The Shape of Stories

My week of teaching Writing Camp is at an end and I’m tired! It was a lot of fun but that much brain work makes me want to sleep for a week.

One of the topics we covered was The Shape of Stories and story graphs. Here’s a terrific talk by the great Kurt Vonnegut on the subject.

Now whether you chart your plot with a ‘happiness’ X-axis or an ‘action’ X-axis, it’s important to give some thought to the shape of your story.

Here’s the classic version of the plot graph, with Excitement/Action replacing Happiness on the vertical axis:


In a 3-act structure, Act I would end at the top of that first hillock, and Act II would end in the last valley before the rise to the climax. Of course there’s no limit to how many roller coaster dips there are along the way, but you certainly want to save the highest point for the climax of your story.

If you are working on a story right now, how would it look as an Action or Happiness Graph?

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