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How to come up with the plot of a book: plot and eight-point arc


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Even if you have a great idea for a story, developing a plot for it can be tricky. Fortunately, this is not what should stop you! To begin, outline the big picture: what will happen (the main plan), with whom it will happen (characters) and where it will happen (situation). Then build the storyline using various types of storytelling. And finally, prepare a plan to make it easier for you to write a story.

How to build a plot of a novel using an eight-point arc

In the construction of the plot eight main phases are distinguished - “points” - elements of the so-called eight-point arc. Eight phases - stasis, impulse, goal, surprise, decisive choice, climax (climax), turn, denouement - these are points of development of the plan, from “lived-were” through “met-fought-overcome” to “happily ever after.”

Consider the phases of the arc in more detail.

1. Stasis - in fact, exposure: an ordinary day at an ordinary time in an ordinary (or imagined) world. Yes, those same “lived-were”, a description of the situation, a launching pad from which the story arc will “take off” - into development, through the first impulse.

2. Impulse - contingency. On an ordinary and unremarkable day, something out of the ordinary happens, a case that breaks out of the series of events that violates the usual course of things.

Anything can be an impulse - a long-standing memory, a fire in a house, the arrival of a distant relative or old friend, a bad prophetic dream, an unexpected dismissal, an acquaintance, and so on. The main thing is that momentum makes this day, static and ordinary, unusual, provokes further, no less unexpected events and forms a new goal.

3. Purpose - a consequence of the impulse.

The goal can be twofold: a) get rid of the consequences of the impulse, overcome it and return to the original state of stasis, b) hold, maintain and develop in order to further change the situation.

As a rule, the first (a) is a negative, negative impulse, and the second (b) is positive, positive. But it can be the other way around - and a negative impulse (for example, a fire in an apartment) will work positively (will make you move, move your job and move out of the dysfunctional area), and a positive impulse will affect the goal negatively - for example, the long-awaited arrival of a relative will result in a lot of problems and a desire to get rid from the guest, tiredness and desire to quickly return to a stasis state.
One way or another, but the goal is being formed and entails a lot of surprises. And - the main surprise.

4. Surprise - this event is either moving forward or inhibiting.

Promotional and pleasant surprises are, of course, good, but unpleasant ones are more interesting and important. Do not forget that experiences due to setbacks and turmoil bring together more than happy luck. And inclusion in the story due to "heroic" troubles is faster.

However, when dealing with surprises, it is important to observe the following rules:

a) there should not be too many surprises - one or two,

b) surprise should be unpredictable and surprising to the reader,

c) it must be realistic, logical, believable, naturally arising from the circumstances.

And, of course, surprise should be the driving force for a decisive choice.

5. Choice - This is a decision that is made to overcome unexpected obstacles and achieve the goal.

The choice should be difficult, difficult (if possible, turning in fate) and necessarily conscious. Required. An automatic solution based on the principle of “where it’s going - there and going, what to be - it cannot be avoided” is, of course, also a choice, but not decisive. If the hero does not understand what he is doing, then this is an accident that in no way affects the history of the hero. The decisive choice, however, precedes the turn in history and the fate of the hero, involves an understanding of responsibility for the act (what kind of action, what kind of inaction) and even “breaks through” a new path.

6. Climax (climax) - this is the result of surprise and a decisive choice, an emotional plot event, a phase preceding a turn.

For example, the hero goes to work and sees a burning house, from which comes the cry of children. By nature, the cowardly hero has to make a choice - call the firemen and watch or run to save people. He chooses to help, and the culmination scene of saving people from the fire begins. Overcoming himself and his own cowardice, the hero comes to the rescue - and is late for work. And there is an evil chef who does not stand on ceremony with employees. And for a good deed he dismisses our wonderful savior. And here is the twist.

7. Turn - This is an event that changes the state of the hero and the course of the whole story.

The turn should be:

a) logical and plausible (that is, in our example about the boss who is evil and intolerant of being late, you need to say at the moment when the hero, having overcome his cowardice, is rushing to help or not, because the boss is an infection, and work is urgently needed),

b) obligatory, inevitable, but unexpected for the reader - yes, do not forget to surprise,

c) should flow from previous events - be their logical outcome.

Without such twists, the story is empty and fresh, it must happen that the reader jumps out of indignation, fear or amazement with a cry: “Why? For what? How so?". And add after: “Wow! What a twist!". And - “this is the denouement!”

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8. Interchange - the result of the entire arc, all phases.

The situation returns to stasis - on that very ordinary day of ordinary time and the ordinary world, to a stable situation, and against this background the changed state of the hero is shown. What he lost and what he gained. The denouement should also be logical, not straying from the channel of reality, and surprising to the reader.

How to use an eight-point arc in writing a book

The eight-point arc is applicable not only to the plot of the entire work as a whole, but also to any compositional part of it. Thus, arcs can be:

  • the main thing is the story as a whole,
  • large - parts, chapters,
  • small - the scene.

The difference between a small and a large arc is in the meaning of the decisive choice, in the weight of the goal, in the strength of surprise, in the steepness of the turn and the depth of the hero’s changes in denouement.

As you can see, according to this scheme, you can build any plan, and draw eight pivotal points and a scene in a chapter, and each chapter, and a two-volume story. This is a rough and thoughtful work, which is desirable to do before writing. After all, when a clear core appears in the concept, it becomes much easier to translate it into an interesting and exciting plot.

