Writing Fiction - Part II is here.
What structure must you follow in writing your fiction? There are no hard and fast rules, a lot of talented authors just sit down in with their feather quill, biro pen or word processor and produce masterpieces. A lot of successful stories follow a standard structure. Carolyn Wheat defines it as the Four-Arc System for Organizing your Novel.
Basically, the structure starts off with a Ten Minute Hook, which is an opening scene that is similar to a very short story and gets the reader's attention. It is like a quick look in the book's world and sets the tone for what is coming. I noticed this is also done in movies. It could be a scene from the past or a different location and makes you wonder what this has to do with the overall story, it becomes clearer as the story unfolds and reaches its climax.
The book is divided into four parts or Arcs with each Arc having a specific purpose.
The First Arc sets up the problem, the event that gets the story started. The book characters are introduced here. The characters' needs, quirks and conflicts are also established. The subplot is started. No flashbacks are allowed in the first Arc, the reader is only told what he must know. You end the First Arc one with a crisis, a scene that changes everything and sends the main character pursuing a new goal.
The Second Arc. Flashbacks are allowed here but only to emphasize the present. The main character takes one step forward and two steps back towards his goal. Each gain leads to a bigger loss. The subplot deepens. Character conflicts start and grow. A deadline is set where all would be lost if not reached on time.
Arc Two ends with feelings of desperation and helplessness. The character changes his approach from reactive to proactive, from emotionally detached to passionately involved. The character can only move forward with full force.
The Third Arc has a quicker pace. Sentences are shorter and action packed. The story moves into overdrive. Events come together; subplots are resolved in the end. The character's need to reach his goals increases greatly with every step forward. The deadline gets closer and closer. The character is challenged and learns and grows from his experience for the ultimate confrontation.
The Third Arc ends with a crisis, either the lowest point possible or a life and death confrontation to solve the problem.
The Fourth Arc is the grand finale, the confrontation between good and evil and only one will remain standing. Subplots are resolved and support the main plot. The character undergoes internal and external transformation. Something he might not have done at the beginning of the story, he would do now after learning from his experiences and becoming a better person inside and outside. Introduce an ending situation that brings the story to a full circle with the beginning if possible.
Looking back at the Arc structure described here, I can recognize a lot of excellent books and Television episodes that follow that same pattern. I especailly like the part where when Evil has been vanquished, the last scene shows that Evil still exists, weakened, defeated but starting again in a full circle just like the start of the plot.