The Narrative Arc

Here is this week’s reading on the narrative arc.

Read through the material. Then take a look at this multimedia presentation on the same material.

To what extent is the narrative arc universal? Is it the same in all literature, regardless of cultural origin or genre? Post a comment to these questions as part of our formative assessment for this week. Post your thorough and succinct comment by August 26, 2012.

Author: alavina

Cognitive Coach and author. I simplify personal power so you can use mental resources and find pathways to your goals, be more productive and feel in control every day.

14 thoughts

  1. A narrative arc for me is a systematic way on which we use to analyze a text of a novel. The fact that each novel has its own way of running their plot indicates the distinctive character on which the narrative arc of different novels occurs. For me, the extent on which a narrative arc is universal is a differential thing. Because some novels’ story line goes in the same direction in terms of their way on which their plot runs and some don’t, there may be some similarity and differential comparison between the narrative arcs to be universal to a certain extent. Therefore, my view on narrative arcs is that they don’t essentially have to be similar in every extent, but the way on which their structural formation are being formed are relevantly alike.

    By Pat R

  2. The narrative arc is extremely universal because every literature piece needs a beginning, middle, and ending. It doesn’t matter whether its fiction or nonfiction. The narrative arc is always present in a story. There is some tension or a rise and fall in the situation in a story. The suspense or the level of tension and conflict keeps the readers interested in the story. But in overall, there will always be a narrative arc in any story because every story must have a plot. In any country and genre, there always is a narrative arc. That’s why the narrative arc is universal.

    Regardless of the cultural origin and genre, the narrative arc is always the same. Same meaning that the format is the same, not the shape of the curve. The format is always the same since there is always a beginning, middle, and ending. There is always a conflict or some level of tension in a story. Every story has to undergo exposition, complication, climax, and resolution. These basic structures are always found in a story of any genre. So the structure of the narrative arc is always the same, while the curve/shape of the arc differs greatly from story to story and genre to genre.

  3. The narrative arc is universal in that it is the same in literature in most cultures and genres. Every book with events, happenings, or emotions can be portrayed through the narrative arc, despite the language or origin. Though not every book will have the same pattern in the arc, most plots can be transferred to it, whether it is illustrating emotion, tension, or conflict. Therefore, the narrative arc can be used to explain literature all around the world.

  4. The narrative arc is universal to the extent that nearly all stories follow a structurally similar curve, containing an exposition, composition, climax, and resolution. Stories of a certain genre or cultural origin, however, may have similar curves. A mystery, for example, may have a long composition, a high climax, and a short resolution. This might be true for many mystery stories. There are also certain narrative patterns that nearly all stories can be categorized into, for example solving a problem and personal growth.

  5. The narrative arc is used in many, and most, literature pieces that we have ever read. Even ordinary teenage novels follow the narrative arc in some way. 
    According to the given multimedia presentation, the narrative arc consists of 4 parts – exposition, rising action, climax, and the resolution. These 4 parts can be identified in any piece of literature – in Shakespeare’s writings such as Romeo and Juliet (written centuries ago), the Titanic (decades go), in Brave New World (decades ago), and the Hunger Games (a year ago), even. All of these stories – all from different cultural origins and genre – have all 4 parts of the narrative arc, or in simple words, they all have a beginning, middle, and an end, with a journey or series of conflicts and obstacles along the way. This shows how, regardless of any cultural origin and genre, the narrative arc is applied into literature of all time. 
    The narrative arc is universal, that is why we see it used everywhere – books, films, plays. If only a part of the narrative arc is not included, any story would just be weird. If a story starts at the rising action, it’d be like for you to start reading a book from chapter 5, without any background knowledge about what’s going on, who the characters are, what they are like. If a story does not have a climax or a peak point of a conflict, the story becomes boring. 
    A successful narrative arc requires action, and that’s what makes one successful. This is what determines the fun-ness of a story.

  6. To what extent is the narrative arc universal? It is in every story known to mankind. Every story has an exposition, raising action, climax and then a resolution. By having this, it makes
    a good story for people to read.
    Is it the same in all literature, regardless of cultural origin or genre? It is all the same, stories from every culture has the same basic lay out and no matter what genre it will still be the same format.

