For this week, I wanted to begin a new series of articles inspired by the most recent podcast “JUST DO IT!”. Part way through our discussion, the topic of creating stories came up and I, quite clumsily, tried to explain the theory of narrative circles and arcs as told by Dan Harmon, creator of Community, Rick and Morty and the YouTubeRed show, Good Game, which was released mid last year.
As my way of inspiring and encouraging webcomic creators to have more confidence in their stories, I brought up the idea that an audience innately knows when they are experiencing a good story as it follows a certain structure even if the story isn’t necessarily “unique”. We, on a basic level, search for and recognise patterns. And this is where we begin.
Dan Harmon explains in his article on Story Structure 101: Super Basic Shit” that a story begins when you take a circle, divide it in half vertically and then again horizontally. You then place the numbers one to eight in a clockwise direction and viola! You have your structure.
From there you begin to work your way around to come full circle.
I offer no apologies for that.
Mr Harmon describes the structure thusly:
“1. A character is in a zone of comfort,
2. But they want something.
3. They enter an unfamiliar situation,
4. Adapt to it,
5. Get what they wanted,
6. Pay a heavy price for it,
7. Then return to their familiar situation,
8. Having changed.”
Or to make it simpler:
“1. When you
2. have a need,
3. you go somewhere,
4. search for it,
5. find it,
6. take it,
7. then return
8. and change things.”
This is your basic level theory on Dan Harmon’s narrative arc and I highly recommend you go read the rest of his article on how he structures story as there is some very interesting ideas he expands on that can help add layers to your work. Plus, you may need it for next week’s article for I’ll be going into “Arc-ception – A Circle, Within a Circle, Within a Circle.”
In the meantime here’s some homework. Look at your story as it is now. Can you apply the Circle of Arcs to your narrative? If not, think about if doing so would strengthen it. Let us know how you go! Till next time!
Emma_Clare at 12:00AM, March 9, 2018
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