Welcome to part two of “What it takes to write a story”. Part one can be found here.
According to Nigel Watts in his guide “Writing a Novel and Getting Published”, he lays out eight points that the author should follow for a compelling story. This is called a story arc. It’s a basic outline or summary of what the story is about.
The eight points are:
3. The quest
5. Critical choice
I will try in my own words to explain each point.
He calls this the “everyday life” of the story. We call it the setting. Not really the place per se, but the everyday living of the characters themselves. What the characters do on a daily basis, where they go, what they eat and their general living conditions…this of course includes the place the story is set in.
The trigger is what sets the story. Why is this a story? Something must have happened to the protagonist for you to be telling it. Is it love, danger, some adventure that you must tell? This is the trigger. Watts used the word ‘spark’ to explain this. The trigger needs to be good, something ‘beyond’ his/her control, something extraordinary.
So you have a trigger, something so magnificent happening to your hero/heroine that he/she starts a journey to figure it out. This is the quest. Love is no different. The hero feels a spark, chemistry begins between him and his lady love, they embark on a journey of discovery to figure out if it was meant to be. That is the quest.
There must be a surprise element to make the story click. According to Nigel, this takes up most of the middle part of the story and includes mostly pleasant events. Of course, not everything can be honky dory or the story gets boring. Add some obstacles that will result in happy surprises. An antagonist at this point will add some element of trouble to the story to make for an interesting read. He also added that we should try not to be too predictable, and that some suspense might be in order.
After all the obstacles and tension that was developed in the preceding storyline, the character needs to take a step back and make a decision. As Watts said, it cannot happen by chance, it has to be a conscious decision taken by the character. He also pointed out that this is where you get to really know the characters. In other words, what they are made of, their true mettle. In most cases, it’s a choice between good and evil, how to deal with the antagonist.
The critical choice must definitely lead to a climax. In my mind, this is the showdown between the hero/heroine and villain/villainess. This has to have some sort of tension and thrill to keep the reader glued to the page. This is the highest peak of tension in the story and the preceding events must have led to this.
This is what Nigel Watts said. I could not find a better way to say it so I quoted it
“Your story reversals should be inevitable and probable. Nothing should happen for no reason, changes in status should not fall out of the sky. The story should unfold as life unfolds: relentlessly, implacably, and plausibly.”
The resolution is where the story finds the characters changed after all that has happened. This is the end, the solution to all the problems and finally a happy or unhappy ending in some cases, where that period of the character’s life closes. If it’s a series, it may open another chapter but the story has been told.
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