Monday, May 19, 2014

Story Arc in a Nutshell


Janet  here. Does anyone besides me feel compelled to understand story arc, yet can’t somehow get the terms drilled into your head? I’d like to believe I’m intuitive, but I’ve wasted oodles of time feeling my way through my story’s plot.

I tried to understand Christopher Vogler’s Hero’s Journey but my eyes crossed. So I set Vogler aside and tried Michael Hauge’s Six Stage Plot Structure. At first Hauge seemed easier, but then essence and identity got mixed up in my head, tossed like a leafy green salad. 

Don't get me wrong. These two men know what they’re talking about and countless listen and learn. But, I remained confused. Please tell me this doesn't make me a nut. Or a nutcase. 
Anyone love pistachio nuts?

So, I decided to see if I could boil down a romance story arc that I could understand and share with any of you struggling with the order of events in your stories. Some of the terms are used by Vogler and Hauge and other teachers of craft, but I hope this look at story arc is simpler, story arc in a nutshell. 

The Jump Start: Often called the inciting incident or cute meet. This is what brings the hero and heroine together. Cute Meet is too saccharine for my taste as there’s nothing cute about the conflict that often accompanies the first encounter between the hero and heroine. This first conflict between the hero and heroine doesn't have to be the book-length conflict that keeps them apart throughout the story. It can just be a way to introduce them on the page. But make it fun or make it devastating. Make it matter.

Life as the hero and heroine have known it is forever changed: This is when the hero and heroine’s external and internal goals enmesh them in a book-length conflict, an external issue that divides them. The motivation for external and internal goals must be strong enough to keep them working toward their goals even when their actions produce more trouble in their lives. Remember story is conflict. Conflict isn’t arguing or bickering though arguing can be the result of conflict.

St. Louis arc. Quite a ride inside. So raise the action, raise the conflict. Take it to new heights  
Stuff happens: The hero and heroine must take action in pursuit of their goals. No sitting around thinking and doing nothing. The stuff they do must fit and forward the plot. Everything must forward the plot. Remember the romance is not the plot. In inspirational romances, there’s a romance thread, a faith thread and a plot thread. Scenes can show characterization, but if they don’t forward the plot you’re in danger of writing tea scenes. When the hero and heroine talk, have them doing something. What they do and the way they do it is a great way to show conflict, their innermost thoughts and wounds.  

No possibility of giving up: Hauge calls this the Point of No Return. The hero and heroine have set their path and there’s no going back to the way life used to be. This is often the halfway point of the book. 

Worse stuff happens: Escalate the conflict. Don’t just repeat the same conflict over and over. Raise the stakes, show the new insight of the characters as their goals cost them more and the conflict gets more personal.

The Crisis: This is an emotional crisis caused by the internal conflict. Both the hero and heroine have an internal Goal, Motivation and Conflict so both will have a crisis. This crisis often results from the hero and heroine confronting each other and they realize they either must deal with their internal issues or all will be lost. If they don't face their deepest emotional fears, they'll stay stuck in the same place they've been. In other words, they realize they may lose a possible happy future if they don’t change. 
Sometimes the external plot prevents the emotional crisis from coming before the Black Moment. If so, just flip the Black Moment and Crisis, but this order often works.

Let me add here that characters like real people rarely change unless they're forced to. Few spill their guts about hurtful stuff unless they're pushed. And hero and heroines shouldn't declare their love before the Resolution or the story is over.

The Black Moment: The external plot forms the Black Moment, the time when all is lost in terms of the external goal. The character realizes everything is related and the external goal may be lost forever because s/he hasn't conquered the emotional issues rooted in the past. Through this dark time of losing the external goal, s/he is able to find the strength buried inside to change and find a way out of the mess s/he’s in. The black moment can stem from the characters’ weaknesses. Often they don’t talk about things that matter and closing oneself off brings trouble.

Bridge of Sighs - Ponte dei Sospiri. A legend says that lovers will be granted eternal love if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the Bridge. Venice,Veneto, Italy, Europe.


