The Eight-Point Arc

I mentioned earlier that I’m starting my novel over from scratch. And this is a good thing. It is really because now I feel that I’ve written enough scenes, done enough character-exploring, and thought and talked about my story enough to know how it starts, continues, and ends. Mostly.

You’ve probably all heard of the Three Act Structure by now, (but if you’re new to writing and haven’t, check out this page for a good diagram of it) but have you heard of The Eight-Point Arc? Me neither. I found it at this page on the DailyWritingTips website. The article is a quick sum-up of The Eight-Point Arc in Nigel Watts’ book, Teach Yourself Writing a Novel, a book that I’ve now added to my shopping cart. (A cheaper, used version, thank you very much!)

I’ve tried breaking my story down using the traditional three act structure several times now, but I always get stumped. I think I finally realized during my last attempt (20 minutes ago…) that it’s possibly because I’m writing a YA novel, and not an adult novel and a YA novel’s structure tends to be a little simpler; less subplots, etc. (I should note here that I’m not saying a YA novel itself is simple. Not at all. In fact, YA novels deal with incredibly loaded subjects on a regular basis, for a target audience that is simultaneously jaded and innocent. Simple? Not even!)

I decided to try the Eight-Point Arc instead. I opened up my giant sketchpad, brought out my markers, and wrote out numbered bullets for each point in the Eight-Point Arc:

  1. Stasis
  2. Trigger
  3. The quest
  4. Surprise(s)
  5. Critical choice
  6. Climax
  7. Reversal
  8. Resolution

I won’t go into the breakdown of each point here; I’ll let you go to Ali Hale’s article on the DailyWritingTips site for that. But I’ll tell you, putting a piece of my story at each point proved to me that I have a fully-functional plot (with a newly revised climax I came up with just last night). Now my next step is to break down each point with sub-bullets so I know the pieces and scenes that will make up each bigger piece. I’m thinking that if this was a school paper, it would be both easier to write and far less interesting. This… This is the good stuff. A story out of my own head, plotted however I want (until an editor eventually gets ahold of it)… Definitely good and definitely fun.

Good writing, everyone!


About thewritingblues

I'm a writer working on a YA dystopian novel and blogging on my progress - or lack thereof - and other cool writing stuff.
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7 Responses to The Eight-Point Arc

  1. vonzex says:

    I haven’t really encountered this arc stuff before and was wondering whether you consider it important? Is it just a theoretical model of the turns and twists a decent plot should take? I’m not sure I’d want to constrict my writing by following such a device, so I’m interested to hear your thoughts about it.

  2. thewritingblues says:

    That’s a really interesting question. I’m afraid I don’t have a straight answer, so thoughts it is! :)

    I learned about the traditional story arc – Rising Action/Climax/Falling Action – in high school and have never really liked it. I thought this was only because it was repeated so many times that I got a bit of an aversion to it, but I finally realized why I find it doesn’t work for me: it’s a little too abstract for my mind. I mean I get what the pieces mean, but it just doesn’t work when I apply it to my writing. There are other versions that are more specific, including multiple obstacles, etc. like the one I included in my post, but I still find those too abstract for me. So maybe I found myself gravitating towards the Eight-Point Arc because the language – stasis, trigger, quest, surprise, etc. – appeals to me. It’s more concrete and puts me in mind of the stories I studied in college and the stories I really love to read.

    As for whether it’s really necessary to use it…

    In that article I posted about the Eight-Point Arc, Ali Hale says that even the author said he doesn’t set up his books according to this arc; he only uses it as a guidepost when he feels something isn’t working. Which is how I’m finding myself using it. In addition to the character mapping and mental “research” I’ve done to learn about my characters and settings, I’ve already done tons of what I call “exploratory writing”: writing scenes that may end up in the novel later or that I have no intention of including but still helped me to learn something. But I’ve lately found that while all of this helps me learn about my book, it hasn’t helped me to figure out what my real story is. I had a lot of great little scenes but very little linking them up or making them interesting and riveting as a whole.

    For me personally, as much as I can’t think of it in these terms, I do think the basic story arc is valid: creating tension (rising action) leading to a shocking revelation or action (climax), which then falls away as loose ends are tied up (falling action). I think this has been around forever because it works and I feel that the Eight-Point Arc is just another way of looking at it. But it’s not the only way to do it: I’ve heard of novels with no structure that have done quite well. Not often, but it happens.

    So my advice would be: see what works for you. Maybe play around with some of the different arcs and structures. You may find your novel falling naturally into one of them, but if not? Who cares as long as it works!

    Hope this helps and thanks for reading!

  3. vonzex says:

    Very detailed reply! Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a lengthy one. You did a great job answering my abstract question.

  4. thewritingblues says:

    Ha! Once I started, I couldn’t stop. It really got me thinking.
    Thanks again for stopping in!

  5. vonzex says:

    You really, really know your stuff. I can already tell I’m going to learn a lot from you.

  6. thewritingblues says:


  7. Pingback: The Author Extension Community » The Eight-Point Arc by The Writing Blues

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