First to be Whipped Into Shape is Inkpen, talking about oddly shaped story arcs...
Inkpen said about WTBP:
"I have found the section on story arcs really useful. I wish I could show you a diagram of my story arc picture page!
You wrote about arcs and spikes, so I obediently [NM: good, I like obedient] drew just that. Imagine, if you will, a landscape page in an A5 turquoise Moleskin notebook. There is a slightly mis-shapen rugby ball outline and inside it a series of spikes holding up the top arc, and between those, squiggly lines (my own fabulous invention!) descending to the bottom one. The top curve reaches its peak about three quarters of the way along, the bottom one a tiny bit earlier.
My WIP is a novel for the younger end of the teen audience – MCs are 14. In the novel they are both driven by situations at home which are making them act in a particular way outside. So the top arc represents the action, the main plot, the events which build to crisis point and then down as the story is – hopefully! - resolved. The bottom arc represents the rest - the inbetween bits of their day to day home/school life and their internal life – basically, their motivation for the action. The crisis point of the bottom arc is slightly earlier because it’s sparking off the pointy action bits on the top.
What all this showed me was that I had a clear series of plot events, so I had a structure, but the squiggly lines were too thin. I realised that my MCs were lacking sufficient motivation, and that’s the bit I’m now working on, with a sub-plot and a bit more background. Within this framework I could also start to place the scenes I’d already written, and I had some very specific areas to think about in planning and writing.
This is my first novel – not including the two historical romances I wrote as a teenager! – but I write for a couple of women’s weekly magazines.
Yes, stories have shapes. (And Inkpen has cheekily invented squiggly lines... Pfffth.) You may not have consciously noticed story shape in books that you've read but I can tell you you'll notice when a) there's no shape or b) the shape is flat and crappy. And you really don't want a flat or crappy shape. You honestly don't.
You don't want one in your story, either.