The Climax:
The climax is when the external and internal plots culminate and the characters finally learn their lessons and make the conscious choice to have it all or lose it all forever.

The Resolution: In a romance, with the issues dividing them resolved, the hero and heroine can now declare her/his love and find their Happily Ever After ending. 

The Crisis, Black moment and Resolution should be very emotional for the characters and the reader. Not that the entire story shouldn’t be emotional but these scenes are the big payoff readers want. Often the Crisis, Black Moment and Climax happen bang, bang, bang with no let up. Make sure to milk each scene so the reader leaves the story satisfied like a fantastic meal.

Coliseum in Verona, Italy that is still used for concerts.  

For breakfast I brought crunchy waffles with warm syrup, sausage links and crisp bacon with fruit and homemade coffeecake that’s moist and delicious. Hmm, the aromas are making my stomach growl. A reminder to add the five senses to our scenes. 
  
I hope the post hasn't confused you. Or perhaps you've got a simpler way to think about the story arc and would share it with all of us. Or if you just want to make fun of my confusion with The Hero’s Journey and Six Plot Structure, leave a comment. Whatever is on your mind, let’s chat for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

Janet Dean grew up in a family who cherished the past and had a strong creative streak. Her father recounted fascinating stories, like his father before him. The tales they told instilled in Janet a love of history and the desire to write. She married her college sweetheart, and taught first grade before leaving to rear two daughters, but Janet never lost interest in American history and the accounts of strong men and women of faith who built this country. With her daughters grown, she eagerly turned to Inspirational historical romance. Today Janet spins stories for Love Inspired Historical. When she isn’t writing, Janet stamps greeting cards, plays golf and is never without a book to read. The Deans love to travel and spend time with their family.


Visit Janet at her Website: www.janetdean.net and blog: www.janetdean.blogspot.com and group blog: www.seekerville.blogspot.com

105 comments:

Tina Radcliffe said...

Janet!! You are sooo funny. That dry Indiana wit.

Love the new photo! You keep getting younger.

Stuff happens. Worse stuff happens. My favorite part of the book next to HEA.

Loves To Read said...

Hi Janet! I really enjoyed your post! As a reader, I enjoy a little fun with the beginning conflict. I've really enjoyed some of the historicals lately that have a little touch of comedy here and there.

Helen Gray said...

The coffee pot's on duty.

Copying this, Janet. Thanks

Cindy W. said...

Great post Janet. I'm printing it for my keeper book and when I get home I will reread it and try to glean all I can from it.

Have a blessed day!

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Kav said...

Bless you, Janet, I'm right there with you dithering over Hero's Journey and Six Stage Plot Structure. Oy. I get it but I don't, you know? And don't ask me to apply it when I write -- that would be like trying to get me to pass a math test...not going to happen. My brain just fries and the creativity sizzles.

So, hooray -- stuff and worse stuff I get. I love this!!!! It makes sense. :-)

Mary Hicks said...

A good Monday morning, everyone!

Tina, I have to agree with you about stuff and stuff! That was funny! And that's just what a book is, stuff happening.:-))

Thanks, Janet. You did a good job of breaking it down to bite-size information that's easier to digest.

Debra E. Marvin said...

I think this is very clear and helpful, Janet. I am a big fan of the Hero's Journey DVD set. I'm also a fan of Suzie May Warren and others, and you've proven how each of us must figure out what works for our plotting needs. Sometimes just calling something by a different name works!

But.. then again, I am the consummate plotter so this is as much fun as grabbing those pistachio nuts and popping them open under pressure while dreaming of a trip to Venice!

Have a great week all!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Tina,

We writers love making stuff happen to our poor characters. LOL But, giving them that HEA makes up for it.

I may have a dry wit but it's not dry here in Indiana. But, sunshine and warmer temps start today. I'm psyched!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Loves To Read! I love reading and writing humor. It's fun for readers and eases the tension after an angst filled scene. Even characters need that humor to keep going. :-)

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Helen, thanks for the coffee! Please tell me you struggle with story arc and make me feel better. LOL

Janet

Liz Flaherty said...

