Monday, December 28, 2015

Apex and Nadir: The Peak and Valley of Story and Character

Each story and character has a highest and lowest point, and it can be useful for the writer and writing student to assess these points to determine whether there is sufficient differentiation between them.
Photo: Adele Annesi, Boston Harbor

Writers should plan the plot points of a story, or at least trace them after the story is written, to assess the story’s pacing (the speed at which it moves forward) and progression (the degree to which the plot unfolds along the way). However, it’s also important to compare the story’s apex and nadir. Apex, in this context, can be its climax; more likely, it is the story’s most complex and interesting point. Conversely, the nadir is the point at which all seems or is lost.

Here are points to consider when assessing whether there is enough differentiation between and development of these two points.

For the apex, describe what is happening in the story at its most complex and interesting point. List the major theme and subtheme present at this moment. Briefly outline how the reader might expect the story to unfold afterward. Also briefly outline how the story does unfold.

For the nadir, describe what is happening at the story’s darkest moment. Consider whether the main theme is adequately addressed. Briefly outline how the reader might expect the story to unfold afterward. Also briefly outline how the story does unfold.

Compare the apex and nadir to see whether there is sufficient differentiation between the two points. There should be enough of a distance between them for the story to be a real journey, not a plot that makes the reader feel he or she is running in place.

Also consider whether there are other possible outcomes at one point and/or the other. Include the setting in your consideration.

Since this approach also works for characters, the writer can follow the same approach for the primary and key secondary roles to see whether there has been enough character development.

Writing students can use this approach for literary analysis and criticism to understand how writers bring stories and characters from the start of a work to its completion.

If you have questions on the apex and nadir stories and characters or other writing queries, email Word for Words.

Happy writing and happy New Year!

Adele Annesi is a writer, editor and teacher whose writing appears in Banking the Bacon: Essays on the Success of Women and in Now What? The Creative Writer's Guide to Success After the MFA. For one of the country’s most instructive one-day writers conferences, visit Ridgefield Writers Conference.