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Story + Character Arcs = Tension

  • 10 Sep 2022
  • 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
  • Online on Zoom



Story + Character Arcs = Tensionwith Nancy Ellen Dodd

The tension in a story is what keeps your audience engaged. Without tension, the energy flattens and you will have a snoozer rather than a page turner. The story arc and the character arc must imbue tension for the reader to become involved and care what happens to the character and the outcome of the story. When does tension occur? Tension occurs when your characters disagree, even when they like each other; when the events and obstacles in your story go against your character's goals and desires. In this discussion we will look at examples of how to create tension and challenge the audience to participate in creating their own examples of tension.



Nancy Ellen Dodd earned an MPW (master’s in professional writing) and an MFA (in playwriting) from the University of Southern California. Her book, The Writer’s Compass: From Story Map to Finished Draft in 7 Stages (Writers Digest), covers the creative storytelling process. She teaches advanced screenwriting at Pepperdine’s Seaver College and has published more than 130 articles in local and national publications. Previously Nancy was academic editor and editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed Graziadio Business Review at the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School for 17 years and where she taught electives “Presentations & Stories” and “Business Storytelling.” Currently she is earning her Ph.D. in Global Leadership and Change focusing on spark—the moment that ignites creativity.

She is the author of The Writer’s Compass: From Story Map to Finished Draft in 7 Stages.


Map out your idea and finish your story in 7 stages!

This book will show writers how to develop their ideas into a finished novel by working through it in 7 stages, while learning how to mapping out their story's progress and structure so they can evaluate and improve their work. It teaches writers to visualize their story's progress with a story map that helps them see all the different components of their story, where these components are going, and, perhaps most importantly, what's missing.

The book simplifies Aristotle's elements of good writing (a.k.a. that each story should have a beginning, a middle and an end) into easily applicable concepts that will help writers improve their craft. The author helps readers strengthen their work by teaching them how to focus on one aspect of their story at a time, including forming stories and developing ideas, building strong structures, creating vibrant characters, and structuring scenes and transitions. Thought-provoking questions help writers more objectively assess their story's strengths and weaknesses so they may write the story they want to tell.


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