I liked your post, Janet. I always say I don't plot when the truth is that I do--sort of; I just can't grasp all the terminology that goes along with being a plotter.

Sun is shining!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Cindy, love to hear that a post is a keeper! Writers are crazy happy to have their books and anything they write shelf or notebook worthy. You and Helen made my day. Thanks!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Kav, yay, another story arc dropout!! LOL I see the turning points as relatively easy as its just making stuff happen to our characters. Well, not any stuff but stuff that forwards the plot, sees the character working toward the goal. But it's toward the end of the book where I get stuck trying to ensure I've got things happening in the right order. Because I believe that a well-written story follows a pattern that resonates with the reader.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Mary H! Thank you. Small bites keeps us ladylike. Bites too large could requiire doing the Hemlich maneuver. LOL

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Debra! I can tell that story structure is a piece of chocolate cake for you! I love internal conflict but getting that external plot oozing with conflict on the page is harder for me. But I do it. Writers must learn to do whatever they find hard.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Liz! Love that sunshine! You are a panster. Pansters probably don't have to worry about the order of things if the characters take you there. Mine don't. That's going to show up in their paychecks. ;-)

Janet

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh Janet, I'm so with you. And Kav you nailed it. My sentiments exactly. I know I do all of this, but to sit and analyze it??? Reminds me of my husband. LOL

Anyway, great post. Loved the photos. And the waffles. yum.

Have a great day.

Annie Rains said...

I love this! It's a very simple version of everything I've been trying hard for years to drill into my thick head. I might have to print this off and keep it by my computer.

Happy Monday, Seekerville!

Agent and editor appointments for PRO RWA members opens today!!!

DebH said...

Yay! Reader's Digest version of craft tomes. Stuff and worse stuff... were you reading my scribbled notes to myself? That sounds so familiar.

You help me feel not so dumb now. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

p.s. Pistachio nuts are my favorite. Followed closely by almonds.

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Sandra! I'm a wannabe when it comes to analyzing. Not sure why. LOL My brain isn't compatible.

Fun to use places with arcs of their own. Steep and high, a tough climb but a fast end. :-)

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Annie! Thanks for the reminder that agent and editor appointments are opening today for PROs. Hope you get the appointments you want!

Glad the post helped.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Deb H! Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Always hoping posts help. Nice to know I'm not alone in this. Doesn't mean we can't write. Just means we want a checklist we understand and can say, yep, I got it right. I know what I'm doing. Of course pansters are snorting.

I love pistachio nuts but don't buy them. The favorite I actually eat often are cashews. Not a healthy nut. Sigh. Heading to the DVR and Classical Stretch. Got to keep limber.

Janet

LeAnne Bristow said...

Hi Janet! Great post. My brain is still reeling from all the stuff I learned in Tina's Self Editing Class. I will print this post and add it my ever growing binder on writing tips and helps.
And I'm pretty jealous of your Italy photos! I only got to spend 3 days in Italy, we hit Pompeii, Sorento and Rome. If I ever get a chance to go back, Verona is at the top of my list. :)

Audra Harders said...

OMG, Janet. Do we really do all that to get to THE END? Wow. I'm impressed, LOL!

Actually, I'm thankful you plotted all this out and shared the step-by-step process. Even though we know how to get from A to Z, it's nice to have it written out in a concise format. Great reminder of all the debris we need to throw across the path to love.

I'm always looking for a way to streamline the guesswork of bringing my hero and heroine to a happy ending.

You've made the trip that much easier, now : )

Helen Gray said...

Janet,

Of course I struggle with story arc. And with writing in general.

I plod along, tediously trying to figure out everything. And it's the same with every book. It never gets any easier.

Jeanne T said...

This is a great rundown, Janet. I struggle with some aspects of the story arc. Keeping conflict varied is one thing I've discovered I need to work on.

Loved this post!

Jamie Adams said...

