Posted by: krpooler | June 27, 2010

Building an Arc


No, I’m not talking about Noah’s wooden ark of biblical times built to rescue all the animals from the flood. I’m talking about the “narrative arc” of current times built to rescue my story and keep it afloat . It seems that navigating the changing waters of the current publishing industry leaves a new writer like myself feeling like I understand Noah’s dilemma, not much different than scaling a mountain. In order to build this arc, I have to have  a framework..

How many times have you been told, you really need to write a book or your life is a story to be told? Speaking for myself, since I started getting serious about this writing journey, I have learned over and over again that there is a huge chasm between wanting to  write my memoir and actually doing it.

Christian speaker and novelist,Gail Gaymer Martin talks about some  essential elements of a story: Plot, Character; Tone; Setting; Theme. In order to move the story along we need conflict, action and resolution. And, I am told, a memoir needs to read like a novel with all these elements in place.

Author Adair Lara lists the following elements of a narrative arc in the July/August 2010 edition of Writer’s Digest magazine (pp 35- 37):

* “The Desire Line- I want  to

* Actions and Obstacles– What I do to get it..

* Emotional Beats- How these events feel..

* The Initiating Incident– The turning points…

* The Ending Incident- The end of the arc” …(pp 35-37)

So writing my memoir is not so much about the events in my life-after all we all have stories to share- but rather how I build my story, starting with the framework. It will all be in the telling and since it is my story, the task is all mine..

What kind of arc will you build to tell your story?


  1. I think it must be hard to arc your own story. I mean, if memoir is at least loosely based on what really happened, how does one tweak What Really Happened to accommodate the arc? And isn’t it fun, writing? Sometimes the members of my memoir group just look at each other wryly and say, “Good luck.”

    • Hi Lynne,
      Yes, I do think it is a challenge to develop one’s life events into a story but I’m told it must be written in a way that others will feel compelled to read it, like a novel. How many times do we feel like our lives are a “soap operas” ..yet we all have challenging what makes the story unique??..Anyway, that’s my challenge ..tell a story that is interesting enough that someone else would want to keep reading it..TBA!


  2. I’m with Lynne on this one, Kathy — I can’t fathom arcing my own story! Guess that’s what makes us writers unique, tho — different strokes for different folks! I’d think you’d need a LOT of sticky notes to keep track of what you want to say, and where you want to say it. Sometimes it’s like that with fiction, too, only there, we writers get to live in “two worlds”!

    • Yes, Deb, it certainly is a challenge to pick and choose the pertinent memories that fit into the story. In many ways, the story reveals itself as I keep writing .I have found that I may start writing one memory and three other ones I hadn’t even thought of pop out and I am taken in a whole new direction. It seems to develop a life of its own. I guess the key is to keep writing and it will all work itself out eventually. Write on!

  3. Hi Kathy,
    Another thought-provoking post which relates to where I’m at with my memoir: Whether to keep on writing the stories in my first draft and sort them out later or take the time now to organize them into an overall plot/narrative arc? Pruning the stories to accomodate the arc of the story you’re trying to tell vs all the stories you could tell is my biggest challenge now. I will read that issue of Writer’s Digest for help. Thanks, Ruth

    • Ruth,

      I think the WD article was very helpful..we can still write out lots
      of scenes but at some point we have to shape it into a story and I think it does make sense to develop a framework ahead of time to fit the scenes into. I agree, memoir writing is quite a challenge. Thanks for your comments.


  4. Hii Kathy,

    Writing sounds like way too much work, to me anyway. I imagine all those steps deter lots of people from writing their stories. Now, my brother’s CATMAN series has lots of history and humor, but certainly no polish, and only family might enjoy. I have to hand it to you for doing things the right way, no matter how difficult!


    • Louise,

      Yes, I agree, writing is hard work and one must have a real passion to pursue it. I would love to see more of your brother’s stories. You can self-publish it for the family and it would be a treasure. Thanks for your comments!


  5. P.S.

    Who is this Debbie above, who looks like she has my Simon at her side?

    • Hi Louise: I’m Debbie! Kathy and I met at a writers’ conference in Cincinnati (did I spell that right — I’m forever questioning whether it has two n’s or one, two t’s or one??) Anyway, that’s my darling doggie Dallas beside me. Do I take it you have a Sheltie, too? If so, hey, I’m glad to meet you!

    • Hi Debbie and Louise,

      I’m glad you two have met through ,Dallas and Simon. Simon is definitely one of our best buddies and I’m sure I’d feel the same way about Dallas if we met.
      Our furry friends are so wonderful!


  6. Hi Kathy! Perhaps your neurons have a specially prepred shield…nerves of Steel along with your pursuit! What should be the diameter of the ‘story circle’? How wide the arc should be? I guess, the purpose of writing the book, what my readers get to see where do I take them, that decides the dimension. Yes, the article written by Adair Lara does help us. Added to that info, the solid advice and guidance will come from Linda Joy. I had a good relaxing laugh when Lynn writes,”And, isn’t it fun to write”?

    • I love your “nerves of steel” description about writing, many challenges, so much to learn . We MUST learn to have fun along the way and enjoy the journey! Thanks for your comments


  7. Hi Debbie,

    Yes, I have, Simon, he’s 3 now, and he’s a big Sheltie, who people will often think is a small collie. He looks just like Dallas. Kathy and Wayne took care of his when we went on vacation in March. He loved being on their farm. Aren’t they wonderful dogs!

    • No wonder they look alike to you! Dallas, too, is 3 (will be 4 in November!), and he, too, is on the big side. He measures 15″ but he’s a LOT of dog — sturdy in bone structure and profuse of coat. He’s by far the best dog I’ve ever had — so smart, responsive, and fun to be around. And he’s soooo purty!!

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