  7. The narrative arc works with most fictional stories. The stories are mostly written with the narrative arc, but it does not work with all literature. There are some literatures that do not apply the narrative arc to its story. An example is Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, it does not end with a happy ending. Literatures with different cultural origins may affect their plots. Most plots apply the narrative arc, but it is not the same for all literature. Some other literatures have different plot lines that do not follow the narrative arc.

  8. The narrative arc is universal to the extent that it works for virtually all literary genres regardless of culture or origin. Almost all literary genres (fiction, epic, tragedy…Etc.) has an exposition to introduce the characters, with the rising action, climax, and resolution as the plot. Since the beginning of this article, it has been made clear that plot is essential in the Narrative arc. So basically, the narrative arc works when you are writing with plot. However, many works in the slice of life genre does not really have a plot because they don’t really need a plot, exposition, complication, climax, and resolution to fit into the Slice of Life genre. Slice of life genre is about life being observed or is basically about everyday experiences. A story could want to present a character’s life as being in the state of equilibrium and that could be their story which also fits in to the Slice of life genre. However, a plot needs conflicts or obstacles for the audience to know about the theme and the main points of the work according to the narrative arc. So,the narrative arc does not work for some works in the slice of life genre so it is not the same in all literature.

  9. The narrative arc serves as a general guideline to ups and downs of events in most texts, therefore it can be said that the narrative arc is universal. In a narrative arc, the plot of a story follows a structured line/curve; exposition, rising action, climax, and resolution respectively. In literature with different types of genre or different cultural origin, the “curve” of the arc changes a bit. While it still contains exposition, rising action, climax, and resolution, different parts can be stretched. For example, a sci-fi fiction could have a longer exposition as they need to explain their times and setting thorough. A mystery kind of text would contain a longer rising action to match up to the high rising climax. This narrative arc is universal, but doesn’t mean it applies to every single literature out there.

  10. The universal of the narrative arc shows the levels of dramatic tension in a story. Throughout the narrative arc, starting from near the end of the exposition, it gradually shows the complication in the story, and as the arc goes rises, so does the complication and tension; in other words, the narrative arc revolves around complications. Regardless of its cultural origin or genre, the concept of the narrative arc is still the same, although the focus on certain parts of the narrative arc may be different (for different genre). For instance, in a narrative arc that we are using, it includes the exposition, complication, climax, and resolution, but whereas for the Greek tradition, the traditional narrative arc also includes exposition, rising action, and resolution. Another example is between literature and films, films tend to focus more on certain things than literature, since it needs to hook the audiences’ attention.This shows that although there are differences in the narrative arc in each cultural origin or genre, but in the end of the day, the concept of the narrative arc is to show the levels of dramatic tension in a story.

  11. The narrative arc can be seen as a universal concept. The occasion that the narrative arc becomes different, in other words, the exposition, complications, climax and resolution, is usually due to the author’s choice of abstraction rather than a reference to the literature’s origin. The narrative arc remains true for most cultures, with it, the plot or narrative patterns. For example, the plot involving star-crossed lovers that ends in a tragedy, didn’t only happen in the English Renaissance, but also in various cultures across Asia. The narrative pattern of a hero’s journey exists from western cultures to the eastern Ramayana. It can be seen that throughout the world, the same story is told over and over again, just that the character’s names may change due to cultural background. The method of conflict resolution is also altered depending on the cultural origin, for example divine intervention related to the Hindu Gods would be present for classical South and South East Asian plays. However, in spite of the cultural-related changes, the main picture usually remain the same, that is the narrative arc and pattern.