This is a keeper, Janet! Thanks for simplify the steps. One of my critique partners is a die hard plotter and when she starts talking about story arc's I get the same feeling of blankness I got sitting in my high school algebra class. :)

Love the new picture, too!

Connie Queen said...

I don't understand what the big deal is. You made this very simple!

My eyes glazed over at the first couple of points on the Hero's Journey too, but it doesn't take much to confuse me.

Thanks for the post.

Myra Johnson said...

Great post, Janet! You really boiled the story arc down to understandable segments! So what if we don't know what to call the parts? In the end, it's all about writing a compelling story.

Favorite points you made:

The H/H meeting: "But make it fun or make it devastating. Make it matter."

"Stuff happens."

"Worse stuff happens."

Excellent, Janet. Just excellent!

Pam Hillman said...

Janet, your new photo is STUNNING!

Of course you've always been too cute for your own good :), but this one is even more gorgeous than the last one.

Will be back to read the post, but I had to say how I love your new head shot. Beautiful!

Janet Dean said...

Hi LeAnne. Thanks for adding this post to your binder! Hang in. All this craft stuff needs time to soak in. I now do lots of stuff automatically, but some things are harder than others and take practice. Practice. Practice.

We loved Italy. We were there for 15 days on a tour. I bought some of the photos but that's me and my dh in the arena in Verona. Florence, Venice, Assisi were amazing as was Lake Maggiore in the north. I'm guessing you got to Capri since you were in Sorrento.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Audra, isn't it amazing what it takes to get from start to finish when writing a book? I hope the post helps in some way to overcome the guesswork. Often getting the post on the page helps ME if no one else. LOL

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Helen, we were twins separated at The Call! LOL Seriously, I've written seven published books and like you I still struggle. I suspect writing more would fix that. But this tortoise isn't evolving into a hare.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Jeanne T. Thanks! Keeping the conflict varied and rising is hard. Sometimes I don't see I'm repetitive. Thank goodness for critique partners!

Janet

Anita Mae Draper said...

Amen, sister! Thank you for your creative wording, Janet.

Stuff happens. Worse stuff happens.

Ha!

Basic and straightforward. Love this.

Janet Dean said...

Jamie, I'm giggling. I struggled with Algebra too and totally get what you're saying. Glad the post helped a teensy bit.

The picture is ten years old. So is my usual photo. I need to have a new headshot. I don't mind snapshots but cringe at the prospect of a professional photo session. Just know I still look like this as long as you visulize wrinkles and bags. LOL

Janet

Jennifer Smith said...

Pinned this! This is perfect...Thanks so much for breaking story arc down this way. :)

Janet Dean said...

Connie, hi!! grinning that the post made story arc simple! Yay!!
I'm not quite there yet. LOL

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Myra! The parts you mention are the easy parts for me. It's the big important stuff that happens at the end that I want to nail. The Crisis is internal. The Black Moment is external. Repeat again. LOL

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Pam, cringing at your enthusiasm for my new photo that is almost 10 years old. See my comment to Jamie.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Anita Mae. Basic and straightforward was what I was aiming for with the post. Thanks!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Jennifer! I'm pinned! That's almost as thrilling as my dh giving me his frat pin in college. :-) Man, that was a long time ago.

Have any of you young mothers seen Mom's Night Out? It's fun if a bit slapsticky but I loved the reference to Pinterest in the movie.

Janet

Meghan Carver said...

I'm with you, Janet. I love to plot, but all the different points can get confusing. Thanks for sharing your simplification!

Connie Queen said...

And Janet, ditto on loving your new photo. You look lovely in red.

My husband loves red lipstick and nails, but I look so washed out in it that I rarely wear it. Mauve or wine color is as good as it gets it around here... Uh, was that too much info???

Vince said...

Hi Janet:

If your portraits get any more beautiful, you’re going to have to fight off the paparazzi! How brave you were to visit Italy!

