What is the importance of story arcs?

What is the importance of story arcs?

The Story Arc

The Story Arc (Photo credit: Hsin-Cheng Lin)



What is a story arc: A story arc is the evolution of a plot. The suspense gradually grows until the revelation of facts. Finally, the conclusion completes the arc. There are five elements that help design a story arc. They are listed below.


  1. Introduction: The beginning of a novel begins with the presentation of at least one character and setting. The first suspenseful conflicts might begin here.
  2. Rising Action: This is where the initial struggles begin that the character(s) will face. Rising action is what keeps readers interested. Reflective pieces with a “low story arc” aren’t as popular with the majority of people. Each genres pace is different but rising action still needs to occur shortly after the introduction.
  3. Climax: This is often the most dramatic and revealing point for the plot and/or characters. This is what an author writes toward in the introduction and rising action.
  4. Falling Action: The climax is the cause for large change in the story while the falling action is the after effect. Events continue to unfold as a result of the turning point. The arc descends gradually. More mystery is usually not introduced here. A complex book series might introduce a new conflict that will be developed in another book. If a novel stands alone, the falling action steadily slopes to the ending.
  5. Closure: This is sometimes called the resolution. The problems of the story are resolved. Protagonists and antagonists are changed in some way compared to their state at the beginning of the novel. No mystery is presented here unless the author writes a cliff hanger to keep readers anxiously waiting for the second book in the series.


Why have a story arc: Story arcs push both the plot and characters through change. Arcs are everywhere; T.V. comics, novels, and movies just to name a couple. Their purpose is to help the author build suspense and mystery in a successful, logical order.


How many story arcs are in a story: Story arcs can vary in number and size. Every chapter can have an arc. The entire series (no matter if it’s a series or not) contains a story arc. Epic fantasy series come to mind when I think of chapter arcs intermingled between the overall plot development.

Character arcs grow right along side plot arcs. Characters change from the beginning of the story to the end, still following the five elements introduced above. An author can successfully write novels using the story arc by constantly asking why, what, who, how, when and where about the characters and plot.



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