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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?