Your beautiful post took me down memory lane. I remember walking through the ‘Bridge of Sighs’ and stopping to take a picture through the window – the photo was mostly black expect for the tiny last look at freedom seen from behind the decorative ‘bars’. Probably no bridge has a more appropriate name. It was strange to think that Giacomo Casanova, perhaps the greatest lady’s man in history, stood in the same spot and looked out the same window. Truly, here was a lover who wrote romances with his actions, not his pen.

Then in Verona, one hot summer in the ‘60’s, I sat in the coliseum and watched the opera Aida. The show had a cast of 600 actors complete with a full procession of horses and elephants. There were probably more people in that procession than there were in the original historic event!

The Italians understand putting on a spectacular. Evidently, they had no problem getting volunteers in Verona to be in that opera!

As for your comments on arcs and nomenclature, you made me think it boils down to simply this: always keep your story page-turning interesting (by rewarding your reader many times every page of the way) and finish the narrative with a ‘stand up and cheer’ ending! This will make readers hop on the internet and immediately download another one of your books.

Do this and you can leave it up to others to name the parts of your arcs. You’ll be too busy going to the bank or working on your new WIP -- that is, when you are not busy planning your next vacation!

Great post – please more trips and photos. This is a great way to start a week.

Vince

Janet Dean said...

Hi Meghan, glad that the post is helpful!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Thanks Connie. Wear the colors you look good in. Though in your photo you look great in red!

I love red. I wear red lipstick with most everything and if my nails are polished, they're red. French manicures are more chic, but I prefer red.

Janet

Anna Weaver Hurtt said...

Thanks for the very helpful post, Janet! :)

Anna Weaver Hurtt said...

Thanks for the very helpful post, Janet! :)

Jan Drexler said...

Janet, you're singing the song of my people, and you're doing it beautifully!

I learned about story arc back in college (and yes, that was a long time ago). It resonated with me then, and it resonates with me now. It's just the way story develops, and when a book or movie doesn't have that arc, I come away dissatisfied.

But to teach someone how to put that arc into their story when they haven't found a way to understand it yet? That's hard to do. You did it in this post!

I love the arch in St. Louis, too! I hope we have clear days at conference in September so we can enjoy the view from up there :)

Elaine Manders said...

Hi Janet,

Thank you for explaining ARC so clearly. Sometimes we over-analyze. I used to keep a KISS plaque on my desk (Keep It Simple, Sweetheart). I have to say I've never had a problem increasing conflict. I think because there's been so much "stuff" in my own life. But though I can get my characters in a lot of trouble, getting them out is the tricky part.

Janet Dean said...

Vince, your wife is a lucky woman. You're a romantic with compliments on your lips. Thank you! I'm photogenic and that's an old photo as I explained to Jamie earlier. Hope you and I get to meet one day. I guarantee there will be no paparazzi hanging round and you'll see why. :-)

We just saw the Bridge of Sighs from a gondola. Casanova wrote romances with his actions, not his pen is brilliantly put. Was he jailed in Venice? I know nothing about him.

Wow, I'm thrilled just hearing about the spectacular performance of Aida in Verona! Did you take a cushion? The seats could get hard.

You are right on, Vince. A novel that keeps readers turning pages and cheering at the ending is what matters, not what we call events.

I will try to find a way to share more photos of Italy. You sound well traveled. Italy is the only big trip out of the country that we've made. Did you see David in Florence? I could've cried he was so beautiful and also beautifully displayed. Then the Sistine Chapel and Michelanglo's gift blows my mind. I remember the guide saying that Michelangelo looked at the block of marble and chipped away everything that wasn't David. Just releasing David from the stone. Isn't that amazing?

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Welcome Anna! Thanks for stopping!

Janet

Terri said...

Janet, loved your post! Sometimes all those charts and such send my mind spinning. And snowflakes? Not happening in my little world.

I appreciate the way you broke it down.

Glad it is turning sunny in your neck of the woods. I actually sunburned yesterday while I was planting flowers.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Jan! So you're saying you understand story arc. You should do another post on it. Because I totally agree knowing how stories are to develop is important.

