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Sunday, January 27, 2019


cj Sez:  Let’s talk a bit about story. 

   What follows in this post are excerpts and tidbits of information that I’ve gleaned from many sources over the years. First let’s agree that a story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. What is often forgotten, especially by new authors, is that a story also needs an arc—a rise and fall of tension and emotion.

   Wiktionary defines a story arc as: “An extended or continuing storyline in episodic storytelling media such as television or comic books.”  The term was coined in 1988 in relation to the American TV series “Wiseguy” and could (and does) sometimes unfold over many episodes. 

   In terms of what authors do, I think the Oxford English Dictionary version provides a more apt definition:  a story arc is “(in a novel, play, or movie) the development or resolution of the narrative or principal theme.”

   A strong arc, or rise and fall, is part and parcel of the author’s ability to develop plot and character.

   This graphic is attributed to Kurt Vonnegut . . . part of a presentation he gave to illustrate the story arc of “Cinderella.”

   In fiction writing, the best ways is to start a story is to put the protagonist in the middle of a conflict. This is where the author is making a promise that this story will lead somewhere that’s worth the reader’s time. Don't start with the protag going through security and struggling to put her luggage in the overhead compartment of the plane as she begins her vacation. Start when the engine next to the window seat she is in flames out. 

   After that the opening hook, creating more conflict, twists and turns is the bulk of story. The ending is like a punch line at the end of a joke. The author has been throwing in confusion and misdirection, then surprise! s/he takes the reader to an ending that is totally unexpected.
In a video interview with Scott Myers, “The Clues to a Great Story,” Andrew Stanton, one of the key members of Pixar says this:

“Storytelling is joke-telling. It’s knowing your punch line. Your ending. Knowing everything you’re saying from the first sentence to the last is leading to a singular goal. And ideally confirming some truth that deepens the understanding of who we are as human beings.

“. . .  probably the greatest story commandment, ‘Make me care.’ Please, emotionally, intellectually, aesthetically… make me care.”

That’s it for this week’s post. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

Another wonderful  review for CHOOSING CARTER (free on Kindle Unlimited):  “I take my hat off to Petterson for this great mystery story. She effortlessly develops the characters with realistic dialogue, and keeps the plot moving along with lots of twists and turns. Even though it's been classified in the romance genre, I would recommend this book to any thriller/mystery fans.”

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