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The Importance Of A Narrative Arc In An Autobiography

An autobiography is a non-fiction piece of literature depicting the events of a person’s life. Just like fictional novels, a well-written autobiography...

The Importance Of A Narrative Arc In An Autobiography

An autobiography is a non-fiction piece of literature depicting the events of a person’s life. Just like fictional novels, a well-written autobiography is an enjoyable read. It captivates the readers, pulls them in, and gives them a firsthand outlook of the writer’s experiences. As a result, the readers are compelled to be engrossed in the story, rooting for a happily ever after.

An autobiography is not just a list of life’ events but a story. The way this story is laid out makes it fascinating rather than the actual events. You might not have something extraordinary to tell about yourself, but even ordinary events can be made engaging if written the right way.

Let us give you an example: Dani Shapiro’s best-selling memoir “Inheritance” is a book portraying the events of how a genealogy test resulted in the author uncovering an unbelievable family secret. This autobiography is the epitome of a narrative arc. It doesn’t just tell you about the events from her life but engrosses you in her tale of shock and grief, making it impossible for the reader to put down the book.

The point of this example is that although it’s a memoir, its narrative arc is laid out like a novel. So, if you want your autobiography to stand out and leave its mark, finding the perfect narrative arc is the key. If you don’t have a clear understanding of creating a narrative arc, you can always consult with autobiography writers. For those who want to learn, this guide will undoubtedly be helpful.

Understanding Narrative Arc

In simpler terms, a narrative arc is just the structure of a story. To help you understand it better here’s an easy breakdown along with an example.

Quite indeed, everyone has watched, if not read, Harry Potter. We will be explaining the narrative arc through the plot of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

  • Exposition

The exposition provides an introduction to the story. It offers some information to give the readers an idea about the contextual information to the audience, including the protagonist. It revolves around the basics: who, when, and where.

For instance, in Harry Potter, the exposition tells the audience that 11-year-old Harry is the main character living in 4 Privet Drive with his aunt, uncle, and cousin.

  • Rising Action

Rising action describes an inciting event. It is a triggering event putting the central theme of the story in action. At this point, the audience begins to understand what’s really going on. As the story moves forward, there can be multiple rising actions.

The beginning of Hogwarts letters being delivered to Harry followed by Hagrid’s visit can classify as the first rising action. These events put things in perspective and give a clear idea to the audience about the plot.

Other examples of rising action can include Harry’s arrival at Hogwarts, the break-in at Gringotts, and the discovery of the trap door guarded by the three-headed dog.

  • Climax

This stage of the plot is perhaps the highest tension point in the storyline. At this point, all the loopholes are uncovered. Usually, the climax revolves around the main character facing a challenging time, be it an antagonist or the circumstances surrounding the main character.

The climax was Harry passing through the trapdoor, finding the Philosopher’s Stone, and finally encountering Voldemort. It was the point of peak tension where the truth was uncovered and Harry stool alone facing his enemy.

  • Falling Action

The result of the protagonist’s decisions falls in the category of falling action. Here, the tension dissipates, and all loose ends are tied, forging the way to an end.

Harry’s decision of not giving away the Stone unfettered by his enemy was the falling action. Then waking up at Hospital Wing and discovering the reality of the Stone and how it came to be in his possession.

  • Resolution

Finally, the resolution, also known as a denouement, is a means to end the tale. The resolution depends on the story and doesn’t have to be always happy. However, it ensures closing the loop and explaining how the story affected all the characters and their lives.

In the case of our example, the resolution was a happy one. Gryffindor won the House Cup, and Harry returned home after making the best friends for life.

Create A Narrative Arc In 3 Simple Steps

  1. Archetypal Narrative Arc

Having an archetype can be a massive help for your narrative arc. To build a narrative arc, you need to have an archetype of the protagonist. For instance, the most common archetypes are:

  • Rags to riches: A complete rise
  • Riches to rags: A complete downfall
  • Icarus: Fall after a rise
  • Man in the hole: Rise after a fall
  • Cinderella: Rise, fall, rise
  • Oedipus: Fall, rise, fall
  1. Identify Key Elements

This includes identifying the origin, middle, and end. You also need to shed light on the main characters and provide some details regarding their behavior. Your key focus should be to elaborate on your path and the building of the plot.

  1. Make Necessary Adjustments

Writing is an art; therefore, it has no hard and fast rules about the narrative arc. It’s your story, and you have full authority over how you choose to describe it rather than sticking with Freytag’s narrative. All stories are different; therefore, every writer has the freedom to pen down their tale according to their preference.

Keeping these tips in mind will surely add a spark to your content, and you will compose an incredible autobiography. Your focal point should be encapsulating all your life’s events enticingly and making them as enjoyable as possible. Map out the narrative arc and follow the pattern. If you stick with it, you’ll develop a distinct narrative arc. Remember that the events of your life are a captivating story, so you must do full justice to it. The process might seem lengthy, complicated, and daunting, but believe it when we say that all the efforts are totally worth it in the end.


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Written by Amy Jackson
Amy Jackson works as an advertising specialist, she is an inspired writer who loves to share her experiences using beautiful words.

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