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What the story arcs reveal about your story – a check list

ErzaehlboegenDramaQueen visualizes the architecture of your story. But what kind of information can you gain from the graphic display? Use these questions to check the narrative arcs of your storyline:

  1. Which narrative strands or storylines constitute my story?
  2. Does each of my central characters have his/her own storyline in which he/she is the main character? Is each strand told from the point of view of its main character?
  3. Do all important characters have a want or need? Do the individual storylines provide information about the different wants / needs of my characters?
  4. If my protagonist has a want and a need it is useful to define two storylines from his/her point of view: a wantline and a needline.
  5. Does the narrative arc rise or fall dramatically for each main character at the first plot-point of their storyline? If yes – it creates an incising event for the character. If not, the character has nothing to lose. Or there is no contrast between their habitual life at the beginning of their storyline and the first plot-point.
  6. Is the second act twice as long as act 1 and act 3?
  7. Are your story’s individual sequences or phases about the same length? Or are there single passages which are over-proportionally long or contain many short scenes? If yes:  Are there steps or scenes you could shorten or cut out?
  8. Do the main secondary strands start not later than at the beginning of the second act?
  9. Is the main strand (and therefore the main character) present throughout the story, or are there longer periods in which the strand is (unintentionally) exposed or neglected (recognizable by the broken line)?
  10. Does each storyline have significant highs and lows? When a narrative graph features steep arcs the storyline offers strong turning points and contrasts. Should the storyline run flat and straight-lined over a long period it lacks turning points and twists.
  11. Does each strand have a complete arc?  Is there an inciting incident, a plot-point 1, a midpoint, a plot-point 2 and a climax? Every secondary strand, however small, needs at least two turning points.
  12. Does every sequence close with a plot-point? As a general rule: the more turning points a storyline has, the more unpredictable and thrilling it is – provided that the twists are motivated by the action and characters.
  13. Do the narrative strands intertwine? Are there connections between the plot-points of storylines – e.g. is the plot-point of one strand also the trigger for another strand’s plot-point?
  14. Are there scenes where the plotpoints of several storylines coincide? These are your story’s master-scenes which should get your special attention during the writing and development process.
  15. Do particular storylines run parallel or reverse to each other?  Arcs running in opposition to each other can be dramatically very effective. They can reveal, for example, that the protagonist’s and antagonist’s goals contradict each other or that the main character’s want and need contradict each other. Parallel storylines point out that their main characters pursuit the same goal or that they have the same problem or conflict.
  16. Does the story escalate in the third act?  If the arcs of all storylines become steeper in the third act the story’s drama intensifies.
  17. Do the “climaxes” of the various storylines coincide? Only when that is the case, they do make up the climax of the story.
  18. Do all storylines have a happy end or do all end tragically?  This could have a one-dimensional effect. When all storylines end differently – positive and negative – we get an ambivalent ending.  This could be emotionally very satisfying.  An example: the main character did not get his want (negative ending of one storyline), but has met the love of his life (happy end of another storyline).
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