Thursday, June 14, 2012

Narrative Arc

Even if you have the most beautiful description and sentiment in your writing, it will be hard to keep your reader's attention without conflict and resolution (externally or internally.)

Like novelists and short story authors, memoirists and essayists need to keep the narrative arc in mind. Your character(s), which might include yourself, must face opposition and then come to some kind of resolution. This can happen in one short piece or a full-length memoir. If you are writing a book-length manuscript, there is probably one over-arching conflict and a number of smaller ones throughout.

Scott Francis defines narrative arc in Writer’s Digest:

The idea here is that you will narrate how the goals of characters and real-life people are met with opposition, either situational or from others, raising the stakes for the subject of the piece or the protagonist. This is the upward climbing incline of the arc. The struggle builds to the high point—the top of the hill/arc/bell curve—which goes on for a not insignificant duration. The high point at which the opposing forces meet in the greatest intensity results in a resolution. This resolution allows the tension to begin to subside. The relaxation of the struggle then permits the downward slope of the arc to start.

You can see a very clear plot diagram here with each writing marked: exposition, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. Here's an even simpler one.  

How do you plan for the narrative arc as you are writing? 

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