We need a lovely day in St. Louis for you to enjoy seeing the city. Heights are an issue for me and I didn't go up. There is a great little historical museum on the ground floor that I thoroughly enjoyed. LOL

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Elaine. You make a great point! Conflict, rising conflict is vital but we better know how to get the characters to their Happily Ever After ending.

Readers have said they couldn't see how the hero and heroine were going to get past the trouble between them. Usually between the crisis and the climax all their walls are torn down and they can finally accept and give love.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Terri! I'm grinning at the Snowflake mention. Again whatever works!

Sorry about that sunburn. If the weather is good, many of us will be outside Memorial Day weekend. Thanks for the reminder that we'll need to be careful with our winter bleached skin.

Janet

Sherida Stewart said...

Your post is very helpful, Janet! (I've copied and saved!) I need to confess that I haven't read Hero's Journey or Six Stage Plot Structure, so your "Story Arc in a Nutshell" points me in the right direction without confusion. I'm working on a plot that needs unscrambling! Thanks!

And the waffles you are serving will keep the five senses in my mind...I love brunch! And pistachios!

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...

Hi Janet! Thanks for boiling it down further. I'm with several people here in saying that I understand story arc, but do I want to analyze it? No way!

I think if you are an avid reader, you have an innate sense of the arc of a story, where things should fall, etc. Maybe things need tweaking a bit here and there, but when you try to assign it a name, it gets more complicated and you start to doubt.

It's a little bit like proper grammar. Most children grow up listening to adults who speak properly or at least with correct sentence structure (I'm not talking about the folks on Swamp People!). They learn to speak as they hear it. It's only later in school, when you learn about nouns, verbs, adjectives (and past participles, etc!) that things get confusing.

Have a great day!

Debby Giusti said...

Such a great post, Janet! You provided a wonderful explanation of story development. Kudos! A "copy and save" blog, for sure!

I love Hauge, but always need to review my notes. That man understands film...and story. Hope to see Vogler at ACFW! Love The Hero's Journey.

Also love your European photos. Hope to post some of my recent trip in the not-too-distant future. Today, for the first time, I'm feeling somewhat human and not so fatigued. Jet lag is a bad word in my book.

I brought fresh strawberries and cream for an afternoon snack. Enjoy!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Janet, I'm so bad at explaining story arc and you did it beautifully.

I can see what I want to happen, but unless my hands are typing it, I'm just kind of a LOSER when it comes to breaking it down.

I'm using the rainbow arches, the St. Louis Arch (which I rode up in a POD!!!!) And we took pictures next to buffalo and we were almost SMALLER....

(Key word: Almost)

Janet Dean said...

Hi Sherinda!

A plot that needs unscrambling requires food! Brunch or for lunch, I'm bringing in chicken, tuna and ham salad with tomatoes, avocados and shredded lettuce with crunchy pretzel bread and strawberry shortcake warm from the oven topped with vanilla ice cream.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Stephanie, you are so wise! Anaylzing things is harder than doing them, but not all of us can get how to write just from reading. Though that's important. We should never quit reading great books that enrich us and teach us.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Debby, thanks for your sweet words about my post.

I can't wait to see pictures from your trip!!

I'm adding your strawberries to those I've prepared. With all the Seekers and Villagers hanging around the buffet, they're going fast!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Ruthy! You were the brave one among us and actually rode up in the arch. Who else? I've blanked that out!

Of course we were smaller!! What buffalo were you looking at? LOL

Janet

Jackie Smith said...

I am a reader and enjoyed your post....and thanks for sharing the pictures!
And your photo in red.....gorgeous!

Heidi Robbins said...

Great post! I'll be watching for story arc in the next books I read :)

Janet Dean said...

Hi Jackie, love readers! Thanks for joining us in Seekerville today! Glad you liked the photos!

Janet

Mary Connealy said...

Stuff Happens?
LOL

You know, Janet? I think that may be the best advice for "How To Write a Book" ever.

Seriously.

Crystal Ridgway said...

Ahh... Stuff happens.... Worse stuff happens... Simplicity at its best. If only making the stuff happen was as easy as it sounds. Sometimes I sit and stare at nothing, thinking 'okay, what happens next?'.

