How to Create a Story Arc

English: 1780 edition of The Poetics by Author...

English: 1780 edition of The Poetics by Author:Aristotle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


A story arc is another word for “story structure,” but this term goes back to Aristotle’s conception of what makes an aesthetically pleasing story in Poetics. A classical story demonstrating dramatic structure generally has three parts:


  1. The Inciting Incident – This part of the story sets things up, piques our interest and gives us a taste of what’s to come.  The best stories begin “in media res,” in the middle of things.
  2. The second act – This part of the story builds through rising action until a climax.  For example, if you’re writing a murder mystery, the inciting incident might be the murder, and then the second part would build up to the climax of a showdown between the main character and the suspect.
  3. The third part – resolution – this part of the story resolves all loose ends.


Why create a story arc before you begin writing?  If you create a story arc, even if you don’t follow it plot point by blot point, you will have a general idea of where you want to go with your story.  By creating a story arc before you begin writing, you can be sure that each part of your story ties in to another.

I don’t usually outline before I write short stories, but I’ve recently found this to be helpful when working with a client.

Do you outline when writing fiction?



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