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What to Write in Your Rising Action

Updated: Jun 1, 2020

So you have your rising action segment. And it’s long.

Like really long. Likes pages and pages, and chapters and chapters long. If, as we mentioned on Tuesday, this part of a novel is no less than two-thirds of a book… and quite possibly four-fifths, five-sixths or more…

Then that’s a lot of work we're talking about (or you're writing about) right there.

No matter if you’re a plotter in the process of constructing your outline or a pantser well into your story-writing steps, you might find yourself to be a little overwhelmed.

How in the world do you fill all that space up, much less in an engaging manner? How do you write rising action into a story and come out looking like a pro?

For starters, scratch the “pro” from your thinking for the time being. If you’re reading this, you’re probably working on a first draft. And first drafts don’t have to be professional since, more than likely, nobody’s going to read them.

In fact, more than likely, nobody should read them. As I keep saying, you write a first draft so that you have something solid to turn into a second draft... which exists to turn into a third draft.

It’s not until around the fourth-draft stage that you want to start thinking about handing it over for review.

Then again, if you want those editorial stages to go more smoothly than they otherwise could, keep this next bit in mind.

Tuesday’s Definition noted how the rising action is “the main character’s uphill journey toward reaching his main objective, whatever that objective is.” And it further clarified that there will be mini battles fought and either conquered or lost along the way.

Win or lose, those steps should always point toward the novel’s climatic moment. But so should the following elements, in their own way.

Use the rising action to remind readers why they’re rooting for the protagonist.
It’s true that some genres are more focused on plot than others. But never forget that character development matters. As such, don’t be afraid to go there while you push the conflict along, especially with your protagonist, who deserves to be something other than flat.
What is his main motivation in pushing onward? Are there any deep, dark secrets about her past that would explain why she is the way she is? And, ultimately, why should readers really root for this personality?

Those questions, just as much as the elements driving your protagonist, will ultimately determine how the story ends.

The questions above are important. Yes. But, as with any other plot element, don’t go overboard dwelling on them. You want your readers to engage with your protagonist, not feel as if they’re reading a dry and dusky biography.

When it’s appropriate – when it works – you can consider having your main character interact with loved ones, showing how he behaves off the job.

If it fits, have her think about the baby she lost as a college student. That way, you're further solidifying why she does what she does and how far she'll go to do it.

Believe it or not, adding in information like that isn’t about getting touchy-feely. It’s about rounding out your main character so that he stands out in such three-dimensional glory that he practically steps off the page.

And maybe it’s also about rounding out your rising action to keep it from falling apart.

Editor’s Note: Read the next post on rising action here.



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