Wednesday, October 10, 2012

the ARCs of Writing

*I have been planning to post this for weeks. My schedule's been busy like a bee. (Pardon the alliteration. Though I do love alliteration, like a little kid loves candy. Do you see what I did there? :D)

This is a short post, because this is an easy topic. In fact, I think I've blogged about this before, back in June. This time, I'm adding another element, because they spell a nifty little acronym: ARC.

Action --> Reaction --> Consequence.

An action is when your character does something.

A reaction is when something happens against/for your character and he/she does something against/for it.

A consequence is whatever happens as a result.

Pretty simple to remember? A - R - C - A - R - C...... three lovely words, applied over and over again. This is why I think of the concept of writing as a swinging pendulum, or maybe a dance: it's just one-two-three, one-two-three. It flows from one, to two, to three. This is the only way I come up with ideas and outlines, because it's so simple for me. For example:

Melody Anne went to the ball (action). The prince danced with her, and she threw up because she was so nervous (reaction). The prince left to dance with Cinderella instead (consequence). Melody Anne left the ball at midnight in shame (action). She witnessed Cinderella drop her shoe and picked it up (reaction). The prince thanked her with fifty gold coins and a pony for keeping Cinderella's shoe safe and he went off with it to find his true love (consequence).

That was easy to write and read. It flows from action to reaction to consequence, in chronological order, without any interruptions. You could argue that Melody Anne leaving the ball in shame is a reaction or a consequence of her nervous vomit all over the prince, but I list it as an action because no one is forcing her to leave. She does it because of her own self, her own shame.

Now, that was a pretty small example. It works with entire novels (or so I've read - my first-novel sloppy copy hasn't even reached the midway mark!). This ARC method is a pretty nifty trick if you like outlining, and if you're a pantser, it shouldn't be too hard to go back and incorporate it into something written (I'm not a pantser, so you might get mixed results on that).

This is my bad example:

Donni goes to find a lemonade (action). He stumbles across a little lemonade stand run by a couple of six-year-olds (action). They sneer at his drunken appearance (reaction). He flips their table over, outraged (reaction). But first he yells at them for awhile (reaction). The little girls start crying at the drunken rage (reaction). Donni walks away, forgetting the incident (action).

Despite the obvious atrocity of a drunken man being mean to six-year-olds, Donni has no consequences for his actions. He acts, they react, he reacts, they react, then he walks away and forgets the whole thing, which is an action.

Adding consequences is especially necessary when the actions are bad. It's expected in real life and in fiction that bad guys go to jail, or are punished in some way. We crave it. Our morals refuse to accept bad things going unpunished.

Action --> Reaction --> Consequence.

I didn't study (A); I panic at the sight of the test and randomly guess (R); I get a 70%, or a D, on that test (C).
(True story. American History is freakin' difficult, man.)

ARC means many things. It's Noah's boat; it's an Advanced Reader Copy; it's action/reaction/consequence. It's a good thing to remember ARCs when you're stuck.

Have a blessed week. :)


  1. We do expect consequences for bad actions. It's frustrating when there don't seem to be consequences for bad actions in real life, and in fiction. Wonderful post.

  2. Lovely technique! It's just what I need for my WIP. It's much easier to think of and order scenes.

    No, it is Chemistry! It sometimes dabbles in math, of all things! And let's not forget all those terms...