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Story Structure Revisited

There are so many different types of story structure. and they have anywhere from three parts to six, twenty-four, or more.

I happen to be fascinated by story structure. It’s a fundamental piece of writing fiction—and can be used for nonfiction as well.

Story structure helps writers determine what order we should write our stories and reminds us of certain elements which our readers expect to see. We’ve all been trained by television and movies from a young age as to what to expect in a story and when.

We all know that stories generally start with either an ‘initiating event( something that forces the protagonist to do something), there will, in that same period in the story, be some sort of set up where we are introduced into the world of the story.

This beginning is always followed by exciting things happening (rising action), some sort of major something that marks the half-way point (climax, point of no return, mirror moment, or a full turn about), and then there is more action as a result of the midpoint which changed the direction of the story, the protagonist, or both. (the falling action). This then leads to an” all is lost moment” where the story will end if it is a tragedy. Otherwise, the story will begin to wind up, answering all the questions raised and tying off all lose ends. In a mystery the mystery is solved, in a romance the characters have their happily ever after.

One thing I find fascinating are all the different names for each of these plot points.

You can go with the simple Freytag’s pyramid, or you can get very complicated with the hero’s journey. Here are just a few of the structures listed on the plotting app Plottr:

12 Step mystery formula, 24 Chapter Novel Outline, Action Adventure Plot, Eight Sequences Method, Romance Beat Sheet, Romancing the beat, Hauge’s six stage Plot Structure (that link also explains the W Graph), Story Engines Blueprint, Take off Your Pants, Three Act structure, and the W Plot. Not listed, but popular is Save the Cat, which works off an excel spreadsheet giving the author exactly specific word counts for each section.

No matter where you are in your writing journey, no matter where you are in the writing of your current WIP (work in progress), it’s never a bad time to pause and consider your story’s structure. At worst, you have been faithful following a particular structure and know what’s coming up next; at best this will help you to see where you are and where you should go.

If your feeling stuck, look at your story structure, If you’ve got writer’s block, analyze your story structure. Honestly, you can’t go wrong pausing to see if you’re on the right track.

It doesn’t matter which structure you are following—as I said in the beginning they’re really all the same at the heart of it no matter what you call all the points/beats:

So, knowing all this, how do you know which structure to follow? Go with the one that speaks to you, that makes sense with what your writing.

I strongly encourage you to look through a variety to decide which one is best for you and your story.

Oh, and if you’re doing NaNoWriMo, maybe wait until December to pause think about this.

Merry
 

Meredith Bond is an award-winning author of a series of traditionally published Regency romances and indie-published paranormal romances. Known for her characters “who slip readily into one’s heart,” Meredith’s heart belongs to her husband and two children. Meredith’s second favorite pastime is teaching others to write.

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