Oct 25, 2008

WaHoo! I'm Here Again with a Story Arc

By Christine Thackeray

Okay, you may have noticed that I missed my assignment to blog here two weeks ago. I suppose I could have pre-blogged, although I haven't figured out yet how to time delay posting, if I had remembered but the truth was 100% of my extra brain cells were focused on preparing for my presentation for the writer's retreat at Silver Lake.

I know you've probably already read about it but I'll still add my two cents. The facility was beautiful, a nice place right on the lake. I rode up from the Portland area with three friends who all left heavy family responsibilities behind to spend a weekend playing- we felt like Thelma and Louis, a little.

Liz was the first person to greet us. She is so gracious- that's how I'd describe her- incredibly gracious. Then Anna Arnet welcomed us who came all the way from Arizona. She kept me in stitches the whole weekend. We met so many incredible women with bright ideas and a love of sharing them that I hated to go to sleep each night, afraid to miss a single second.

My presentation was on the building blocks of a good story and I covered among other things the basics of a story arc. A story arc is the spine of your story and is based on the center conflict. Within the first few pages, the main character should be clarified and if the conflict hasn't exploded, it should at least be hinted at. Then as the story progresses, obstacle after obstacle is thrown at your character. Finally when all seems lost (the great BLACK MOMENT), the protagonist much reach beyond himself and grow in order to achieve the final outcome.

There are millions of story arc variations and I suppose that many books don't even use this formula but a majority do and the reality is after writing a story, if you try to simplify your plot to these basic elements, you can sometimes improve your story considerably. Case in point, my own work in progress. I'm writing the next visiting teaching adventure and I keep being too nice to Lindsay. The darkest I'll go is DARK GRAY- I like her too much. At writer's group on Thursday Julia pulled me out on the carpet. She told me that I had to just let it go and sob while I typed because Lindsay has to hit the wall.

Okay, so I did it yesterday. Lindsay fell as far as a young mother can and today I'm up early, excited to get her out of this mess. Actually, she gets herself out of it. But that's another story.


  1. Christine, getting to meet you was one of the big highlights of the retreat at Silver Lake. you're right on all counts. Beautiful country, nice lodge, lovely weather, even though it chilled me almost constantly. Best of all were the wonderful, talented sisters. I got a lot out of your presentation, and completed reading your book before I left Washington. I presume the sequel will be even more exciting to read.

    I'm still working on my autobiography, and am wondering if I should make up some more things to throw at myself, or simply exaggerate the ones I've had. Well, I'll worry about that when and if I get all my memories recorded. So far I'm clear up to 1956.

    Thanks again for the post, and I hope to see you at the convention. You're awesome.

  2. Woohoo!!!! I can't wait to read your black moment Christine - I am sure it is amazing - I might even cry over it (which I do from time to time, heh). Your presentation at the retreat was fabulous and I love what you shared about story arc - I know it will make me a better author and others as well.

  3. Christine,

    I've always enjoyed your posts. Now that I can put a face (and vibrant personality) to the name, it's a double treat when I see your name on something to read.

    Your class was great. I need to take it again because with my sieve of a brain, lots has slipped through.

  4. Christine,
    I so wish I could have attended your retreat! Thank you for sharing your information and inspiration. I do hope we get to meet soon!


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