How to Create Dramatic Arc Without All the Drama

March 25, 2017

Once upon a time there was a fair maiden who hoped to meet a prince. And she did. And they moved into the castle and lived happily ever after. The End.

That’s not how you recall the story, is it? Let’s try a more modern version:

Once upon a recent time, there was an ambitious young woman who hoped to climb the corporate ladder. And she did, getting promotion after deserved promotion until she moved into the corner office and ran the company. The End.

I hear you… totally unrealistic! We’re storytelling here, so just stick with me for one more…

Once upon a time, a slightly overweight and out-of-shape woman decided to challenge herself to get fit by running a marathon. And she finished the race and is now a size smaller. The End.


Oddly unsatisfying stories, aren’t they?

(Actually, that second one doesn’t sound too bad. If you’ve ever been granted promotion after deserved promotion, including some you’ve never asked for, good for you, girl. Own your awesomeness.)

Here’s the thing… You can’t have a great story without conflict. Every story has some form of conflict. And the specifics of that conflict are what make our stories interesting, relatable and entertaining to tell.

Hate drama? Sorry, you can’t have a dramatic arc without it.

That doesn’t make you a drama queen. Drama queens need drama to survive, often creating conflict where none existed.

You just need to learn to ride the twists and turns of your plot and get comfortable with conflict as a necessary component of your story rather than fearing and trying to avoid it.

How we respond to the conflict is how we overcome it. Anticipate it as part of your plot and draw upon the strength of your central character (that’s you!) and your Cast of Supporting Characters to help you through.

Wherever your conflict lies – the onerous boss who doesn’t see your value, the co-worker who tries to pass off your ideas as his own, your irritating commute on mass transit – these are the details that make your story genuinely yours!

Who wants to root for a heroine who has it easy? Bring on the tough stuff – you’re up to the task!

One of my favorite writers, Nora Ephron (of When Harry Met Sally “I’ll have what she’s having” fame), declared, “The tragedies of your life one day have the potential to be comic stories the next.”

Consider your conflict – and how you persevere and ultimately succeed despite it – as what makes your story uniquely yours and worthy of sharing to appreciative audiences.

And then live happily ever after.

The End.

Got a GREAT conflict? We love conflict! Email me for a free strategy session or to be featured in an upcoming Commander-in-She story!

Valerie Gordon, the founder of career and communications strategy firm, Commander-in-She, is a former award-winning television producer and lifelong storyteller. She likes drama but believes it should stay on the stage and screen.

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