The Art of Story Structures

From Write to Done:

Picture this: In a sudden burst of divine inspiration, you find yourself visited by the ancient Muse who bestows upon you the perfect idea for your very own novel. It’s every author (and aspiring author’s) dream. But once the initial adrenaline wears off, it can quickly morph into a nightmare. Between the scattered plot points and fuzzy technicalities, it’s difficult to imagine that any organized form of writing can come from this creative vision.

Enter the art of story structures.

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In essence, a story structure is the roadmap for your story.

At their best, story structures help you to visually align the events of your novel in an organized and logical sequence, making it easier to draft the story itself by defining the important plot points.

There are various kinds of story structures, each suited to a different type of writer, but all of them generally consist of:

  • a conflict
  • a climax
  • a resolution

Next, we’ll take a closer look at these common elements.

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Keeping in mind that there are multiple methods that authors use to structure and outline their stories, we’ll focus on some of the main aspects that remain the same throughout each technique.

  1. The Opener: This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of any story. In this portion, you identify both the protagonist and the driving force of the entire plot. Be it a quest, a problem, or a challenge, this force must be strong enough to propel your character through the entire story and compel your readers to stick around till the very end.
  2. The Catalyst: This is the event that gets the ball rolling. The catalyst is the moment where the problem becomes so undeniable that it finally forces the protagonist to act in order to avoid the worst possible result or consequence. The stakes should be high.
  3. The Tension Grows: With the stakes floating comfortably in the upper atmosphere, it’s time to take them to the stars. This portion of the story should involve a series of crises that fit logically into the plot while progressively getting worse. These are what motivates your protagonist to continue fighting the problem and working towards the desired solution.
  4. The Climax: Many people are tempted to mistake the climax for the end of the story, but it’s far from it! This is the point in the story where things have escalated to their absolute worst. Hopeless and faced with utter failure, this is a turning point for the protagonist; they must decide whether to continue on against all odds or to give up and accept the worst.
  5. The End: It all comes down to this. Using what they’ve learned along the way, your protagonist must act and either succeed or fail. Ideally, an ending will both satisfy the reader as they complete their journey with your protagonist and leave them wanting more.

Seven Story Structures

One: Dean Koontz’s Classic

This structure is simple enough to be ideal for writers who prefer a loose approach to outlining. It consists of only four steps:The sooner the trouble, the better. The moment the stakes are high enough to carry the plot of your novel, throw your character head-first into the thick of it. Before you take this high-dive, though, make sure you’ve developed your character into someone your readers are genuinely invested in.

It’s all downhill from here. Everything that your character does should inevitably make their dilemma even worse. It’s important to make sure that each problem proceeds logically from the one before it, but the deeper the trouble, the better.

Enter utter hopelessness. This is what your protagonist has been training for. Everything they learned in overcoming the previous obstacles should come into play here as the reader (and maybe even you yourself) wonder how the protagonist is ever going to escape the inevitable.

Success or failure, against all odds. Loyal readers expect an ending that neatly ties up the story. Whether that ending is one of victory or disappointment depends on the individual circumstances of each story; either way, this portion should provide a sense of closure for your readers and the protagonist.

Link to the rest at Write to Done