The Dramatic Arc

This week we were asked to research the Dramatic Arc.  The Dramatic Arc is defined as the structure of a dramatic work such as a play, film, or story.  It looks like this:

The Dramatic Arc is divided into 5 parts: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.  Each part contains a different section, and usually a different feeling/emotion of the story.

Exposition: The exposition provides the background information needed to properly understand the story, such as the protagonist, the antagonist, the basic conflict, and the setting. It ends with the inciting moment, which is the incident without which there would be no story. The inciting moment sets the remainder of the story in motion beginning with the second act, the rising action.

Rising Action:  The rising action is when the basic internal conflict is complicated by the introduction of related secondary conflicts, including various obstacles that frustrate the protagonist’s attempt to reach his goal. Secondary conflicts can include adversaries of lesser importance than the story’s antagonist, who may work with the antagonist or separately, by and for themselves or actions unknown.

Climax: the climax, or turning point, marks a change, for the better or the worse, in the protagonist’s affairs. If the story is a comedy, things will have gone badly for the protagonist up to this point; now, the tide, so to speak, will turn, and things will begin to go well for him or her. If the story is a tragedy, the opposite state of affairs will ensue, with things going from good to bad for the protagonist.

Falling Action:  During the falling action, or resolution, which is the moment of reversal after the climax, the conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist unravels, with the protagonist winning or losing against the antagonist. The falling action might contain a moment of final suspense, during which the final outcome of the conflict is in doubt.

Resolution: the resolution is comprised of events between the falling action and the actual end of the drama or narrative.  It serves as the conclusion of the story.  Conflicts are resolved, creating normality for the characters, and a release of tension and anxiety for the reader.

Q#1 – Write a little bit about your favorite book or novel. What are the parts of its Dramatic Arc?

A – The novel that I most recently read was Pompeii by Robert Harris.  It is a fictional novel based on the explosion of Mt. Vesuvius near the Bay of Naples in AD 79.  The exposition opens with an introduction  to the main protagonist, Attilius, and a glimpse at the antagonists, Corax, Ampliatus, and Mt. Vesuvius.  The basic conflict is that for some reason the man who usually takes care of the aqueducts is missing and they are failing to function.  Attilius is hired to fix them.  The reader has a good idea that the volcano is causing the trouble, but the characters have never even  heard of a volcano before.

The rising action occurs when Attilius is making plans to go and fix the aqueducts, but while trying to figure out how to fix them and find where the missing person is, makes one of the nobles, Ampliatus, suspicious and tries to have him killed.  Ampliatus hires Corax to kill Atillius when they leave to go fix the aqueducts.

The climax of the story is when the Bay of Naples is slowly being destroyed by some unknown (by the characters) force.  Attilius is on the peak of the volcano and has fought off Corax, but shortly after, Mt. Vesuvius erupts and starts to destroy the nearby towns.

The falling action occurs as Attilius rides back to town through all of the debris to find his love interest.  He is having his final confrontation with the volcano and one way or another, everything is coming to end.  As the town is being engulfed in debris and volcanic ash, he is trying to escape one last time.

The resolution of the story comes after the nearby towns are completely destroyed and covered in several feet of ash and debris.  However, there were some survivors.  It seems that Attilius had saved his lover and made it into the underground waterways, which he knew very well.  He was able to follow them out of the city and into safety.

Q#2 – Discuss the exercise we did in class in which we opened a MacBook box. Were any of the elements of the Dramatic Arc inherent in that experience? If so, what were they and how were they designed into the experience?

The first look at the box started the Dramatic Arc.  This was the exposition.  Chris was the protagonist, the box and wrapping were the antagonists.  The conflict?… could he open it and display it for the class without looking silly.

The rising action occurred as he searched for a way to open the box.  He find the side flaps and began to lift them. Would he be strong enough to open the box???

This led to the climax.  Chris opened the box and saw the prize, but the MacBook was wrapped in a cover.  He kept going, he could see the finish line!

The conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist unravelled, literally.  This was falling action and the final moment of suspense as Chris took the MacBook out of it’s protective case.

The resolution came as Chris had the MacBook out of the box and was ready to use it.  He had prevailed over the MacBook box.

The Dramatic Arc was definitely designed into the packaging of the MacBook.  It is there to make it feel as though even opening the box for it is an experience.  Apple has definitely done its research.


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