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  • Seminar
  • Online: Zoom
  • Adult (18+)

Novel Essentials: Narrative Arcs

No Longer Enrolling

  • $65.00 Non-Member
  • $55.00 Member

Class Description

The narrative arc is a crucial framework on which every novel is built, yet it can be a difficult framework to construct. Endings in particular are tricky, often acting as stumbling blocks for even the most accomplished authors. As E. M. Forster puts it, “In the losing battle that the plot fights with the characters, it often takes a cowardly revenge. Nearly all novels are feeble at the end.” Some novels fizzle out; others take inexplicable turns; many end in deaths that occur more for the convenience of the author than as a logical outcome of the novel’s arc. In this seminar, we will examine several different traditional narrative arcs, from the formulaic progress of a murder mystery to the leisurely “plateau” arc of Victorian novels.

Being careful not to reveal the endings of books not everyone has read, we will discuss examples of different narrative arcs from published authors, and we will conclude by briefly discussing every attendee’s novel in turn, suggesting improvements for their arc with special attention to the ending. By the end of the seminar, each writer will have a better sense of what makes an effective narrative arc in general and what kind of arc—and ending—might work well for their novel in particular.

Part of GrubStreet's Novel Essentials Series, led by Ursula DeYoung and dedicated to exploring the fundamental building blocks of the novel. Classes include:

Scholarships Format/Location

Thanks to the excellent literary citizenship of our donors, scholarships are available for all GrubStreet classes. To apply, click the gray "APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP" button. In order to be considered for a scholarship, you must complete your application at least one week before the start date of a class. Please await our scholarship committee's decision before registering for the class. We cannot hold spots in classes, so the sooner you apply, the better. Scholarships cannot be applied retroactively.

For more detailed information about GrubStreet scholarships, including how to contribute to scholarship funds for other students, click here.

This class will take place using Zoom videoconferencing. Please visit the Resources tab to access the video-conference link.

Zoom Participation:

Students are not required to turn their camera on, but are encouraged to participate any way they feel comfortable through functions such as the live chat, emoji reactions, and unmuting the microphone. Learn more about using Zoom here.

Zoom Accessibility:

We ask that instructors enable closed captioning and send a transcript of the session after class. You can also enable closed captioning at any time during the meeting. If your instructor forgets to send the transcript, just send ’em an email!