Something to consider as a writer when plotting out your story is that these conflicts shouldn’t all peak in the same moment. And they really should all have something to do with giving your reader more information about your main character. (In fact, all dialog should. Don’t bother your reader with information that doesn’t lead the story, or give the reader new information about the main character. If you do, the reader won’t have the time or ability to connect with the character’s dreams, fears, wishes, etc.)

Structure your writing however you’d like, but I think strong stories have at least one minor conflict arc before the major conflict can be resolved. Other smaller conflicts may be resolved after. Think about this like waves — the main point to your story should be the largest wave.

Make sense? Questions?

Friday, we talk character development. Who are some of your favorite literary characters?

Cheers,

Kelli