Arc Words


Results 1 to 9 of 9

Thread: Arc Words

  1. #1
    Baron
    Guest

    Arc Words

    A discussion on another forum got me thinking about this one. It's a device used by many writers of fantasy and science fiction. William Morris, the father of modern fantasy, used it to notable effect in his book, "The Well at the World's End". It's also been used in t.v. series like Dr. Who.

    From the Arcane Wiki

    The narrative Trope known as "Arc Words" refers to an enigmatic word or phrase that appears, unexplained and without context, here and there throughout a series or story arc, and (with luck) is finally explained at or near the climax. A way of building up tension and mystery, as well as an indicator that anyone using the words knows more than they're telling.
    Another useful link is:

    Arc Words - Television Tropes & Idioms

    How many consciously use this device in their work or see the benefit? Those phrases that seem to have no real relevance and aren't explained until the climax of the book can add a terrific mysterious hook.

  2. #2
    ^ I, for one, agree that its a great way of foreshadowing. I use them, especially when writing suspense/thriller fictions, but never consciously, or rather, planned. Sometimes, I go back a chapter only to realize I've used the trope, though subtly, and since its already there, I might as well use it. I've used it consciously only once before, in a 2500-word short story about a deranged patient. Link is here: Prisoners of the Mind

    "They know."
    Hidden Content
    GOD DOESN'T MAKE THE WORLD THIS WAY... WE DO. - RORSCHACH, WATCHMEN

  3. #3
    Bad Wolf. Yes, I remember. It was used throughout the tenure of the Ninth Doctor's sole season. The issue I have with it is this: What is great on screen may not be great in a novel. In one form, we're hearing it spoken by the characters, in the other, we're reading it on the page. What is eerie foreboding in one medium can be annoying in another. If I were to use it in a short story or a novel, I would slip it in as something seemingly inoccuous rather than overly blatant. I would want people to finish the story and then go: "Oh my God, that's why "weasel" was said there, there and there! At which point, they would read it again and recognize the references. But, that is something that I'd really want to plan out first. Even then, a ten foot pole comes to mind!

  4. #4
    Baron
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by powerskris View Post
    Bad Wolf. Yes, I remember. It was used throughout the tenure of the Ninth Doctor's sole season. The issue I have with it is this: What is great on screen may not be great in a novel. In one form, we're hearing it spoken by the characters, in the other, we're reading it on the page. What is eerie foreboding in one medium can be annoying in another. If I were to use it in a short story or a novel, I would slip it in as something seemingly inoccuous rather than overly blatant. I would want people to finish the story and then go: "Oh my God, that's why "weasel" was said there, there and there! At which point, they would read it again and recognize the references. But, that is something that I'd really want to plan out first. Even then, a ten foot pole comes to mind!
    What you describe is exactly how the trope should be used - subtly. William Morris used apparently meaningless references to the "dead tree". Then he introduced the "riders of the dead tree". The full meaning of this didn't become apparent until the end of the book.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Baron View Post
    What you describe is exactly how the trope should be used subtly. William Morris used apparently meaningless references to the "dead tree". Then he introduced the "riders of the dead tree". The full meaning of this didn't become apparent until the end of the book.
    So, are the "Rosebud"/Citizen Kane and "Are you watching closely?"/The Prestige examples from TV Tropes accurate examples of this, in your opinion?
    I am a man
    who stands against the mountain
    and thinks of pebbles

  6. #6
    Cool, note taken!

  7. #7
    .
    Last edited by NicholasJAmbrose; February 3rd, 2015 at 04:13 AM.

  8. #8
    Well, if I understand correctly, the point is to hint at it without drawing attention to it. Or, if "Rosebud" from Citizen Kane is a good example, to bring it up as a mystery in itself and have the reveal at the end change the dynamics of the entire story leading up to it.

    Would "Chinatown" be another example of this?
    I am a man
    who stands against the mountain
    and thinks of pebbles

  9. #9
    I love when writers use this! As soon as I read what it was, it reminded me of the story Choker by Elizabeth Woods and she uses it very subtly so that I did not even really notice it until the end when it was revealed and then I was like "Oh! That's what that was!"

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
This website uses cookies
We use cookies to store session information to facilitate remembering your login information, to allow you to save website preferences, to personalise content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners.