The Art of An Arc
Imagine this: Lily and James Potter never had to sacrifice their lives for their son, 'The-Boy-Who-Lived' never had to survive Voldemort's wrath, Tom Riddle never had to resort to dark magic because he remained a boy with a bright future, and Severus Snape never had to hold his wand to Albus Dumbledore and say an unbreakable curse that.. well, made our hearts very breakable. What does this leave you with? An entire book about an enthusiastic boy named Harry Potter that magically grew up with a perfect family of witches and wizards? Ooo, let's see how many other stories match up to that! Thankfully, J.K. Rowling has done an incredible job at making our childhood fantasies an entire world of vibrant imagination, and we will forever live with the tragic tale of 'The-Boy-Who-Lived' until we are one hundred and fifty like Dumbledore.
Now, the ask yourself this question: why weren't the Harry Potter books written this way? Why is it that, in every single story, there is a major event that happens in the main character's life that puts the big, bad, and oh-so-dangerous world into perspective? Why is it that Lily and James had to die? Why did Tom Riddle have to turn into 'Voldemort'? Why does any of this happen?
Got your answer yet? No? Well, it's simple. In every story, there is an arc. An arc is created for the purpose of giving that character movement; it's created to show that, instead of having a thousand pages filled with the same character having the same exact problem in every chapter, there is constant change happening in the story between characters, scenes, personalities, choices, you name it. An arc is one of the most important things to have when writing a story. It's what originally lures a reader into your story, and having that arc is what keeps them coming for more every time you hit 'Publish.' It's the tragedy that has you empathetic to learn more, or the love story that you can't help but envision yourself in instead because it pulls at all the heartstrings.
When you're developing a story arc, or even a singular arc for one sole character within your story, keep in mind that you are your biggest critic. If you wouldn't read a story with the arc you have in mind, DO NOT WRITE IT because you are eventually going to grow bored with the idea of mustering up the inspiration to open your laptop and crawl from the sheets of procrastination. The moment that you grow bored with the arc you fabricated, your readers notice and they begin to lose interest just like you. Choose a story arc that you enjoy writing for yourself before you consider the amount of recognition it will get you in the end. There are thousands of writers that give up on a story just because the interest they originally had for it suddenly disappears. If you're happy about the arc you created, that will show through how much time and dedication you put into successfully accomplishing it all the way to the end - or, until you add onto that arc by coming up with another one.
You can never have too many story arcs, so long as you make sure that you moderate them accordingly. Don't get carried away with excitement and rush your work just to reach that one specific, climactic scene that changes the entire game. The only thing that will come from that is a lot of plot holes that you may not realize you created until you're getting comments like, "I'm so confused," or, "What is even going on?"; been there, done that, never going back. It's like shoving sixty pieces of paper down your throat just to reach the end of the notebook because you're so sick of looking at blank pages.
If you truly love where you are planning on taking your story or character, have patience. Wait for the perfect moment when you can burst out screaming from relief, where your heart starts racing a bit more from the anticipation of your readers' reactions, because they are just as excited for the climax of your arc. Trust me, it's worth so much more in the end than having a word-vomit because of how eager you may be feeling at three o'clock in the morning. Always remember to moderate yourself, and always remember that the inner fangirl you have over your arc is just as intoxicating to other people as it may be to you.
Once again, here is a short list of things to always remember about story arcs:
1) They give your story movement so that your fans aren't sitting there reading the same thing over and over again every chapter in slightly different words or phrases.
2) An arc is one of the most important things to have when creating a story.
3) If you wouldn't read a story with the arc you created, DO NOT WRITE IT.
4) Love it for your own inner fangirl, not just your readers'.
5) Have PATIENCE. Don't lose the rising actions to get to the climax of the arc.
6) Always have fun when developing them!
Ever you ever tried to manage multiple arcs?
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