Mark A. Mandel
mamandel at LDC.UPENN.EDU
Fri Oct 21 13:24:28 UTC 2005
There's been a discussion recently on another list of the term "story arc",
referring to a plot or storyline that runs through several episodes of a
(tv) series, often interwoven in each episode with other plotlines in such a
way that no episode or set of episodes has just one story, and many of these
stories run through (distinct sets of) multiple episodes.
I've got a citation from 1983 (below, from the NY Times online archive). I
don't see it in the ADS-L archives, either generation.
OED Online has "arc" in a clearly related sense, referring to the dramatic
or narrative course of an entire work, s.v. "arc" under DRAFT ADDITIONS
- "dramatic arc"
- 1962 w.r.t. Brecht
- 1986 fiction author Stephen Dixon
- "arc of story" 1978 Dickens
- "story arc" not till 2001, tv series "First Wave" on the SciFi Channel,
and in the earlier sense referring to the whole series
- "arc" by itself 1995 ("X-Files"?) is the only citation with the
'multi-episode plot' sense
Can anyone push it further back?
-- Mark A. Mandel
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 20 Oct 2005 19:52:18 -0700 (PDT)
From: Mark A. Mandel
To: Discussion of the works of Lois McMaster Bujold.
<lois-bujold at lists.herald.co.uk>
Subject: Re: [LMB] Re: OT - There Ought To Be A Word...
> The first one was The Tar-Aiym Krang (if I remember the title
I never read it, but that spelling looks right to me.
> An "arc" I think came out of J. M. Straczynski talking about Babylon 5
> the old GEnie network in the Babylon 5 Round Table, referring to "story
> arcs" in which the TV show features a continuing cast of characters, but
> there are particular stories that extend past a single show, and go on
> continuing plots that can extend through two or more eposides of the TV
I think "story arc" is at least as old as "Hill Street Blues" (NBC from
1981 to 1987:
applies to a story or plot line that develops over multiple episodes,
often interwoven with other stories starting and ending at different
times. (See Wikipedia's entry, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Story_arc .)
Hmmm... can't find early mentions, though. I'll ask the Dialect Society.
Ah ha! New York Times, 1983:
SOMETIMES A TV CHARACTER STEPS-OUT AND STAYS OUT
By D.C. DENISON
Published: April 17, 1983
''Claudia was an incredible neurotic and has a very good story arc for
about a season and a half,'' Mr. Pollock adds.
-- Dr. Whom, Consulting Linguist, Grammarian,
Orthoepist, and Philological Busybody
a.k.a. Mark A. Mandel
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