Arcs — bad for electricians, good for stories?
Today, let’s talk a bit about story arcs, shall we? And not just story arcs that last for one novel or movie, but ones that go on for a bit and form at least a trilogy (or more).
What’s the key to a good, multi-part story arc? TV manages to pull it off rather often, following the same characters and situation over multiple seasons, but a lot of movies trying to do the same thing fall apart (Matrix series, I’m looking in your direction). Some novels do it quite well, and some never quite seem related enough to be an actual arc.
I think it has to do with having at least one very strong character you can hang a multi-part narrative on. The most impressive example of this, to me, is Frank Herbert’s Dune series — it spans thousands and thousands of years, yet thanks to the constant reappearance of Duncan Idaho, the reader has an anchor that ties all of these seemingly disparate stories together. This is why I can never fully embrace the Lynch version of Dune, as it did kind of relegate Idaho, the most important character in the overall arc — to a sort of background player.
So, which books/movies/TV series do arcs well? Which are terrible at it? Does it help if they’re based on books, or does that matter?