The Eight-Point Arc
The eight-point arc? What the f*$k is that? Well, that’s what I’m here to tell you. And, I can see you’re very happy about that 🙂
In my post, So, you wanna be a writer? What is a plot? I explained that a plot is:
“a sequence of events that are connected to one another through causality. Causality is the relationship between cause and effect; when one event makes something else happen, and that event, in turn, makes something else happen.
Plot is the what of the story (the characters being who, the theme is why).”
The eight-point arc is one way of organizing the plot and, as the name suggests, has eight parts.
- The Quest
- Critical Choice
Yeah, yeah, Angela, but what the actual f*%k does that mean?
It’s really simple.
This is the beginning part of your novel, the part before the triggering event of the story, the state of equilibrium or inactivity. As I stated in my post So, you wanna be a writer? Five things you need to do in Act One of your story, its:
“basically the beginning of the story, the part where the hero is inactive or, to use the posh word, in stasis. Stasis means a period of inactivity or equilibrium. Our hero is inactive, going about her business as she usually would until she is called into action when a triggering event happens.”
But, what is a triggering event?
The triggering event is something beyond the control of our hero which, in the end, causes our hero to act. It doesn’t have to be huge, or necessarily bad. It doesn’t even have to be recognised as the triggering event at the time but it must set the story in motion. The triggering event causes the story to move forward. The first step if you like in the plot.
The triggering event sets the story in motion and creates the quest for the hero. The quest, simply put, is a journey the hero goes on to reach his goal.
Is that it?
No, you have to throw in a few surprises on the way:
As a writer, you have to throw surprises into the path of the hero. They can be pleasant surprises, such as the hero meeting an old friend, or bad surprises, like the hero finding out that that friend is working for the enemy. They can also be REALLY unpleasant surprises but whatever their nature, the best surprises in the narrative block the hero’s way and create obstacles on their road to success.
However, don’t forget plausibility when creating your surprises. They HAVE to be believable within the context of the story. Also, a predictable surprise that can be seen coming from a few miles off, is not an effective way of storytelling. The surprises have to be both unexpected AND plausible.
This is an important part of the novel. There must come a point when the hero is faced with what looks like an insurmountable challenge. In order to get over this obstacle, the hero has to make a difficult decision, a critical choice. It is this point, and the choice that the hero makes, that determines their fate for the rest of the story. The hero MUST make the decision themselves and it cannot be left to chance or fate.
This is the hero making their own decisions and deciding their own fate.
The climax is the part of the story where the tension and action reach the peak of intensity. It’s the consequence of the critical decision the hero made when they faced their greatest challenge and decided their own fate with the choice or choices that they made.
However, the climax is definitely not the end of the story. It serves as a transition from the rising action of the story to the falling action of the story.
The reversal is the result of the critical choice and the climax. It produces a shift in the status of the characters.
This is the place in the story where the hero is seen to bring together everything they’ve learnt on their journey and focus on a new goal. Essentially, it’s a shift in perspective. It can be a shift in the way the character thinks but also a shift in perspective of the reader.
The reversal is a change of direction, for example, a character who has been “bad” up to this point, turns “good”, or bad luck turns to good or vice versa. The reversal should be plausible AND probable.
The resolution is the wrapping up of all the threads of the story. It’s a return to a place of rest and a fresh stasis where it’s obvious the hero’s character has been changed somehow.
As I said in my post, So You Wanna Be a Writer? Four things you need to have in Act Three of your novel;
“All significant loose ends should be tied up, and the tension of the story should ease after the drama of the climax. If our hero’s goal isn’t completely fulfilled in the climax, it needs to be achieved here.
The reader needs to have a satisfying conclusion to the story and everything that was promised to them over the course of the story should now be fulfilled.”
The eight-point arc can be an effective way of planning a story. It’s not the only way but it can be a useful tool to keep your writing on track.
What do you think of the eight-point arc? Have you used it? How did you find it?