The Narrative Arc as a Skeleton for Fiction.

Catherine Kowalczyk By Catherine Kowalczyk, 12th Sep 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Textbook

This How To Guide is meant as an informative article that can help any inspiring authors to create a piece of fiction. The narrative arc is a literary device that acts as a skeleton for any fiction to follow.

What is a Narrative Arc?

The narrative arc is the skeleton that fiction is built upon. It is used in most Western Literature to create short stories, novels and scripts. Aristotle first mentioned the structure in Ancient Greek Drama when he stated that a story needs to have a beginning, a middle and an ending.

Nowadays, most modern stories are built on a structure that was first introduced by a German novelist and dramatist by the name of Gustav Freytag. This narrative arc (also known as a dramatic arc) was introduced in 1900 and follows the journey a story must follow in order to be considered a success.

There are six stages that a successful story goes through in order to produce a whole story with an introduction, climax and resolution. The first stage is the introduction which is sometimes known as an exposition. The second stage is the inciting incident. The third stage is the rising action. The fourth stage is known as the climax. After the climax you have the falling action in the fifth stage before moving on to the last stage known as the resolution or denouement.

This particular guide applies mainly to the short story market. However the same principles can be applied to any type of fiction writing including a novel or a script.

The Introduction.

This is the point in the story where the author must sell their story to the reader. Every single sentence counts and needs to draw the reader in so they will want to continue reading.

In order to sell your story to the reader is to be able to show instead of telling. Through actions and emotions you are showing the reader what your characters are like. For instance a shaking hand tells the reader that the character is nervous far better than by saying the character is nervous.

Not only is the introduction the selling point in a story, but it also acts as a place to show the characters and the world they live in before the story truly begins to kick off. It here that the reader is introduced to the main characters and the world they live in. If the story is set in the past then it is here that the time is explained.

The Inciting Incident.

The inciting incident is where the story begins to take off. It is where the action takes place that changes the world of the characters. The inciting incident is also the catalyst for each consequence to follow.

Sometimes an inciting incident can change the world for the better or change the world for the worse. No matter what change the author decides to create, each character needs to react to the change and take action to resolve it.

Rising Action.

After the inciting incident, the characters need to react and begin to show ways in which to resolve the changes that have taken place.

A short story only needs to have one inciting incident and one rising action. However longer pieces of fiction have many different rising actions as different characters take different steps in order to resolve the conflict that the inciting incident has caused.

The Climax.

All of the actions that characters have taken after the inciting incident leads to a climax. This is the one point in the story where things come together for example in a horror story or fantasy story the climax is the one battle that is to determine the outcome of the story.

It is important to stress that this is not the end of the story but instead this is the middle where each action taken so far has led to a single moment in time.

The Falling Action.

After the climax of the story, things begin to wind down a bit. For every action taken there needs to be a consequence. The falling action is the consequences of the climax where each character reacts to the changes in their life or world.

The Resolution or Denouement.

Finally toward the end of the story everything comes to a conclusion. Sometimes this part of the story can take place in an epilouge allowing the reader to see further into the future. However this is not always the case and most of the time the resolution is simply the conclusion where the reader learns how the story has changed the lives of the characters.

Try Using the Narrative Arc.

By using the steps listed above you can guarantee that you are following the structure to complete a good piece of work. Not only can you use it for your own work but also read other pieces of fiction by your favourite authors to see how the narrative arc is used in their fiction.

To become a better writer you need to become a good reader first and so try looking for this literary device in your favourite authors and then use the narrative arc to write like the best.


Drama, Education, Fiction, Guides, Literature, Narrative, Novel Writing, Script Writing, Short Story Writing, Writing Skills, Writing Tips

Meet the author

author avatar Catherine Kowalczyk
I enjoy writing horror and fantasy stories. I also enjoy writing articles and essays on history and literature.

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author avatar Etc.
13th Aug 2014 (#)

A general guide for writers. Have to know the basics before you experiment. Even then, if you want readers, you'll probably stay close to this format.

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