1. Gholin
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    Gholin Member

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    Stuck on Rising Action definitions

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Gholin, Dec 7, 2013.

    Hey everyone.

    I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the plot points/major elements of story structure. Rising Action throws me off, in particular. Does anyone know how much of the novel seems best to devote to this part of the story? Also, how do you know a series of scenes are rising in action? It's hard to measure levels of conflict, I find. I hear this term all the time regarding structure, but I never really know what it is comprised of. Any other advise for structuring my story and determining plot points and elements? Thanks for any help.
     
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You might have fallen into a bit of a trap here. You're being confused by terminology, when the terminology really isn't important. Just write your first draft. Your story won't be perfect in first draft form, but it gives you the material to work with. You'll be able to see where the narrative sags, what parts need to be strengthened, etc., without ever knowing about such "technical" terms as "rising action." I bet Hemingway never heard of "rising action." I bet someone like Samuel R. Delaney has, but doesn't give a crap about it. I took four courses from the Gotham Writers' Workshop and never heard the term "rising action."

    Don't get all hung up on trivialities. If the "How To Write" books you've been reading are getting in your way, ignore them. Write your story.
     
  3. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    Well, from a screenplay POV, the inciting incident happens in Act I, rising action, in Act II, climax and resolution in Act III. Reveals should be spaced out. However, some say the inciting incident should happen on pg 10, others pg 17, others still...

    In the novel I'm reading now, "One Hundred Years of Solitude," the inciting incident happens on pg 95-96 (the stuffing of the ballot box) and the passageway transition on pg 101.

    For my screenplay, I've got the skeleton and most of Act I mapped out and the resolution will be bitter sweet, rather than tragedy or happy ending. In fact, all ending in the trilogy are bitter sweet because my opinion is victories born out of tragedies work so well for me, case in point, "Braveheart" and "Gladiator" as two of them.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I second what minstrel has said, especially the bit about not worrying too much about technical terms.

    There's no right answer. It depends on the novel/story. To use an extreme example, you could argue that a lot of Chekhov's stories have no climax. He abruptly ends the story right before the interesting part. So the story is essentially all rising action. This approach worked very well for him.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Think of it as hiking to a mountain peak from some lower elevation. The summit is the climax of the story, and altitude is tension and intensity. As you travel to the peak, you gradually gain altitude. This remains true even if you cross a few gullies and depressions along the way. Over the entire story, you will ascend, but that doesn't mean you must be going uphill at every moment.

    In fact, it's generally a bad idea to try to ascend continuously without backing off occasionally. You'll fatigue the reader. Your intensity seems all the more powerful if it comes after a lull.

    But don't obsess over it. Most of it will happen on its own. It is only important to be consciously aware of it when you are fine-tuning your manuscript after the first draft is complete.
     
  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Gawd, if I worried about all the terminology and whether I'd followed the recipe properly, I'd never get a word written. Just tell your story, and let the English professors worry about the analysis bit.
     
  7. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    First of all, the term conflict, in writing for the printed word is better stated as tension, not as action.

    In general, here's the sequence: The protagonist begins the scene with a short term goal, one the reader is aware of:

    Charlie is headed for the post office to mail a letter that absolutely must get there on time. He's late but has ten minutes to get there and it's a three minute drive.

    Something happens to interfere with the goal:

    As Charlie leaves the house a neighbor calls him over, close to tears. She managed to lock herself out of the house while getting the mail, and her toddler is alone in then house.

    Notice that the reader, because they're aware of the scene goal doesn't have to be told the situation just became tense.

    The protagonist tries to get back on track but fails:

    Charlie tries the windows and back door, but no go. He knocks on another neighbor's door but no one is home. He glances at his watch. and tries another neighbor.

    He may try several things, but nothing works, tension continues to rise, and eventually, he fails and turns his attention on helping the woman. This is, from his POV, absolute disaster. And unless what happens in getting the woman help results in a new scene goal, which itself will fail, the scene is over and the details of how he helps are not worth reporting. But now comes what's often called the sequel, in which Charlie must decide what to do now that his plan has failed. He might try some other method of getting the paper where it belongs, but it must be something that's a bit riskier than the previous scene because "more of same," is boring. He will also have fewer options.

    And the next scene will have a scene goal, the introduction of steadily growing tension, and failure as a result, followed by the sequel and the start of the next scene. This will continue, with options narrowing and tension rising, till we reach the all or nothing point we call the climax.

    For a bit more on this subject you might check out the article I did on it, here.

    Hope this helps.
     
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  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'll just ditto minstrel... 'formula' terms/rules don't have to be followed by everyone... i'd be willing to bet the vast majority of successful novelists don't bother with such stuff... and following them doesn't guarantee a bestselling book or box office blockbuster film...
     
  9. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    Jay's suggestion is about right.

    In the arts, rules are truly suggestions that someone with chronic constipation sets forth so other writers will also admire and share the feeling it brings about. Those who cannot doo teach.
     
  10. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The only tension I felt there from your story is tension for the toddler in the house lol.

    Anyway, OP, just write the story and forget about the terminology. The truth is, when you find a scene boring, then it's probably time for some action (or a complete rewrite). If the building blocks (in this case, these terms and story-writing methods) aren't helping you build a story, then throw them out. There's more than one way of writing, and you can certainly still write well even without any knowledge of terms. Find the method that works for you.
     
  11. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    I say the opposite, to a degree. I say know the concepts. You don't need to know the exact definition, but know conceptually what they are. If you want a section to provide a reveal, know what reveal you want and keep it in mind when you write. Rising action/tension is more a pacing of reveals, twists, conflicts. They should increase in frequency and/or strength as the story progresses.
     
  12. Gholin
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    Gholin Member

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    Thanks, everyone. I was definitely getting hung up with the definitions. Your advice helped me get past the roadblock and just focus on writing :) It's not rocket science, it just seems like it when you want to write the best story you can. Thanks again!
     

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