Last week we discussed short form stories and some basics for story outlines. Our point of reference last week was the varying outlines for the scenario of the kid going to the store and losing their money. We discussed potential story routes if the character found their money and routes if they couldn’t, depending on the type of story you wanted to tell. Most importantly we discussed the triangle or acts of a story involving the beginning, climax and end. Many of these principles apply to telling a longer form story, let’s dig in.
When we talk about a long form story, we are essentially talking about all sorts of little stories that, when put together, make up a larger story. With each of these little scenarios, we can use our triangle to determine the start, climax and end of each of these.
So, let’s jump back to last week’s examples, (you can view the post here). Let’s take the base story premise, of the kid going to the store. Now let’s say we want to add a relationship or interaction with another character in the story, let’s go with a bully from school who wants to take the kids money. When you hear of the word “arc” in references to stories, they are referring to a certain triangle outline of the main conflict in the story. For instance a Batman vs Joker arc. While Batman will have obstacles to overcome, until the conflict is resolved with the Joker, it is considered to be in that arc.
One major component to keep in mind when writing a long from story with multiple arcs, is timing. Timing was a major lesson in animation, not only the timing of storytelling but even the timing of a character. In terms of timing, we can offset the story arcs so not everything is happening at once. Check this out.
So we can take our 2 arcs (the trip the store and the bully) and we can start to play with the timing of events to help progress our story. Both of our arcs need an introduction, a beginning. We could start our story with an altercation between both characters at school. Or we could start our story with the kid going to the store, and on the way to the store runs into another character, who turns out to be a bully. We could even introduce the bully later in the story and have our main character run into the bully after the trip to the store or even while at the store. So you can already start to see how many options we can get for even just a two arc story. By adjusting the gaps of the events in the story you can get drastically different stories.
For instance, if we start our story off with the interaction of the kid and bully and then have our kid go to the store (either later in the day or maybe the next day or even later), we then need to plot out our climaxes in each arc. We could have our climax between the bully and kid on the way to the store, at the store or after the store. With this flexibility, it gives you the most range on your story.
We could even decide to overlap the arcs or fit one complete arc within another. If the kid goes to the store and runs into a bully, we could fit the entire bully arc in between the beginning and end of the store arc.
If we added a third arc into the mix we could really start to play with the timing even more. For fun let’s throw in a third arc about the kid having to study for a test in school. Our points can be the introduction of the test, the characters struggle with the material and the conclusion would be taking the test. We know have 9 plot points (3 from each arc) in order to craft our story. So we could shell our store and bully arc within the test arc, or we could complete the test arc and have one or both remaining arcs conclude outside of the test arc.
We could do fit all of the arcs within the test arc for instance if the test is issued on a Monday and given on Friday, that would give us a week to complete the bully and the store arc. Another route would be if the test was sprung on our character in the morning and to be given later in the day. In the same day we could introduce the start of our bully arc as well.
The arcs will heavily depend on the type of story you want to tell and also your stories beginning and end points and even the theme or idea of your story. I hope this helped you with your story writing, if you have any questions feel free to comment below or contact me.