A story arc (also narrative arc) is the chronological construction of plot in a novel or story. It can also mean an extended or continuing storyline in episodic storytelling media such as television, comic books, comic strips, board games, video games, and films with each episode following a dramatic arc. On a television program, for example, the story would unfold over many episodes. In television, the use of the story arc is common in sitcoms, and even more so in soap operas. In a traditional Hollywood film, the story arc usually follows a three-act format. Webcomics are more likely to use story arcs than newspaper comics, as most web comics have readable archives online that a newcomer to the strip can read in order to understand what is going on. Although story arcs have existed for decades, the term "story arc" was coined in 1988 in relation to the television series Wiseguy, and was quickly adapted for other uses.
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Many American comic book series are now written in four or six-issue arcs, within a continuing series. Short story arcs are easier to package as trade paperbacks for resale, and more accessible to the casual reader than the never-ending continuity that once characterized US comics. A corollary to the absence of continuity, however, is that, as exemplified in 1950s DC Superman comics, no permanent change to characters or situations occurs, meaning no growth can take place. Thus, story lines repeat over time in a loop.