The Arks of Tension, External Value Shifts, and Internal Value Shifts

While writing scenes, we need to keep three curves in mind:

  • External value shifts (life/death for action)
  • Internal value shifts (wisdom/folly for revelation)
  • Tension

I envision an optimal tension curve like in the picture. Tension bounces with the Inciting Incident and rises slowly as progressive complications accumulate.

The Turning Point shifts the external value and tension increases exponentially.

Decisions reveal character, hence, the internal value shifts at the Crisis point.

Tension peaks at the Climax and drops fast when the Climax ends.

I like to think that the tension at the Resolution is slightly higher than before the Inciting Incident. The little upwards lift at the end is the hook for the next scene.

Kurt Vonnegut’s shapes of stories trace good and bad fortune. How does that relate to the graph in the picture? Fortune relates to the protagonist’s Want, which follows the external value shift/curve.



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