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Writing Lecture/Objective Twenty-Three
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The Dramatic Intensity (Upward) Curve

Definition of Intensity - 1) the quality or state of being intense: extreme degree of strength, force, or energy, 2) giving force or emphasis denoted by power, force, concentration, passion, or greatness.

Definition of Curve - To have or take a turn, change, a deviation from a straight line, bend or cause to swerve

Your story needs to ride on a dramatic intensity curve building in strength, force, or energy by a power, force, or passion . . . ever upward.

It should go without saying, but as a story goes along it builds in intensity.  At least, it should.  If the reader or audience is going to maintain interest it better build.  Still, how often do you read something where the rising action comes in fits and spurts interspersed with periods of sheer boredom?

Somebody, somewhere down the line came up with a tool to measure this for dramas.  It's one of those fandango little graphs with two axes.  On the horizontal axis is the time line of the story, and on the vertical axis is the rising action.  Every play or novel has a time line, or word line, and the number goes up as the manuscript ambles along.  Some writers actually plot this. Any writer will benefit from keeping their eye on the curve.  As they read their story they put the key events on the vertical cue and the time line on the horizontal and take note of where the line of the graph is heading.

It should be moving steadily upward and to the right.  As something interesting happens, it will spike and fall back and then repeat itself as something else cool happens. It makes sense in theory, and it should prove out in your story.  If it doesn't, if it flat lines or drops during a boring part you just had to include because of the Pulitzer Prize potential, you might decide to forgo some of the fame in favor of something faster paced that the reader or audience might be more inclined to enjoy.

Percy Goodfellow - Workshop Instructor
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