The Wednesday Writing Spot. Story Arcs – What are they?

Welcome to week two of the Wednesday Writing Spot. Following last week’s blog about writing the competition short story, I thought it would be helpful to look at one of the elements of writing that is (in my experience) the hardest to master: plotting!

We all know what a short story is, but here is my personal favourite definition – a short story is a piece of writing featuring a character with a problem, he or she resolves it by the end of the story and undergoes some change in the process. Simples!

Here’s a slightly different approach to looking at plots using story arcs.

Below are two of the most common story arcs. There’s also one for real life, which gives a nice comparison and also shows, oh so clearly, why real life doesn’t translate straight into fiction. Real life stories don’t have a convenient beginning, middle and end. For most of us real life means getting up, going to work, cooking the dinner, watching telly, having the odd argument with our children, spouse, friends. And mostly this goes on in an uninterrupted fashion with a few ups and downs, but fairly humdrum. Not good story material!

Although you can certainly take a real life incident and make it into a story arc, you will have to follow certain rules. Next time you are stuck on a story, check these story arcs –

Top Tip, an awful lot of magazine stories fit into the common disaster arc.

And if you’d like any more advice on writing short stories, please check out my two writing guides. How to Write and Sell Short Stories published by Accent Press and The Short Story Writers’ Toolshed published by

Next week we’ll look some more at plotting.

Happy writing.

Diagram source










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3 Responses to The Wednesday Writing Spot. Story Arcs – What are they?

  1. Julie Lees says:

    Thanks for that! It’s really useful to see it written down – makes more sense.

  2. Della Galton says:

    Thanks Julie, I like looking at things visually too, it makes more sense than seeing a plot as a numbered list. Well, it does to me anyway.

  3. Edith says:

    As a story ‘pantser’ who regularly loses herself in the woods, not being able to see it for the proverbial trees, I need this visual very much! Thank you! 🙂

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