The story arc, in all forms for story telling, contains the same essentials: the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Just as technological advancement has driven society into being digitally dependent, so have the complexities in screenwriting and novel writing, juggling multiple arcs within an episode or story to keep the reader’s attention. The following are a just a few simple, helpful tips in generating multiple story arcs while keeping the overall narrative in-tact.
Picture (or Google a picture) of an elder, oak tree. See how the branches, new and old, venture out and away into the unknown from the security and nourishment of the trunk. These branches, regardless of how far they extend, are still, and will always be, connected to their source (unless, they are cut off). This is a great image to plant in your mind when beginning to create additional plotlines within a narrative. Your branching storylines/arcs should always connect back to the overall plot/characters/conflict/resolution.
To have a strong trunk, consider the following:
- An author should have, at the least, an image or idea of what it is they intend to tell/entertain with the story.
- What’s the central point?
- Who are the central characters that drive from beginning to end?
- How will the overall conflict and resolution unfold?
- Having a central plot intact, how can new characters alongside those central ones begin to develop a story within their own that fuels/feeds the primary one unfolding?
Once the primary storyline has been established and subsequent plotlines begin to emerge from other characters, a writer should begin generating connections back to central characters and/or the overall plot. Use Truby’s Iceburg Opponent; Every story has an opponent surrounded by supporting characters. It is typically within these supporting characters that we generate supplementary story arcs. Remember, that at the center of any, or each of these, “extras” should be the ambiguous opponent.
With each branch off the central plot, it is a good idea to keep some kind of outline, or storyboard, that help track the various questions of who, what, when, where, how, and why in the story. Each of these should come back to the central characters (hero/heroine/opponent) at some point. Tracking each visually, on either a storyboard or in an outline, makes it easier to either generate ideas or find connections back to the central story.
Most aspiring writers understand that modern society requires a bit more complexity than previous generations have experienced. It doesn’t mean there isn’t still an art and attraction to one-dimensional stories. Consequently the era which we live in, with the constant exposure to virtually everything the internet has to offer, has created a space in which writers are challenged with the task of expanding their own minds, ideas, and creativity into a realm that will connect, and challenge readers in ways our own antiquated societies could never have imagined or foreseen. The good part is that writers can and should still draw from the fundamentals that classical literature provides in the central storyline, then utilize new aspects of an ever-evolving communities of screenwriting and novel writing to expand the persistent changes in creating multiple story arcs within a script or narrative, as well as the best methods to inter-weave those plots back to the central story. And just like always, keep writing!