Recently a writer friend lent me a worn copy of Writing a Novel (and getting it published) by Nigel Watts. The book is practically falling apart, but for good reason: Watts takes you through every stage of the craft of writing and guides you along the path to writing your novel. Seriously, everything you need to know about writing a novel is in this book.
I particularly found the “Eight-Point Story Arc” guideline quite useful, so I thought I'd do a writing exercise based on Nigel Watts' 8-point story arc list.
Print this out and exercise your writing muscles!
How to Structure your Story:
An "8 Point Story Arc" writing exercise...
This is an “every day life” starting point, the perfect place to introduce your scene, character, time, place... Stage it.
Then, all of a sudden, something happens to your character that is totally beyond their control.
3. The quest
Your character now has to set off on a "quest" to (fix/find/figure out) _______.
Multiple things take place along this quest that create the middle of your story. These can be unexpected yet plausible obstacles, complications, pleasant events, conflict, etc... that happen to/by your character.
5. Critical choice
Your character is now faced with a critical decision. The result of this decision will reveal just who your character(s) really is(are). NOTE: this choice needs to be something your characters chose to do, not something that just happens to them. THINK: growth from the trigger/quest/mess.
The ultimate point of the story arc. Although the story isn't over yet, here we feel resolution. We feel the quest is complete and the mess from the trigger has been handled.
This is where you show that your character has really, truly changed due to all the above. Show your character's life playing out in an inevitable and probable way.
A final return to a stasis. Of course a NEW stasis due to all the above. This is where you and your readers feel new story could sprout from as your character (and maybe even the setting) has totally changed to something new. Everything is back to normal, albeit a new normal. It's another "every day life" starting point.
I hope you find this story arc guideline just as useful as I have. Even if you've finished your manuscript, go back in and plot out your story. Does it follow and flow? Maybe this will help you solidify and fix something that's been nagging you, something that was just not quite working...yet.
Go for it. And let me know how your writing is coming along.