Tag Archives: the last quarter of the story arc

Crafting the final act #amwriting

In this series on the construction of the novel, we have discussed creating a strong opening act, and a powerful, electrifying middle. So, let’s talk about the all-important fourth quarter of the story arc—the final act.

At this point, the enemy’s plans are in place. Our protagonists have met the enemy and survived the encounter, but now they know they may not prevail.

If your work is not speculative fiction or fantasy, perhaps they’ve suffered a terrible personal setback.

Regardless of the genre, at the outset of the fourth quarter, the protagonists are at their lowest point both physically and emotionally. From the midpoint crisis forward through the third quarter, major events have funneled the players down the path to the final conflict. Now, they are scrambling, working against time and perhaps, with fewer resources than the antagonist.

In these chapters leading up to the conclusion, the protagonists have been pressed to the breaking point. Now they are at the end of their journey. They must rediscover their courage, find a reason to continue the fight, resolve the loose ends, and appear at the final showdown ready to do battle.

If you were not careful in the setting up the events that form the middle of the narrative, the story could fall apart here. Listen to your beta readers’ comments: even in your third draft, you may have to insert new scenes into the existing narrative to drive the action to the final conflict.

  1. At the outset of the 4th quarter, all subplots are resolved, and the final focus is on the enemy’s move.
  2. The enemy’s plans and their true nature must be shown.
  3. Someone who was previously safe may be in peril. Perhaps their fate hangs on a thread, and the outcome is unclear.
  4. The protagonists must face the fact that their efforts have forced the enemy’s hand in a way they never expected.
  5. Your protagonist may achieve their goal, but they will pay a heavy price for it, and return home changed for good or for ill.

If your editor asks you to write new scenes to get a flat story arc back on track, and you agree it’s needed, your task is to blend the new material into the existing story.

  • You must go back and insert foreshadowing in earlier passages, and some otherwise great passages that now go nowhere will be cut.

This is most important: any event that does not drive the plot to the end is a distraction. All side quests are being wrapped up at this point so don’t introduce any new plot threads. Emotions are key–of course for the characters, but also for the reader.

  • The higher the emotional stakes when the protagonist meets the antagonist for the final showdown, the more emotionally satisfying the final resolution will be for the reader.

The resolution should be final, with no loose threads. Cliffhanger endings aggravate readers who don’t want to wait a year for the rest of the story, so even if your book is the middle volume of a series, give the reader some reward for their faithfulness, and resolve most of the subplots.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under writing

#amwriting: the end: separation anxiety

Map of Neveyah, for RizAeroNothing is more difficult (in my opinion) than finishing a novel that has been stalled for three years. My current work in progress has been through three different incarnations.

Two other books have been published during this time because  I couldn’t find a satisfying way to end this chapter in the history of Neveyah.  Perhaps it is a case of separation anxiety, but for one reason or another, it has never gotten to the true finish line.

My current focus is on finishing the final draft of this novel and getting it submitted to my editor. This book must wind up the Tower of Bones series, and it has to finish BIG.

While I am doing this, I confess I feel the same mix of feelings as I did when my youngest child left home–a sense of loss combined with pride and the thought that freedom looms.

4th qtr of MSSo let’s talk about the all-important fourth quarter of the story arc.

At this point in the story arc, the final plans are in motion. We’ve met the enemy part 1 and survived the encounter. We’ve suffered a terrible setback. Now we’ve regrouped.

In the third quarter, major events have unfolded that point to the conclusion. Based on my structural editor’s suggestions, I  inserted new scenes into the existing narrative that drive the action to the final conflict. Those are all finished and are where they should be.

  1. At the outset of the 4th quarter, all my subplots are resolved and the final focus is on the Dark God’s move.
  2. The Dark God’s final pawn in this game must be exposed to the reader.
  3. The enemy’s plan and their true nature must be shown.
  4. Someone who was previously safe is now in peril. Their fate hangs on a thread and the outcome is unclear.
  5. The heroes must face the fact that their efforts to preserve their homeland has forced the enemy’s hand in a way they never expected
  6. The resolution for these characters is final, no loose threads can be left at the end of this book, as it completes the trilogy.

My work right now revolves around taking the new material and blending it into the existing story. Foreshadowing must be inserted and some otherwise great passages will be cut. This is because anything that does not drive the plot to this end is a side quest, and there can be no more of those.

This means one whole storyline that took six months to write will be cut, but it’s not a waste. There will be more opportunities for writing in this world, and that storyline could become a novella. These are great characters and the villains are as intriguing as the heroes.

As I said at  the beginning of this post, I am seeing this novel coming together at long last, and I am loath to let go of it. But I am excited to see it coming to this conclusion and feel good about it, despite having to shed some of the work that took so long to write.

The events have been detailed. Making sure this story flows seamlessly is time-consuming but it’s my obsession, so poring over the manuscript is what I am doing when I could be playing games. (Hear that Aveyond Stargazer?)

The Story Arc copy

4 Comments

Filed under Publishing, writer, writing