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Encyclopedia > Story arc

A story arc is an extended or continuing storyline in episodic storytelling media such as television, comic books and comic strips. In a television series, for example, the story would unfold over many episodes. In television, the use of the story arc is much more common in dramas than in comedies, especially in soap operas. Webcomics are more likely to use story arcs than newspaper comics, as most web comics have readable archives online that a newcomer to the strip can read in order to understand what's going on. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... TV Show Reference Episode is the word usually used to refer to a part of a serial television or radio program. ... A comic book is a magazine or book containing the art form of comics. ... This article is about the comic strip, the sequential art form as published in newspapers and on the Internet. ... Television series redirects here. ... This does not cite any references or sources. ... Comedy has a classical meaning (comical theatre) and a popular one (the use of humour with an intent to provoke[[ laughter in general). ... For Philippine soap opera, see Teleserye. ... Webcomics, also known as online comics and internet comics, are comics that are available to read on the Internet. ... See comedian Stand up comedian List of Comedians List of British comedians comics comic book comic strip underground comics alternative comics web comic sprite comics manga graphic novel List of comic characters This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the...


Many American comic book series are now written in four- or six-issue arcs, within a continuing series. Short story arcs are easier to package as trade paperbacks for resale, and more accessible to the casual reader than the never-ending continuity that once characterised comics. In comics, a trade paperback (TPB) specifically refers to the periodic collections, published in book format, of stories published in comic books, usually capturing one story arc in the series. ... In fiction, continuity is consistency of the characteristics of persons, plot, objects, places and events seen by the reader or viewer. ...

Contents

Story arcs in television

Story arcs on television have been around for decades, and are common in many countries where multi-episode storylines are the norm (an example being the UK's Doctor Who), as well as most anime series. Neon Genesis Evangelion, for example, is a single story arc spanning 26 episodes. Other longer animes have multiple story arcs, such as Bleach and One Piece. Perhaps one of the most known animes, Dragon Ball Z, has 4 large story arcs, called "Sagas", divided into smaller sagas. Doctor Who is a long-running award-winning British science fiction television programme (and a 1996 television film) produced by the BBC. The series shows the adventures of a mysterious time-traveller known as the Doctor, who explores time and space in his TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension(s) In... Original run October 4, 1995 – March 27, 1996 No. ... Serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump Original run August 2001 – (ongoing) No. ... Serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump Monthly Shonen Jump Carlsen-Verlag Original run August 4, 1997 – (ongoing) No. ... Original run April 26, 1989 – January 31, 1996 No. ... The Norse sagas or Viking sagas (Icelandic: Íslendingasögur), are stories about ancient Scandinavian and Germanic history, about early Viking voyages, about migration to Iceland, and of feuds between Icelandic families. ...


Many arc-based series in past decades, such as V, were often short-lived and found it difficult to attract new viewers; they also rarely appear in traditional syndication. However, the rise of DVD retail of television series has worked in arc-based productions' favor as the standard season collection format allows the viewer to have easy access to the relevant episodes. One area of television where story arcs have always thrived, however, is in the realm of the soap opera, and often episodic series have been derisively referred to as "soap operas" when they have adopted story arcs. V is a two-part 1983 NBC sci-fi miniseries, written and directed by Kenneth Johnson. ... DVD (Digital Versatile Disc or Digital Video Disc) is an optical disc storage media format that can be used for data storage, including movies with high video and sound quality. ... For Philippine soap opera, see Teleserye. ...


Arc-based series draw and reward dedicated viewers, and fans of a particular show follow and discuss different story arcs independently from particular episodes. Story arcs are sometimes split into subarcs if deemed significant by fans, making it easy to refer to certain episodes if their production order titles are unknown. Episodes not relevant to story arcs are sometimes dismissed as filler by fans, but might be referred to as self-contained or stand-alone episodes by producers. This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ... Stand-alone is a loosely defined term used to sort computer programs. ...


Story arc usage in North American TV series

Story arc usage use in American episodic series (as opposed to miniseries) has been sporadic, in part because of the belief that arc-heavy series are difficult to sell in syndication where stations might not air episodes in order, or casual/occasional viewers might lose interest. A miniseries (sometimes mini-series), in a serial storytelling medium, is a production which tells a story in a limited number of episodes. ... In the television industry (as in radio), syndication is the sale of the right to broadcast programs to multiple stations, without going through a broadcast network. ...


One of the earliest attempts at a long-term story arc was in the 1960s TV series The Fugitive. Though the series consisted of self-contained episodes, the protagonist Richard Kimble's primary motivation was finding the mysterious "One-Armed Man" who framed him for murder (giving him the impetus to appear in a different town each week). A small handful of episodes devoted themselves almost entirely to the search for the "One-Armed Man" or Kimble's attempt to stay a step ahead of his primary police pursuer, Inspector Gerard. The series proved influential, with the The Incredible Hulk being the best-known imitator. The 1960s decade refers to the years from January 1, 1960 to December 31, 1969, inclusive. ... The Fugitive was an American television series that aired on ABC from 1963-1967. ... Richard Kimble is the fictional character featured in the television series The Fugitive, portrayed by actor David Janssen. ... The Incredible Hulk is an American television series loosely based on the Marvel comic book character of the same name. ...


