Narrative Writing


Rising Action (2)

Writing a series of scenes in which the problems get progressively worse is hard to do. I don't really expect that most students your age can pull it off. But it's certainly something to keep in mind, something to strive for.

And please don't make the following mistake. I see this kind of writing all too often.

In the morning, Jenny spilled her breakfast cereal. In the afternoon, her boyfriend broke up with her. In the evening, she got into a car crash and broke her arm.

The student thinks that she has followed my directions. She says, "I did what you asked, Mr. Hall! I wrote a story about a person who faces many problems, and each problem is worse than the last."

That's true. But the problem is that Jenny has no goal; she's just a passive victim of a bunch of unrelated disasters. To fix the story, you'd have to re-write it, perhaps something like this:

Jenny woke up, excited to go to school. Today, she was planning to ask Bill to be her lab partner for Chemistry. If things worked out, they'd be a couple by the end of the month.

As she prepared her breakfast, her mind distracted by thoughts of Bill, she spilled cereal on the floor, and because of that, she missed the bus, and because of that, she missed her first period Chemistry class, and because of that, Bob had already picked a lab partner—that pretty girl with the long blond hair!—and because of that, Jenny got jealous and called the girl a bitch, and because of that, Bob now thinks she's crazy.

See how that works? Jenny's problems grew out of the fact that she was daydreaming about Bill while preparing her breakfast. Each disaster is related, and the chain of events began with Jenny herself.

That's called Rising Action, but in my mind I like to think of it as "sinking action", because I like to compare it to a Hero who is sinking in quicksand. He thrashes his arms and legs, trying to escape, but the more he thrashes, the deeper he sinks.

Instructions for the Quiz

Answer the questions.