Is Your Story’s Emotional Arc Tried and True?

Stacey Kite

Stacey Kite

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, one of my all-time favorite books, the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42. Like all of life’s best jokes, it’s funny because it rings so true. Everything in life can be described mathematically, as it turns out—even literature.

In February’s Scientific American, there was an interesting article, by Mark Fischetti, about a study on the emotional story arcs of novels. It turns out that the vast majority of stories fall into only one of six tried and true emotional arcs.

I had a lot of fun trying to decide which pattern my story fit best and even wondered if  using the article’s graphs as a reference during the brainstorming/planning stage of my next story, it might up the emotional impact. At least, I think it’s worth giving it a try.

So here’s a link to Great Literature is Surprisingly Arithmetic, in case you’d like to have a look at it and see how well your story matches the standard emotional arcs. Who knows? It might give you some revision ideas.

2 responses to “Is Your Story’s Emotional Arc Tried and True?

  1. The Story Grid podcast actually interviewed one of these researchers for an episode, and it was pretty interesting. Thanks for highlighting the article.

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