A new type of arc-based television storytelling was introduced in the early 1980s, when several dramas, notably Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere, began to use a format of overlapping story arcs; that is, in any given episode one new arc might be starting, while a second was ongoing, and yet another might be concluding. These story arcs were typically resolved much more quickly than in a soap opera show, and they might be of varying lengths and were often combined with additional storylines that were contained within a single episode. The early 1990s David Lynch-Mark Frost-produced ABC series Twin Peaks used this method extensively, which, despite critical acclaim and extensive media attention, contributed to its cancellation after two seasons. The technique proved highly influential and was adopted for later, even more successful dramas including L.A. Law and ER, as well as for some comedies. This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Hill Street Blues was a serial police drama that first aired on NBC in 1981 and ran for 146 episodes on primetime into 1987. ... St. ... David Keith Lynch (born January 20, 1946, in Missoula, Montana) is an American filmmaker. ... Mark Frost (born 25 November 1953) is an American novelist, television/film writer, director, and executive producer. ... The American Broadcasting Company ( oftenly known as ABC) operates television and radio networks in the United States and is also shown on basic cable in Canada. ... Twin Peaks is an American Emmy Award-nominated, Peabody and Golden Globe-winning serial drama created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, which first aired in the United States on April 8, 1990 and ended on June 10, 1991. ... L.A. Law (1986 - 1994) was one of the most popular American television shows of the late 1980s and early 1990s. ... ER is a long-running, Emmy Award winning American serial medical drama created by novelist Michael Crichton and set primarily in the emergency room of fictional County General Hospital in Cook County, Chicago, Illinois. ...


A noted pioneer of the use of sweeping story arcs in American television, and more notably American science fiction television, was J. Michael Straczynski. His series, Babylon 5, relied almost exclusively on arcs starting at the end of its second season, at the same time that Straczynski would begin to write every single episode. Up to that point, science fiction television in the U.S. was often associated with the reset button technique, where individual episodes dominated a series' run and consequences were rarely far-reaching. Soon after, Chris Carter developed The X-Files, which was a mixture of stand-alone episodes and a long running story arc dubbed by Carter as "the mythology." Carter and Straczynski proved the concept was viable for science fiction and would pave the way for current arc-heavy genre shows where events within the story have lasting consequence, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the new Battlestar Galactica. The central storyline of such series is often called the "mytharc". Science fiction is a form of speculative fiction principally dealing with the impact of imagined science and technology, or both, upon society and persons as individuals. ... Joseph Michael Straczynski (born July 17, 1954) is an award-winning American writer/producer of television series, novels, short stories, comic books, and radio dramas. ... Babylon 5 is an epic American science fiction television series created, produced, and largely written by J. Michael Straczynski. ... The reset button technique (based on the idea of status quo ante) is a plot device that interrupts continuity in works of fiction. ... Chris Carter (born October 13, 1956) is an American Jewish screenwriter and producer, best known as the creator of The X-Files. ... The X-Files is a Peabody- and Emmy Award-winning science fiction television series created by Chris Carter, which first aired on September 10, 1993, and ended on May 19, 2002. ... Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated American cult television series that initially aired from March 10, 1997 until May 20, 2003. ... The Battlestar Galactica science fiction franchise, began as a 1978 TV series, was re-imagined in 2003 into the TV miniseries. ...


In recent years, American viewers have become increasingly more accepting of story arcs, with arc-based series such as Alias, Six Feet Under, 24, Desperate Housewives, Heroes, and Lost (which are based on huge, long-running story arcs, that intertwine and can also revert backwards and forwards in time during an episode) finding critical acclaim and ratings success, and the release of arc-heavy TV series on DVD generating huge sales. The tide has turned to the point where arcs have become expected elements of dramatic series, and shows that rely upon stand-alone episodes are now quite often held up for criticism (a good example being Star Trek: Enterprise which enjoyed fan and critical acceptance only after adopting an arc-based format after two seasons of mostly stand-alone episodes). The Asian-influenced Avatar The Last Airbender enjoys high ratings outside its intended 6 to 11 year old audience as well as praise from various critics primarily due to being one of the very few current American animated series to feature a series-long story arc with a central storyline. Alias was an American Spy-fi television series created by J. J. Abrams that aired on ABC from September 30, 2001 to May 22, 2006. ... Six Feet Under is a critically acclaimed American television drama created by Alan Ball that was originally broadcast from 2001 to 2005. ... 24 (twenty four) is a current U.S. television action/drama series, produced by the Fox Network and syndicated worldwide. ... Desperate Housewives is an Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning American television comedy-drama series, created by Marc Cherry, that began airing on October 3, 2004 on ABC. It is the most popular show in its demographic worldwide, with an audience of approximately 119 million viewers. ... Heroes is an American science fiction drama television series, created by Tim Kring, which premiered on NBC on September 25, 2006. ... “LOST” redirects here. ... DVD (Digital Versatile Disc or Digital Video Disc) is an optical disc storage media format that can be used for data storage, including movies with high video and sound quality. ... The starship Enterprise (NX-01) Star Trek: Enterprise is a science fiction television series set in the Star Trek universe. ... Avatar: The Last Airbender (known as Avatar: The Legend of Aang in the UK) is an American animated television series airing on Nickelodeon since February 21, 2005. ...


