Who knew furry little rodents were such experts on story arc? Take a look at the video below to see the foundational art of the three-act structure acted out to perfection!
This charming little story features almost all of the important tenets of a story arc:
- Begins with the main character (hereafter to be known as MC—which, coincidentally, also stands for mouse character). We immediately know who this story is about.
- Shows us the MC’s “happy world.” This is the life he has chosen to live, the life in which he’s reasonably comfortable and has no good reason to abandon.
- Shows us the MC in a “characteristic moment.” He’s a mouse; he wants cheese. What could be more characteristic than that?
- Starts with movement. From the first moment we see him, the MC is in action. No sitting around staring at the scenery for this critter.
- Includes only necessary information. No extra characters, backstory, or props clutter the scene. We only see what we need to know at the moment.
- Gives us a reason to care about the MC. Seriously, who’s not going to love a mouse who winks at us?
- Starts with the MC wanting something. From the very beginning the MC has a desire and a goal: the cheese.
- Ends with the the first major plot point. The MC’s status quo is changed forever with the sickening crunch of the mousetrap.
- Traps MC in a spiral of events outside of his control. The line of dominoes is in motion. He’s stuck in the mousetrap and anything he does from that point is affected as a result.
- Forces MC’s original goal out of his reach. The cheese is still there. He can still see it and probably still wants it on some level, but he can’t reach it.
- Gives MC new goals. The cheese is no longer the MC’s main goal. He still wants it, in the long run, but for now his primary desire is just to escape the mousetrap.
- Revives MC at the last moment. At the most dramatic moment possible, just as we think the MC is about to cave under the pressure, he bounces back.
- Transforms MC into a hero. He not only survives, he digs down deep inside, finds a spark of extraordinariness, and rises to the challenge.
- Forces MC to respond in a unique way. C’mon, now, admit it, “Eye of the Tiger” isn’t exactly what you were expecting.
- Allows MC not only to survive, but to triumph. We may have expected our mouse to escape with his life, but when he starts bench-pressing his defiance, that’s when he rises to become heroic.
- Shows MC defeating opponent. The mousetrap—and, by extension, those who set it—have been vanquished!
- Lets MC reach his goals. He reaches both his secondary and primary goals: he escapes and he gets the cheese.
- Ends with a memorable line. It’s the ending readers will remember, so make it unforgettable!
Backstory: The Importance of What Isn't Told
How to Write an Epilogue That Works
Click the “Play” button to Listen to Audio Version.
Story by K.M. Weiland