Monday, July 17, 2017

The Arc of the Story as I see it, by Diane Scott Lewis

I adore history and telling stories. I was born in California and published short-stories and poems in school magazines. I wanted to travel the world, so I joined the navy at nineteen, married my navy husband in Greece-and explored the ancient ruins-then had two sons. We traveled to exotic locales, giving me the urge to weave tales involving the past. My first novel was published in 2010, and many historical novels followed. I now live with my husband in Western Pennsylvania.

My current work in progress is in honor of Canada's 150th birthday: On a Stormy Primeval Shore
In 1784, Englishwoman Amelia Latimer sails to the new colony of New Brunswick in faraway Canada. She’s to marry a man chosen by her soldier father. Amelia is repulsed by her betrothed, and refuses to marry him. She is attracted to a handsome Acadian trader, Gilbert, a man beneath her in status. Gilbert must fight the incursion of English Loyalists from the American war to hold onto his land and heritage. Will he and Amelia find peace when events seek to destroy their love and lives.

Available in 2018
What is a story arc? An agent once asked me if my story followed the three-arc format? I had no idea what she was talking about. Then I took a writing class, which helped—sort of—to explain this issue. I was under the impression I could write my novel any way I wanted to, rambling on and on, throwing in info dumps, but no, you must have an arc, a frame work, highs and lows and a wrapping up at the end.

Since I’m a ‘pantzer’ i. e., I write by the ‘seat of my pants’, I just start writing with a slight idea of who my characters are and what the setting will be. It’s after I’ve written several chapters that I figure out where the story will go.

For this novel, I read up on the history of New Brunswick, decided to start with the ‘break’ of the colony from Nova Scotia in 1784, and tossed my female character, Amelia, a young Englishwoman, into those events. My male character is Acadian. Gilbert grew up with the ebb and flow of changing events, the expulsion of his people when the British came, and so forth. This way I could show the colony from the POV of two different cultures.

As for story arcs, I’m not sure if I follow the framework as I should. I try to intermix action, with gentler scenes, have a big action scene near the end, then wrap up the story. My characters often tell me which way to go once their personalities flesh out and they take over the novel. I try to work in the history in ways that make sense and don’t overwhelm the reader. But I still like those info dumps, darn it!

French flintlock pistol, 1790
I suppose for this type of novel a story arc is boy meets girl, boy loses girl, people shoot at each other, further difficulties arise that I won’t reveal, then, hopefully, everything comes out all right in the end.
To find out more about Diane Scott Lewis and her novels, visit her BWL Author page
Or her website:


  1. Diane, Our books are set in a similar period, although the time is a bit later in yours. Also sounds like we pursue the writing in like ways, both being "pantzers" by nature. I will admit that I do the majority of my research before I start even thinking about the characters and plot since much of the history affects the "arc" of the story as it unfolds. Looking forward to your book and wishing lots of success.

  2. Good post, Diane. If everyone followed the points of the arc, I do believe all the stories would be alike. We can't have that, can we? Can't wait for your new book to release.

  3. Thanks, both Kathys, for your comments!

  4. Looking forward to reading another foray into the thrilling 18th Century!