The emotional arcs of storytelling, why you should use them and which one is best

 In Tutorial, Writing

Kurt Vonnegut says every story has a certain shape and many stories share the same shape.

These shapes can be found by tracing the ups and downs of the protagonist’s journey—or “the emotional arc” of the story.

Vonnegut defines the emotional arc of a story as a line plotted on the ‘Beginning-End’ and ‘Ill Fortune-Great Fortune’ axes. The “GI” axis, mathematically similar to the y-axis, places Ill Fortune, defined by Vonnegut as “sickness and poverty,” at the bottom and Good Fortune, “wealth and boisterous good health,” at the top. The “BE” axis, the equivalent of the mathematical x-axis, represents the beginning and end of the story.

This makes it sound more complex than it is, just watch the video and you’ll get it.

Clearly Vonnegut has his tongue in his cheek here – but there is a lot to be learned from this short clip.

What are your thoughts about story arcs? Let us know in the comments below.

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