That's usually when I kill one of my secondary characters. :-) Does that fall under 'worse stuff happens'?

Loved the post, Janet and please enter me in the giveaway.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Heidi,

I wish you luck with that. :-) When I get absorbed in a great story, I forget to look at writing tips. But, isn't that how a good book is for? To carry us away, to put ourselves in someone else's shoes.

Janet

Mary Connealy said...

Wow we're talking about foreign travel on Seekerville.

Uh...I've walked across the bridge to Mexico a few times.

I survived.

(How's that for a story arc?)

Julie Lessman said...

YAY, JANET ... FINALLY a lesson on plot I can actually understand!!

Yes, I'm with you on Hauge and Vogler and to this day, cannot craft a decent moral premise to save my soul, so we're in the boat together, my friend, which is probably not too uplifting for you. Let's just hope and pray our boat doesn't sink ... ;)

Actually, there are more people in our camp (or boat) than you think -- I like to refer to us as free spirits who write intuitively rather than academically, kinda like playing by ear, you know? ;)

Hugs!!
Julie

Janet Dean said...

Mary, we know the stuff happening in your stories involves a gun or a life threatening occurrance to overcome.

But, your point is well taken. Stuff isn't just thought about. Stuff must happen on the page. That's action!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Crystal. Thanks!

The way I figure out what happens next is to look at the last scene in that character's point of view and think what he'll do now in order to reach his goal. If that goal matters--and the motivation is strong so it does matter--then they never stop trying to get it. But we writers keep slapping obstacles in the way that stymie him. So if that secondary character was helping him reach his goal, the guy's death ups the stakes. Oh, the trouble we cause!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Always thought you were brave, Mary! Have Gun Will Travel. You're probably too young to remember that Western. Doubt you were packing either. LOL A guaranteed jail term.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Thanks Julie! But, playing by ear doesn't always work out for me. I end up wasting time. The reason I'm trying to get a handle on this. When should the great huge stuff that happens, happen? What brings that about? What breaks these characters down to the point they're plyable and willing to change?

Where's the Tylenol? Oh, yeah, in the cabinet labeled Writer Support.

Janet

CatMom said...

Love that photo, Janet - - sooo pretty!
And thanks for this great post too - - I'll admit that I'd been writing for several years, and kept seeing the term "story arc" but yet no one explained it, LOL (at least in the articles I was reading at the time). So I really appreciate your post today--you've explained each stage clearly.
Hope to see you at ACFW!!
Hugs, Patti Jo :)

Missy Tippens said...

I think you did a great job with this, Janet! I think you know it better than you think. :)

Janet Dean said...

Hi Patti Jo! Glad the post explained story arc for you, at least in part.

I will be at ACFW. Thanks for the reminder that I need to register for the conference! Looking forward to seeing you!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Missy! I hope you're right! I need to be getting it in my head. Makes writing the story easier.

Janet

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Wonderful post, Janet! I've printed it and highlighted sentences. It's helped me understand story arc so much better. Thanks for the advice you gave to Crystal on how to decide what happens next.I see where having a beloved family member die did raise the stakes for my heroine. Still, how I hated to do that to her.

Becke said...

Janet,
I can commiserate with the "How to" books. I think I'm clicking right along. Yes, I've finally figured it out and I have the next bestseller.

The minute I apply what I believe I've learned--poof! My plot fizzles, farts, and falls and I'm shaking my head wondering what happened to all that stuff I supposedly learned.

Good to know it's not just geezer brain. This stuff is hard!
b

Becke said...

Janet,
I can commiserate with the "How to" books. I think I'm clicking right along. Yes, I've finally figured it out and I have the next bestseller.

The minute I apply what I believe I've learned--poof! My plot fizzles, farts, and falls and I'm shaking my head wondering what happened to all that stuff I supposedly learned.

Good to know it's not just geezer brain. This stuff is hard!
b

Janet Dean said...

