As writers, we’re always told to keep our eye on the arc of our story, making sure it rises and rises until we get to the climax and then, whoosh, back down the hill we go toward our stunning, unexpected-yet-right ending. Most of the time, during the writing, it feels like we’re rising and rising and rising and rising and, oh, c’mon, we’re still rising, I’m running out of momentum here, story, and this hill is going to kill both of us, I just want to get to the whoosh! already… Well, what if you did get to maybe not the whoosh but a whoosh, a little bit of downward slope that let you regain your momentum to get up the next stretch? What if instead of one, long arc upward toward the climax, you instead laid in little plateaus where you could catch your breath and muster your strength? And what if these little plateaus let you make the most out of the important moments of your story? Pretty great, right? Well, that’s what we’ll be talking about: taking a page from the best of television (and a number of novels and stories), we’ll look at “episodic” structures that build one main arc out of a bunch of little arcs, discuss what these structures give us as writers, and even how to start building them into your existing work (it’s easier than you might think).
Eric Rampson is a Chicago-based writer who spent almost 20 years studying, performing, and teaching improv comedy before getting his MFA in Fiction from The MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. His fiction has been published in Change Seven Magazine, The Matador Review, Typishly, Metonym, The Gateway Review, Leaf~Land Journal, and Broad River Review. His novel-in-stories Always Already and story collection Hazards are currently looking for good homes while he works on his new novel.
Eric will accept manuscripts for critique. Please see manuscript guidelines on our website.
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