  12. The narrative arc follows “exposition yields rising action yields resolution”. This pattern covers most, if not all, literature regardless of culture and genre. Dramatic tension in plots in different stories rises up and returns to normal after the climax. The beginning, middle and end and the rising tension keep the readers engaged. Traditional stories such as fairy tales or folk tales from different cultures follow these elements. For example, Cinderella – a French fairy tale – follows this pattern as the setting is introduced and Cinderella meets the prince after complications with her evil step sisters resulting in a happy ending. The Ugly Duckling – a Danish tale – follows this pattern as the ugly duckling is introduced to the setting, has complications with other characters, and then returns as a beautiful swan, resulting in another happy ending. The Gingerbread Men, The Stonecutter, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Rapunzel, come from England, China, America and Germany respectively, and they all follow the narrative arc. Fairy tales contain flat characters and they have an exact type, while some other folk tales have round characters that resemble real human beings. Most fairy tales have happy endings, but some folk tales will have linear or tragic resolutions, showing the flexibility of the narrative arc in traditional tales. Even though these tales come from different time periods and cultures but they still follow the narrative arc. As time goes on, technology develops and cultures change, changing the literature of the time. As of the 20st century, literature with dystopian themes emerged. Even though there is change in culture and environment, the narrative arc is still relevant. For example, Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go follows Kathy H. in her setting, Hailsham, and her complications with friends and as a clone, and resulting in a linear resolution. More contemporary novels like these have round characters with more dimensions and do not have an exact type. Conflicts in literature, like themes, have also evolved through time. Traditional conflicts include Man vs Man, Man vs Nature and Man vs Self. Now, because of new psychological theories there are also man vs society, man vs technology, man vs alter ego and more, some of which are included in Never Let Me Go. From this we are able to see the flexibility of the narrative arc that can apply to different time periods. Because the narrative arc can fit so many texts and themes, each novel can follow the same pattern. The different characters, different settings, and different narrative patterns are elements that make each story unique.

  13. Whether we are reading a novel, watching a movie or reading through comics, each stories need to have a beginning, the middle and an ending (which are also known as the exposition, the rising action and the resolution), in the other word, it’s the narrative arc.

    The exposition is the beginning of the story, where the author will create setting, characters, and the mood of the story and introduce it to the readers, exposing the reader to the important information of the story. It is like a basic foundation to the story where the author will build up. Exposition and rising action doesn’t have a boundary. The rising action is when the complication starts to develop within the story. Those complications will develop until it reaches the peak, which is the climax, and then slowly the story reaches the ending part. The resolution is when the story’s coming to an end, where the ending is determined (whether it’s a comic, tragic, linear resolution or even denouement).

    Stories that have been passed down for many generations followed the narrative arc, but so do the newer stories and, very much, all literature. Folklores, mythology and more do also follow the same pattern. Three Kingdoms, which is a famous old Chinese literature, Greek mythology, or even fairytales all came from different parts of the world, but they all follow the three staged narrative arc – the exposition, rising action, and resolution. Even nowadays, sequel novels like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, as well as Percy Jackson follow the same arc. Characters in different stories face different problems and in the end, they may or may not accomplish it. Different stories have their own ways of approaching the readers’ attention. Characters are defined in two main types, flat or round characters. Most fairytales and some myths, characters do not change throughout the story, are called the flat characters. In the other hand, most literature, the characters change throughout the story, giving them a deeper dimension to the storyline (and can surprise the readers as well), these characters are more realistic.

    Literature shares the core of the narrative arc. Every story follows the same dynamic tension, exposition then to the rising action, follow by the climax and ends with the resolution. Without these elements, the stories will fall flat. Literature are varied, some can start off with a flash back in the past, some can skip to the future and tells the story from the character’s future perspective, or they can simply follow the present time. The bottom line is that, there are many ways to tell the story, but every one of them will have to follow the three stage narrative arc.

  14. The narrative arc represents dramatic tension in every story and it is universal because most literature pieces follow this pattern. As the story progresses, dramatic tension rises. It starts off with exposition; where characters,settings, and mood are introduced. Then the dramatic tension slowly rises up until it reaches the climax point and falls back to normal towards the resolution. Regardless of cultural origin or genre, the narrative arc is not fully the “same” in all literature. However, most literature are generally divided into four main parts, which are, Exposition, Complication, Climax, and Resolution. Different genres has different focus on the narrative arc. Some stories chose to focus on certain parts more than others, which makes all literature slightly different from one another. For example, Sherlock Holmes would have a longer rising action because the genre is mystery and it takes time for the detective to solve each clues until the whole mystery is solved, while other genres could have stretched other phases of the narrative arc. But at the end, every literature uses the same basic format to develop the story. The narrative arc acts like a journey in which events happen along the way throughout the whole story. By having the narrative arc, it helps us the reader to understand the meaning of the story deeper. It can also be found in every story which is why the narrative arc is universal.

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