Hi Pat Jeanne,

Delighted the post helps! And that the "what happens next" comment did too. Though hard to write, having someone die that readers and characters care about makes for a strong emotional story.

Janet

Chill N said...

Stuff happens ... worse stuff happens ... Janet, I could have used this post many, many years ago.

You make it all so easy to understand -- and that's not easy.

Thank you!

Nancy C

Janet Dean said...

Hi Becke,

You made me laugh with the plot fizzles, farts and falls. Great alliteration! Really learning stuff is hard. And then we overlook things that we absolutely do know. Then there's the repetitive words and the pet words...

Now I'll be up half the night trying to remember what to remember. LOL

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Nancy C, The stuff happens part is far easier to me than remembering the difference between the crisis and the black moment. But I'm working on it and one day it'll be like riding a bike. You never forget how, right?

Though several friends have had bike accidents. Maybe they didn't forget how but they're having trouble staying upright.

Janet

Lyndee H said...

HI Janet,
First, I love your new photo! And I always appreciate new translations of story structure. I can't tell you how many times I've heard those men speak at conferences, yet I have no idea what they said. I guess that makes us a bit alike...pass the pistachios, please, lol. Thanks for the informative post!

Courtney Phillips said...

Most of what I know about writing I've learned from Seekerville and reading. But the two books that helped me the most with structure are Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell (I think) and GMC by Debra Dixon.
Your post is a definite help too :) I love the "stuff happens" part.
Please enter me for the giftcard.

Natalie Monk said...

Hi, Janet!

This is brilliant. I get confused with the essence and identity stuff, too. :)

For some reason, I thought the Black Moment and Crisis were the same. Woops!

*runs and checks MS*

Thankfully, it looks like I've got both a Crisis and a Black Moment in there. *whew*

I need to take time to read more writing craft books. Seriously. I have a couple on my Kindle for my summer reading list. Looking forward to it!

Susan May Warren's Kiss n Tell really helped me get a grasp on how all the romance stuff works into the plot. And I loved that she used popular romantic movies to illustrate her points.

Thanks for the post! Now you've got me craving breakfast! :))

Edwina said...

Janet, your post was so informative!
Definite keeper!

Edwina said...

Janet, your post was so informative!
Definite keeper!

Esther Filbrun said...

I'll have to study this more in a couple days when I tackle my book again. Thanks, Janet!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Lyndee! Good to see you! Yes, let's munch pistachio nuts and commiserate. :-)

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Courtney! I love craft books and those are excellent. I don't actually have that Bell book, but I have attended his workshop and have another of his books. A wise man. I think understanding Dixon's GMC is vital to writing stories. You're teachable. Proud of you!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Natalie. I've always found crisis and BM confusing but now I know one is internal and one external. I like things tied up with a bow on top. :-) I haven't read Susie's book, but attended her workshops. She's great.
Congrats on working hard.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Thanks Edwina!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Esther! if you're like me certain aspects of craft take a while to sink in. So like you I want to visit it again with each book.

Janet

Dana McNeely said...

Yes, story arc/structure/journey/plotting confuses and intrigues me. I do love your explanations but I'm still a bit confused about crisis, black moment, and climax. I'd love to see a post where you talk about those more. What are the differences? About where does each occur within the arc? And if you could give one sentence examples from a story.

Marcia said...

Hi Janet, As I get older I like things simpler and your post did it for me! I haven't read either of the books you mentioned, and thanks to you, now I won't have to. The order of events have been a real problem for me as well as introspection so I have to work/think doubly hard when I write. Maybe I'm overthinking?

Janet Kerr said...

Nice breakdown of story arc Janet!
Jan

Janet Dean said...

Hi Marcia,

You could be overthinking. I think we can intuitively get what a story needs, but I want to understand story arc hoping to speed up my process. Doesn't mean everyone needs to.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Thanks Janet!

Janet

Michelle Fidler said...

The waffles sound good. I'm hungry and I'll be eating soon. With virtual food there's no clean up! Please enter me in the drawing for the Amazon card.