Jenny Andersen's The Surrender Arc
By Trulie Peterson
Copyright © 2009 by Lazette Gifford, All Rights Reserved
other authors, I have a strong romantic thread in my fiction, even
though I don't write Romance.
In an effort to strengthen
my characters' romantic relationships I was excited to come upon Jenny
Andersen's article on plotting using what she terms “The Surrender Arc”.
For the purpose of this
article, let's imagine a happily ever after ending, although the
Surrender Arc can certainly be employed for use with other outcomes.
Surrender is therefore the goal, surrendering to love, surrendering to
trust, surrendering control, surrendering whatever your character needs
to along the way to that happily ever after. Surrender itself indicates
there is some struggle involved on the way to resolution. There should
be obstacles, your characters should be thwarted in some manner. This
makes for a more satisfying read. In real life it is possible for the
course of true love to run smooth. Unfortunately for your characters,
this makes for boring reading. Use of the Surrender Arc helps plot out
what these hidden depths and surging rapids hold for your characters in
To briefly summarize, use of
this Arc is a device to plot out not necessarily the actions of your
characters, but their emotional journey. How do the character's feelings
change over the course of the story? What are the obstacles? Where are
the characters' feelings at different points in the story? For example,
if the couple meets at the beginning of your story, what are their first
impressions of each other? What are the internal and external obstacles
keeping them apart?
Draw a curved
line across a page.
On one side is Protagonist X's feelings, the other side is Protagonist
Y. Now imagine the stages of a relationship. Let's say that for X and Y
it follows this path:
Do the protagonists have the
same feelings at the same time? It will probably make for a more
interesting story (and be more realistic) if they don't. Perhaps when X
is feeling attraction, Y is feeling antagonistic. Perhaps when Y is
falling toward Love, X is still feeling Respect. How will X react to
Within these emotions come
the milestones of a relationship. These can be different for different
couples but let's say that the milestones involve holding hands, a
formal first date, a first kiss. What are
your characters feeling at each of these milestones? Perhaps X
felt pressured into going on the date by a parent. Perhaps Y meant the
kiss to be a simple goodnight peck and it turned into something more.
The Surrender Arc,
coupled with the plot arc will also clarify the emotions of your
characters. How different are the emotions X experiences if life is
going blandly according to plan as opposed to the chaos of wartime?
What is the push-pull exerted by the subplots of friends and/or
family? What is going on with X and Y professionally? The plot has a
direct bearing on how X and Y view each other. With each event there is
a change in the character's perspective, emotions and what happens next
is influenced by those feelings.
The Surrender Arc is also
helpful in revision. It's a great tool for tracking your intertwined
plot lines and making sure that the emotions you are portraying are
genuine and fit where the character is at that point in time. This will
prevent your romance subplot from feeling independent of the action of
the rest of the story.
By using the Surrender Arc
in plotting it become much easier to track the changes the characters
experience over the course of the story. It's a handy tool to keep in
the writer's toolbox.
original article “The Surrender Arc” can be downloaded here: