How To Structure A Story Arc (w/ Anime Examples)

In this article, we discuss ideas regarding how to structure a story arc along with examples in classical literature and modern anime.

The Importance of Structure & Meaning in a Story

A story arc is the chronological sequence of events in a given story. Generally, a story arc has the following:

  • Exposition
  • Rising Action
  • Climax
  • Falling Action
  • Denouement

A story must contain and adhere to five elements to pique the audience's interest.

You don't want your stories to be redundant or too simple. Instead, you want your stories to serve an overarching theme in the grand plot.

Many times, storytellers like to embed a short story arc within another story arc to keep things interesting for the audience. The majority of the stories are classified as long or short. A story arc can flesh out minor or significant characters by revealing them from another circumstantial perspective.

Short stories are typically used to maintain interest in a character and the narrative's intensity.

How To Structure A Story Arc: 5 Stages of a Quality Story

The Exposition is the beginning of the story, where the characters are introduced, the audience sees their current life, and the setting where the story takes place. In other words, the story is setting everything up for a full-fledged plot. Sometimes at this stage, there is a major conflict or a problem that arises between the characters that help advance the future story.

Rising Action: A series of events are added that complicate the situation for the main character and increase the uncertainty and tension of the story. There can be a development of conflict between characters or a social environment. Most importantly, it contains a series of surprises or difficulties the main character must face.

The Climax: This is the point of greatest tension or turning point in the plot arc. The characters are deeply involved in the conflict and the main character must find a way out of a critical situation, which will guide his future actions at the climax.

The Action Begins: Events unfold in the story immediately after the climax. There is tension that leads to a solution. At this stage, you can show how the characters have changed because of the conflict.

End of the Story: This is when all problems have reached their resolution.


Example 1 - Little Red Riding Hood

Narrative chronology can be applied to almost any work, including literature, films, television series, and anime.

For example, you can use R. H. Anderson's "Little Red Riding Hood" as an example of a story arc.

The reader learns from the exposition that the girl lives in a village near the forest and visits her grandmother with a basket of goodies. She promises not to deviate from the path and not to approach strangers.

Nonetheless, in the ascending action, the girl is idle and converses with the wolf, forgetting about the promise she made, while revealing her destination to the wolf. After hearing the details, the wolf walks a short distance through the forest, eats the grandmother, and pretends to be her.

Little Red Riding Hood is pitted against the wolf in the climax. She seeks assistance in a hopeless situation.

The villain is defeated at the convergence stage, where the hunter rescues the grandmother.

Little Red Riding Hood learns a life lesson from her mistake.

Example 2 - Bleach

The popular Japanese anime has 16 seasons and many additional short stories within the plot, which began in 2004 and ended in 2012. The anime's peculiarity is that some of the arcs appear at the most unexpected times, completely deviating from the main story. Ichigo Kurosaki, the main character, discovers the ability to see ghosts, communicate with them, and resist the evil spirits known as the Void.

When the hero meets an unexpected visitor, the ascending stage begins. Because she is a reaper, the miniature woman is equally surprised. This is the beginning of the cult story.

However, "Bleach's" additional story arcs are extensive. Ichigo, for example, gains his unique Soul Reaper abilities, revealing details about other characters' past lives. The hero learns new skills, makes difficult decisions, and becomes involved in amazing stories. Screenwriters unintentionally deviate from the norm, discovering the ordinary from unexpected angles.

Example 3 - Van Peace

The general plot of this anime, which has long been regarded as one of the best in Japanese history, is simple to follow and understand. In addition to being simple, it follows all stages of development and has many branches. "Van Peace" starts slowly and is not appealing to fans of complex twists and confusing stories. Nonetheless, a feature of popular anime is the plot's consistent quality, which maintains and improves with each line.

It starts with how Luffy, the universe's main character, persuades his teammates to join him on pirate adventures where they will encounter other pirates and their demons.

"Van Peace's" secondary story arcs are chosen to confront the characters' problems. For example, a Fishman Island branch told viewers a tragic story about racism. Water 7's dynamic arc transports you on a rollercoaster-like ride.

Here are resources I recommend to get more in-depth knowledge

Storytelling 101 teaches you how to write compelling stories worthy of commercial success. This is best for screenwriters, novelists, filmmakers, videogame writers and storytellers.

Children’s Books 101 teaches you how to write stories that children will love. This is best for aspiring children’s book authors and storytellers.

Owl AI is the revolutionary AI-powered content production platform that helps storytellers, writers, and bloggers of all subject matter easily create highly-polished content.

Success, Money & Mindset Subliminal is a self-hypnosis recording that we recommend to new writers to help with focus, concentration, creativity, and motivation.

Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.


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