Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bill Kenower on: The 3 Narratives Arcs in Every Story

Wait a minute.  Three narrative arcs in a story?  I only see one here (pictured above). 

In the first Saturday workshop I attended,  Bill Kenower, editor of PNWA's Author Magazine, explained there are three arcs in every story. 

The image above, illustrates the overall plot, or the Physical Arc.  Here's a simple, but effective, example Bill used in this workshop to describe this arc:

--Boy meets girl.
--Boy gets girl.
--Boy loses girl.
--Boy gets girl back.

This is the template for just about every romance novel in print, or romatic comedy on film.  And it's also the least important.

The second, or Emotional Arc, is of greater significance because it delves into the characters' emotions.  Examing the emotions of the boy and girl characters in the above example, we get:

--Boy feels inadequate.
--Boy misrepresents himself to gain girl's approval.
--Boy loses girl when she discovers his duplicity.
--Boy asks girl to accept him as he is and in the process, accepts himself.

The boy isn't the only one on this roller-coaster ride, though.  Taking a look at the girl's feelings, we discover:

--Girl feels inadequate.
--Girl believes whatever boy tells her, so she will feel impressive while dating him.
--Girl feels ashamed at appearing so desperate and dumps boy.
--Girl accepts boy as he is and in the process, accepts herself.

Stories are not about what happens, that's the domain of non-fiction, but what characters feel when things happen to them:  In getting back together the boy & girl accept themselves and each other.

So, if these two arcs create an emotionally satisfying ending, what does the third story arc do?

The third, or Intentional Arc, focuses on the one's motivation for writing this story and determine the whys and wherefores, we have to answer several questions:

--Why did you write this story?
--What is the story about and what is it to you emotionally?
--What drew you to write this story?
--What do you want the audience to feel when they read your book?

In the boy & girl example, the Intentional Arc can be boiled down to this:  Love. Thy. Self.

Notice there is nothing in the Intentional Arc about fame & fortune.  So this arc isn't about any of the following:

--Getting an agent.
--Getting published.
--Getting on the best seller-list.
--Winning the National Book Award.

A key point to remember is that following the mantra of "writing what you know," doesn't necessarily involve knowledge.  Instead write what you love.

Finally, the most important thing to remember is:  You are the author or your life.

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