Part 6: Gaining Dramatic Altitude – Welcome to the Part 2 Second Quartile of Your Story
Story structure is all about making your narrative – and thus, the reading experience – more effective. More intense, more emotional and more engaging. These are goals that apply to any and all genres, and thus, it renders the essential nature of story structure a universal truth.
Basic story structure breaks the arc of a story down into four roughly equal (relative to length) quartiles. You’ve probably heard of the 3-Act structural model, which is used by Hollywood and virtually every 101-level writing class that acknowledges structure in the first place (many don’t, including most MFA programs, thus handicapping their students at the very core of the understanding of what makes a story work).
Each of the four quartiles has a specific and unique mission: to impart a context to all of the scenes that appear within it.
The second quartile’s mission is to show your hero responding to the new presence of a story path that emerges at the First Plot Point, which is located at the intersection of your Part 1 (setup) and your Part 2 (response) quartiles.
Every scene in the Part 2 second quartile unfolds in context to this mission: your hero now has something to do, a a problem to deal with, a danger to flee from, a puzzle to solve, an opportunity to pursue.
In other words, after the Part 1 quartile has setup all the requisite pieces of the story, and the First Plot Point has toppled those dominoes into a sequence of action, you now engage with the Part 2 second quartile to show us the hero in motion.
Not necessarily showing the hero in battle or confrontation (it’s too soon for that (this is the mission of the Part 3 “attack” quartile), but rather, Part 2 is where we show how the hero reacts to the call to action (via the First Plot Point separating Part 1 from Part 2) and the presence of need, driven by motivation (often threat or danger) and stakes (love or even survival). The hero will get their hero on soon, in Part 3, but for now, here in Part 2, we need to deepen a sense of threat and danger and establish the nature of the antagonistic force (or character) that is posing those threats.
The Part 2 quartile isn’t the whole ballgame, but it is one fourth of it. But like all four of the quartiles, there is a mission at hand and specific milestone moments within, the sum of which equals optimized dramatic tension and pace, which is the life-blood of genre fiction.
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