The Sticky Power of a Story Arc
by Tracy Johnson
Writers create stories around a formula that creates a story arc. The goal is to take the reader on a journey, a story with a beginning, middle and end. The process creates a sticky thread that weaves through the story, adding texture and continuity to their work.
The same concepts that work for a novel can be applied in many ways. You’ll recognize a story arc in online marketing, sales pitches, songs, screenplays and movies. It even works for a radio show.
Entertainment without storylines is simply a series of bits. Bits may be fine, but when your show is nothing but individual elements, you have to start from scratch in every break. The average morning show is usually more about moments than stories. Moments are great for gaining attention, but their impact is short-lived.
It’s much more effective when segments lead the listener to hear more!
Small story arcs happen on the air when a topic stretches across multiple breaks. This is common when executing a feature like Second Date Update. The problem is set up in the first segment and paid off later in the hour. That’s all well and good, of course, but great radio shows develop deeper story arcs and storylines that regularly come back.
Similarly, in radio we have an obsessive drive to be topical-it’s all about what’s hot NOW. There’s no past, no future, just now. Immediacy and instant gratification are important, but when there’s no story, no arc to draw and emotionally involve the audience, we are like hamsters running in a wheel, working hard but never really gaining meaningful ground.
Story Arcs Outside Radio