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Story Arcs

Tales as Old as Time

By Judey Kalchik Published 10 months ago Updated 10 months ago 4 min read
created by the author with Canva

Creative writing teachers will explain that good writing is a craft that can learned, and that compelling writing has certain plot points in common. Often these are described as these five main points:

  1. exposition
  2. rising action
  3. climax
  4. falling action
  5. resolution

Or these eight points, happening in a definite order to keep a reader engaged:

  1. stasis
  2. trigger
  3. quest
  4. surprise
  5. choice
  6. climax
  7. reversal
  8. resolution

That information alone is enough to use for this chapter, but for further reading and understanding, please take some time to watch this video by American author Kurt Vonnegut. He had his own viewpoint: distilling a story to the bare elements creates a distinctive shape. Back in 1981 he suggested that stories fed into computers could be graphed to follow the story arc and create a shape. In 2016 researchers from the University of Vermont and the University of Adelaide did have computers map these story arcs, and found six themes:

1. Rags to Riches (rise)

2. Riches to Rags (fall)

3. Man in a Hole (fall then rise)

4. Icarus (rise then fall)

5. Cinderella (rise then fall then rise)

6. Oedipus (fall then rise then fall)

Whether you agree with a five or 8-point classic story arc viewpoint, with practice you will see these arcs repeated over and over within AI generated content.

Easiest Example: The Content Labels Each Segment

One of the sample pieces used in this guide illustrates best that the AI tool knows its story arcs. The user kept each heading in place, making it easy to follow the 8-point classic structure. Below each chapter heading see the words used to convey the stage of the 'story'.

#1 Stasis

Generations had lived in harmony with the land, basking in the simple joys of rural life.... screen shot by author

#2 Trigger

The true terror, however, unfurled with the disappearance of children.... screenshot by author

#3 Quest

With a group of intrepid villagers, Eldar embarked on a journey into the heart of the forest,... screen shot by author

#4 Surprise

In its grasp, it held something concealed, a burden or a prize known only to itself.... screenshot by author

#5 Choice

an unspoken challenge thrown at the heels of the travelers. ... screenshot by author

#6 Climax

their combined courage held the power to vanquish even the darkest of foes.... screenshot by author

#7 Reversal

in a crescendo of bravery and unity, the villagers surrounded the creature... screenshot by author

#8 Resolution

The once disjointed community had been forged anew through shared hardship and unwavering resolve.... screenshot by author

Finding The Threads When They Aren't Labeled

Not every piece of content contains neatly labeled elements. But after reading enough of them the themes shine through whether they are a story about two people, a village that lost their children, a group of dogs that need a home, students investigating an old house, or planetary wanderers on a strange new world.

Commons Threads

Even if content is labeled as Earth, Art, History, or Books, the content stands our as fiction as it follows the clear fiction plotline:

It could be Maya/Mia/Amelia in a village/town/forest/farm and drawn to art/music/flowers/trees, just living their best life.

Mia will chance upon Aria/Lily/Sarah or Jake/Luke/Aiden, and they find they have a lot in common.

Things happen that demand action: locusts invade/a music festival is needed to save the town/an art school brings the town together/ a new seed is developed.

Morals Make the Story

The moral of the story is described, usually more than twice:

The village had blossomed into a vibrant haven, a place where the wind carried whispers of gratitude, and the earth held the memory of every loving touch - from 'Connection to Nature'

As we carry Ernest's legacy forward, let us remember that every idea, no matter how small or grand, has the potential to make a difference.- from 'Imaginative Thinking'

Thus, the narrative of Aiden, once known as "The Fortune Searcher," turned into a demonstration of the groundbreaking influence of point of view. - from 'The Fortune Seeker's Gamble

And so, Aria's melody persisted to resonate, inspiring generations to return collectively, to heal the Earth, and to create a global in which nature's splendor thrived another time. - from 'Harmony's Melody'

Spooky Stories Have Morals, Too

Spooky stories, set in an abandoned manor/mansion/hospital/cave also have morals, and usually include intrepid (oops- gave away a buzzword!) groups. Here are some of the morals from the example content:

"Learn from the past," the voice boomed. "Beware the ambition that seeks to alter nature's course."...They knew now the price of tampering with forces beyond their understanding, and the chilling reminder that some tales are best left untold. -from The Haunting Echoes of Mistwood Peaks

I had survived the night, but the terrifying encounter would forever linger in my memory. Perhaps some things are better left unexplained, and sometimes truth is stranger than any dream... I couldn't help but wonder who else would be brave or foolish enough to step foot into that haunted abode. -from The Haunting in Hillwood Manor

the memory of Eliza's bravery and compassion lingered, a reminder that even in the darkest of places, the power of empathy and the willingness to face one's fears could bring about profound transformation. -from Whispers of the Haunted Manor

Telling the Story

Since AI gathers examples from many sources it is not a surprise to see common plot lines and story arcs in the content it generates. Human writers are also practiced in following the same guidelines. What sets apart the AI content is the brevity of the action, the emotionless of the narrative regardless of the buzzwords that are used.

Fights are 'stirring' but there are no details. Love is reciprocated, but there is no passion. painting is 'inspiring' but we don't know what the colors or the subjects are upon the canvas. Music lifts the soul, but there are no lyrics.

AI may be many things, among them a caution for creators and artists, playwrights and novelists, publishers and bloggers. What it can't be is demonic. Because if it is true that the Devil is in the details then AI doesn't fit the mold.


The more you scan AI generated content the more you will notice variations of these common names.

The next chapter is on: Vocabulary, and we will get to those Buzzwords. (Did you see more of them in the screenshots?)


The content above is from my work in progress, described in this Vocal post:

The previous chapter is Character Names.

Please subscribe to get a FREE notification of the next chapter in this guide, as well as my other newly published Vocal content.

And while you are here, please add a comment below: Did you watch the Vonnegut YouTube link? What do you think?


About the Creator

Judey Kalchik

It's my time to find and use my voice.

Poetry, short stories, memories, and a lot of things I think and wish I'd known a long time ago.

You can also find me on Medium

And please follow me on Threads, too!

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (9)

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  • D. D. Lee9 months ago

    Thank you!

  • Naomi Gold10 months ago

    Another great chapter in this series! I did watch the video, it was quite funny. I never thought of Hamlet as being like a reversed gender Cinderella before.

  • Jay Kantor10 months ago

    Dear Ms. Judey ~ Terrific How-to-Tool-Topic ~ Who me? I've always thought my 'Alter-Ego' derived my stories filtered through my keyboard. - My Pleasure - Jay

  • Rachel Deeming10 months ago

    Very interesting article. The more I learn about AI generated content, the more I am intrigued by it. Not checked out the video...yet but will seek it out.

  • Babs Iverson10 months ago

    Wonderful self-help article!!!💕❤️❤️

  • Lilly Cooper10 months ago

    I'm not sure my articles do well at the arc. It may help with stories that fall a bit flat. A helpful article, thank you!

  • Dean F. Hardy10 months ago

    Curious if you've ever seen one of Kurt Vonneguts lectures around the same topic. They're brilliant and I think you'd really enjoy it. Check one out on YouTube.

  • Continuing well, even if you did give away a buzzword.

  • Mariann Carroll10 months ago

    Thank you for writing this 💓

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