How famous writers came up with stories

Ray Bradbury composed stories based on a list of nouns, each word in which the author evoked memories, associations, childhood impressions: he began to write, and the story was born by itself.
Stephen King composed (and composes) stories that can be reduced to the formula “What if”: that is, an incredible assumption is formulated, and then the behavior of people in the created situation is described.
Ernest Hemingway, in his own words, “wrote the truth” and began with the most truthful phrase, and then heroes and events were born.
When creating large works, Leo Tolstoy willingly used diaries (and not only his own), cases from life.
Fedor Dostoevsky used newspaper chronicles.
Anton Chekhov described scenes from life.
And in conclusion of this brief overview of the working methods of famous writers, we recall the words of Anna Akhmatova: “When would you know what kind of litter / poetry grows without knowing shame! / Like a yellow dandelion at the fence, / like burdocks and quinoa. / Angry shout, tar smell fresh. / The mysterious mold on the wall ... / And the verse already sounds, arrogant, gentle, / to the joy of you and me. " That is, literary text can be anything. And history can be found everywhere.

Fictional Stories: Story Formulas

The first thing we propose to do is use the plot formula. Attention: we are not talking about plot archetypes, which any author can also safely turn to. No, we’re talking about simpler techniques: plot formulas. They are concise and easy to remember. You can write on them, both great novels and short stories. The following are plot development options. But first, we will talk about which ingredients must be added to the recipe for a successful story (especially when it comes to genre literature):
Extraordinary hero + extraordinary circumstances
To illustrate, mention D’Artagnan, Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, Nero Wolfe.
An extraordinary hero can be replaced by the most ordinary: the stronger will be the effect of a collision with circumstances that go beyond the usual. “Extraordinary circumstances” can be replaced by unusual motives that guide the main character, the conclusions to which he comes, meetings, conditions, etc.
So, we take a hero (ordinary or extraordinary), come up with unusual circumstances and write the story according to the plot formula:
1. Someone did something, and this is what happened.
2. This happened, and someone began to do it, and someone this.
3. Someone went somewhere, met someone and found out this.
4. Someone met (as an option - loved) someone, and everything turned upside down. Inverted option: someone lost someone, and it started.
5. Someone has got somewhere and is trying to come back.

These formulas do not exhaust all possible options for building the plot: the plot variety is much richer, but we suggest starting with one of these formulas, because they do not define a clear thematic framework, allowing the author to move in any direction. For example, a businessman meets Superman at a private party that has dedicated him to the great secrets of the world behind the scenes, which allowed the hero to perform many feats and save the world. Or a middle-aged man, an intellectual and thinker, in an attempt to overcome the existential crisis sets off on a trekking journey in the Altai Territory, where he meets wise old people and ordinary residents of provincial villages, wholesome and harmonious, the hero encounters difficulties, learns himself and finds peace in his soul. Or: a hedgehog meets a fox on a forest path and they become friends, as it turns out that everyone loves autumn: hedgehog for harvest, fox for triumph of red color ... There can be any options.

Where to start writing if there is no intention

So where to start? Suppose the author has no desire to follow the ready-made formula, the plot archetype, he wants to find his way. Well, sit down and write.
1. We give ourselves the intention to create auxiliary fragments: descriptions of the scene (both local and large-scale: from the interior to creating a picture of the world), a description of the appearance and character of the characters, lyrical digressions (the author’s thoughts on an abstract topic), dialogs.
2. We turn to our own experience: we choose a story from life - our own, close or distant people. The story can be global, covering the lives of several people, families, generations (the scientific success of Professor X, the pre-revolutionary history of the family) or local (How I plowed the field / crossed the Volga). It can be scenes from life and even landscape sketches.
3. If you want to write, but the story is still not born, it makes sense to try one of the topics we proposed. Below we provide a list of stories that can be described: to invent or tell what really happened. This list can be endless, we have formally limited it to two dozen topics - if you write a story on each topic, the result can be an independent work, a kind of lyrical narrative, in the center of which there will be a reflecting hero.

What can I write about:

First love story.
The history of the fight against ... (teachers, habits, classmates, laziness, system).
Family history in three generations.
The story of one person during a big shock (war, political upheaval, landing on the moon, thaw).
The story of one late spring.
The story is about finding yourself.
The story of his birth.
The history of the invention of revolutionary things: jeans, Coca-Cola, atomic weapons.
The story of birth and death.
The story of the prom (school, college, institute).
The story of your first money.
History of an orange from Morocco.
The story of a man with a gray beard.
The story of a waiting woman.
The story of the first time I bought (furniture, phone, plane tickets).
The history of summer holidays.
The story of a book on a dusty shelf.
The story of a forgotten children's toy.
The story of the first friendship.
The story of one chimney (ax, chisel, clay pot, horseshoe).

A novel from a plotless text

It would seem, what could be a work from a text in which there is no coherent plot? However, the history of world literature of the XX century knows many examples, if not absolutely plotless works, then those in which the plot is weakened, and history plays a secondary role. As a rule, we are talking about serious (high, high-quality, intellectual) prose. Such works include The Ullis by James Joyce, The Game of Classics by Julio Kartassar, The Khazar Dictionary by Milorad Pavich, texts by Marcel Proust, The School for Fools by Sasha Sokolov, The Complaint Book by Anton Chekhov. It is also appropriate to recall autobiographical novels and travel notes, works based on the thoughts and reasonings of the author.
Accordingly, a full-fledged work can be obtained from a series of essays, united by a common idea, a theme that sounds powerful in every single unfailing fragment. As an option: first-person narrative, discussion of time, generation, current historical moment, human nature - and all this, of course, should be a little bit flavored with scenes from life, observations of what is happening. The result is what the literary critic Boris Tomashevsky calls a "journalistic" and actually a "plotless novel."
The main thing at this stage is to sit down and write without breaking away, giving free rein to your imagination, for there are no barriers between the author and a sheet of paper: here he is a full-fledged master, able to create life on Jupiter and derive the formula of immortality. Write bold, you will surely succeed!