There was a graphical representation of Star Wars, and the curves the story takes.

Should a story be rhythm based like this from design phase (i.e. when making some pre-writing work)?

enter image description here

  • 1
    Hi, and welcome to Writers SE. You obviously know how SE works, so you know not to ask discussion questions. That said: 1) You have two interesting questions here, so please separate them and post them individually. I think there's fertile ground for both. 2) Both your questions lean towards subjectivity ("What's your take?" "I think it could be...") so please edit and tighten to make sure they are purely answerable questions, not launching points for discussion. Jun 28, 2013 at 12:51
  • @LaurenIpsum hi, i'll edit my question. Due to the nature of "Writers" (i.e. writing is more subjective than others of SE), i thought this could be tackled more subjectively.
    – Alex
    Jun 28, 2013 at 13:23
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    Subjectivity is fine, but questions still have to be specific and answerable. Asking if a story should be rhythm-based is not answerable, but asking what the advantages are of this method is. Jun 28, 2013 at 14:40
  • @NeilFein i am not a writer, thus don't know what is the creative process of writing. By me, you could start with a plan of the whole plot, or the general view forms as you are writing your story. I am not aware of the steps, it could be common knowledge that there should be a plan or not!
    – Alex
    Jun 28, 2013 at 14:53

3 Answers 3


I always studied the hero's journey, where the main character goes trough a development process that works for most (if not all) plots. J. K. Rowling used that in all her Harry Potter's books, and I think they are awesome examples.

Basically, the character goes trough these steps (I'm sorry if I didn't use the correct English terms):

  • Everyday life
  • The Call to Adventure
  • Refusal of the Call
  • External aid (mentor)
  • The Crossing of the First Threshold
  • Probations
  • Transformation
  • Climax
  • Return to an everyday life (but self improved)

This events may happen more than on time in a story (in each step, for example) creating that rhythm that you are talking about. Please check Hero's journey

  • Luke lives in his planet - everyday life
  • Luke find the droids with a quest - call to adventure
  • He do not want to leave his family - refusal to the call
  • Obi Wan starts to train him (mentor)
  • and so on...

Of course, some modern stories may not follow those steps in quite a linear way, but you will find some of those steps in all plots. They create cadence and, most important, attach the story to something that we expect as readers.

I don't think that can be used to other kinds of arts, because it's quite specific to literature but, I won't say a painter can't create a series of works - or buildings, if he is an architect - using those steps. But if you think well, he would be telling a story not with words but with paints.

  • hi, and thank you for the quick reply! i did not know about the Hero's journey, i'll look for more about it. But i don't think you understood what i meant. By rhythm, i meant the gradual rise and fall of the plot (viewable on the graphic). If you can see, the tension builds up as the time passes creating fluctuations leading up in tention. This is not necesaraly hero-driven,it may focus on other story characters or on the story itself. The hero's journey has a main scenario that addresses only the hero.
    – Alex
    Jun 28, 2013 at 13:51
  • The her's journey creates a circle that goes from nothing to climax and then back to nothing. The start is the zero point, the climax is the 100 point, the end is the zero point again. If you check your graphic, you will see that the line is doing exactly that: growing from zero to 100 and then back to zero. In each step of the main line you have also circles that will make the line drop and raise, ending in an upper point (the main plot's hero's journey). I think it fits perfectly the her's journey. Jun 28, 2013 at 13:57
  • Imagine that you have a hero journey for each movie, and another from the trilogy. Jun 28, 2013 at 13:58
  • good point! i got lost a little in my own thoughts
    – Alex
    Jun 28, 2013 at 14:06
  • Star Wars is very explicitly a Hero's Journey trilogy; Lucas openly said he studied Campbell in its creation. Jun 28, 2013 at 14:32

You can't have fast action scenes without slow, wind-down scenes, because if everything is fast, how can you tell it's fast, when you have no slow scenes to compare them to? The same way you can't have light without the dark, good without evil. If everything is the same pace, the same rhythm, it's neither slow nor fast, it becomes the norm. It's monotonous and boring. It has no impact. I don't think you'll find many good stories of novelette length and greater that don't have rhythm to them. Short stories might be an exception, simply because some of them can be made of just one single scene.

It's not just with scenes, same sentence length is also monotonous, varying the sentence length and structure makes the writing more dynamic. I'm going to blatantly steal an example from standback's answer to this question because I'm too lazy to find my own and his is perfect :)

I was as empty of life as a scarecrow's pockets. I went out to the kitchenette and drank two cups of black coffee. You can have a hangover from other things than alcohol. I had one from women. Women made me sick.

See how they go: medium, long, medium, short, short?

Now look at it written like this:

I was as empty of life as a scarecrow's pockets. I went out to the kitchenette. I drank two cups of black coffee. You can have a hangover from other things than alcohol. I had one from women, because women made me sick.

Much more monotonous, isn't it? This can be used on purpose when you want to show that monotony, for example if a character has a boring job or daily routine, but writing the whole piece like this would bore the reader to death. It's same with paragraph length, although it usually doesn't have as much impact as the sentence. In other words, you need rhythm in all aspects of writing.

  • i haven't thought about sentence length variation, what a difference! Thanks for the answer, really builds up my perspective!
    – Alex
    Jun 28, 2013 at 13:59
  • 1
    Even the subtlest change can have an impact in writing. I forgot to mention word length as well, there's also a rhythm to that. Check out this answer: writers.stackexchange.com/a/1677/4264 , the rhythm of the words is very nicely explained there.
    – Tannalein
    Jun 28, 2013 at 14:09

The "sequencing" of story into slower and faster sections is an old, established technique; think of them as minor climaxes - threads reaching their "special moments". It creates flow, it builds up to every important part, and builds tension.

As every rule though, this one can be broken. I don't remember the title, but I still remember the story where the protagonist is changed into some miserable frog-like monstrosity less than halfway through, unable to fight, vulnerable and repulsive. He then proceeds to travel towards the goal of his journey and for a chapter or two receives little mercies in between his suffering, and then even these cease. Over a third of the book is just his harsh, unforgiving journey gradually losing every resource he had accumulated, no good news, no victories, and only more misery and suffering - no respite, no relief, no slowing of pace. It was many years ago and I forgot the title and the author but I still remember that gloom, that extremely depressive atmosphere and every hope of respite taken away before it could even be fleshed out, that made the book completely unique.

So, there; follow that rule if you want to make a good story. Break it mercilessly if you want a superior one.

  • Was that The Princess and the Frog? Jun 28, 2013 at 14:33
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    Don't go into breaking the rules already, let him learn the rules first ;) Breaking the rules before you know them very, very well can lead to some awful writing. Every rule can be broken, but only when you know what you're doing can they be broken correctly to create some amazing works of art. It takes a lot of knowledge and experience.
    – Tannalein
    Jun 28, 2013 at 14:34
  • @Tannalein: Agreed. You must know what you're doing if you're doing something like this.
    – SF.
    Jun 28, 2013 at 14:53
  • @LaurenIpsum: I'm fairly certain it was not. The motive of "3, 7, 9, the magical numbers" was prevalent throughout the story, and it was n-th book in a lengthy series, although didn't read like that.
    – SF.
    Jun 28, 2013 at 14:54
  • @SF. Sorry, I was making a joke. The Disney movie The Princess and the Frog is very merry and upbeat despite the setbacks and heartbreak. Jun 28, 2013 at 14:55

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