Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Developing the Narrative Arc

In 1996, successful author and writing instructor, Nigel Watts, published Writing a Novel and Getting Published (part of the “Teach Yourself” series). The book quickly became a standard for writers worldwide. The book is filled with skill building exercises that walk an aspiring author through the process of developing a story idea, developing plot, characters and theme, and marketing the completed novel to agents and publishers.

It was in this guide that he identified the 8-point narrative arc, a method for structuring a story. The eight points are as follows:

1.          Stasis — the start of the story showing the characters in everyday life

2.          Trigger — the inciting incident that sets the story in motion

3.          The quest — the answer to “What does the character want?”

4.          Surprise — a series of events that make the main character’s goal harder to achieve

5.          Critical choice — the point at which the character makes a significant choice or sacrifice in order to accomplish the goal

6.          Climax — the point at which the tension of the story reaches its highest peak; when the goal is met

7.          Reversal — consequences from the critical choice permanently change the main character

8.          Resolution — after all conflicts are resolved, a new point of stasis is achieved

Notice that some elements of this exercise are similar to those in the Hero’s Journey and some are similar to those in Freytag’s Pyramid. In the next post I’ll discuss how to merge all these plot elements into the three-act structure.

All of the brainstorming exercises described in this blog series can be found in my Scrivener template on Google Drive at
For non-scrivener users, Personal Noveling Assistant (PNA) pages are at

For more about my stories, check out my author page at


  1. Hi - I came across this from a friend sharing it. Great job. However, the Google Docs link doesn't work for me. Can you check it? this looks lik a good resource to keep handy in Scrivener.

    Joe M.

    1. Ah, I thinnk I see the issue. There is an ending slash (and period I think) in the URL that is not part of the filename.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Replies
    1. Gosh Dang it! I hate typos. I've fixed the author page address. Thanks for letting me know.