While it is uncommon to see a story arc in sitcoms, many comedies have tried their hand at it. One example is seasons 4 and 7 of the NBC hit Seinfeld. Season 4 involved Jerry and George writing their script for their own television pilot, and Elaine's relationship with "Crazy" Joe Davola. Season 7 dealt with George becoming engaged to Susan Ross, then regretting it and trying to break it off, eventually leading to her accidental death in the season finale. Curb Your Enthusiasm also had season long story arcs in seasons 2-5. NBC (a former acronym for National Broadcasting Company) is an American television network headquartered in the GE Building in New York Citys Rockefeller Center. ... Seinfeld is an Emmy Award-winning sitcom that originally aired on NBC from July 5, 1989, to May 14, 1998, running a total of 9 seasons. ... Crazy Joe Davola (played by Peter Crombie) is a minor Seinfeld character who suffers from mental instability and aggressive behavior. ...


Story arc usage in Manga and Anime

Manga and Anime are usually good examples of arc-based stories, to the point that most series shorter than 26 chapters are a single, huge arc spanning all the chapters. Syndication, thus, is made difficult with anime, as loose episodes often end up confusing viewers unless they watch the entire series. Longer series usually have more than one arc — again, very long arcs often 30 chapters long such as Dragon Ball Z or One Piece or even Naruto. Tokusatsu also does this and it is usually marked when a main villain is vanquished and a new villain appears. Manga )   (pl. ... The main cast of the anime Cowboy Bebop (1998) (L to R: Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Ed Tivrusky, Faye Valentine, and Ein the dog) For the oleo-resin, see Animé (oleo-resin). ... Original run April 26, 1989 – January 31, 1996 No. ... Serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump Monthly Shonen Jump Carlsen-Verlag Original run August 4, 1997 – (ongoing) No. ... Serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump Shonen Jump BANZAI! Shonen Jump Weekly Comic Original run November 1999 – Ongoing No. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ...


Dramatic structure and purpose

The purpose of a story arc is to move a character or a situation from one state to another — in other words, to effect a change. This change or transformation often takes the form of either Aristotle's tragic fall from grace or a reversal of that pattern. One common form in which this reversal is found is a character going from a situation of weakness to one of strength. For example, a poor woman goes on adventures and in the end makes a fortune for herself, or a lonely man falls in love and marries. Peripeteia (Greek, ) is a reversal of circumstances, or turning point. ... Aristotle (Greek: AristotélÄ“s) (384 BC – 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. ... In general usage a tragedy is a play, movie or sometimes a real world event with a sad outcome. ...


Another form of storytelling that offers a change or transformation of character is that of "hero's journey," as laid out in Joseph Campbell's theory of the monomyth in his work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers details the same theory specifically for western storytelling. Joseph John Campbell (March 26, 1904 – October 31, 1987) was an American professor, writer, and orator best known for his work in the fields of comparative mythology and comparative religion. ... The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949) is the seminal work of comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell. ...


Story arcs in contemporary drama often follow the pattern of bringing a character to a low point, removing the structures the character depends on, then forcing the character to find new strength without those structures.


See also

The term dramatic structure refers to the parts into which a short story, a novel, a play, a screenplay, or a narrative poem can be divided. ... It has been suggested that this article be split into multiple articles accessible from a disambiguation page. ... A miniseries (sometimes mini-series), in a serial storytelling medium, is a production which tells a story in a limited number of episodes. ... The limited series is a term referring to a comic book series with a set finite number of issues. ... A frame story (also frame tale, frame narrative, etc. ...

External links

  • BFI webpage: Drama series and serials explaining the difference between a series and a serial

  Results from FactBites:
 
NationMaster - Encyclopedia: A Death in the Family (Batman story arc) (1046 words)
"A Death in the Family" is a Batman comic book story arc first published in the late 1980s which gave fans the ability to influence the story through voting with a 900 number.
The story is also collected as a trade paperback under the title Batman: A Death in the Family.
The story arc was panned by many as implausible, and some have accused Starlin's depiction of the Middle East as racist (including Iran making Joker their ambassador, and then Joker wearing a turban and saying they both smell like dead fish).
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