Story arcs

The purpose of a story arc is to move a character or a situation from one state to another; in other words, to effect change (thanks Wikipedia). The most popular type of story arc is the hero’s journey.

We all know this arc well. The Hero/heroine either wants to or is forced into action. But, she fails. She has to struggle and learn – ideally with a mysterious, yet powerful, teacher. Then, against all odds, she rises to victory.

Most epic movies, or trilogies, are based on the hero’s journey story arcs. We know exactly how these stories will end. And, yet, we’re drawn to the power of these arcs. Viral social media updates or videos are also a great example of these arcs. They inevitably involve someone going through the hero’s journey.

There are 3 key elements to getting the hero’s journey story arc right – a low point, a struggle followed by growth (typically with surprise sprinkled in) and a resolution of all prior conflicts. Get these right and you’ve gotten yourself an epic story.

So, why does it matter that we understand these arcs?

First, we’ll hopefully be less drawn to yet another hero’s journey click-attracting most on our favorite social media website. :-)

And, second, whenever we find ourselves crafting a story – in presentations, pitches and sales meetings – we’ll do well to remember the magnetic effect of a story arc.