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why is story structure important

How do you motivate Charlotte to open that locked door? The first plot point separates… A writer’s prose style-voice, tone, diction, use of figurative language-determines how readers ‘hear’ and, to some extent, enjoy a story, but the internal structure, the organization of the parts, shapes the piece, makes it readable, and often determines its meaning. The rule is that you present the internalization to the reader when necessary (between action and reaction) to make an otherwise incredible exchange understandable and believable. To begin with, you need to understand how the same structural principles work on a line-by-line level in your writing. Sure they can. For your character to fall ill, you must first establish the background (stress, exhaustion, exposure), then provide the more immediate (present story time) cause, before your character can suddenly succumb to the flu, the plague, or the walking zombie rot. But when was the last time you saw an office drone on the subway reading The Metamorphosis? Your readers need structure so that they can understand this story they’re reading, and feelsomething as a result. What next might happen after she does? Structure is not formulaic. The Conflict 2. Writing stories based on story structure is really the first step in writing a story that a reader and eventual audience will pay money to read and attend. Analysing the plot structure of books can be a great exercise. My copy of the Philosopher’s Stone has 223 pages, so let’s use this guideline to calculate the breakdown: To calculate where all the percentages fall in the book, we first need to find out 1% of 223 pages.Simply divide 223 by 100 to get 2.23, and then multiply 2.23 by whichever percentage you want. Probably not recently. This is where, after receiving a flurry of mysterious letters Uncle Vernon refuses to let Harry read, they find themselves in a little shack on a rock way out at sea. Structure in fiction isn’t static, it’s dynamic. For example it is structural engineering that allows for an accurate estimation of safe weight maximums on bridges, the storm force winds a warehouse or facility can withstand, or the magnitude of tremors a skyscraper can endure during an earthquake. First of all, what is a story exactly? He would prove his love to Amanda, even if it meant maiming himself. You need to understand structure in the larger elements, yes. Required fields are marked *. Is it possible to write a moving fictional narrative that doesn’t rely on this kind of cause-and-effect? Hagrid introduces Harry to the wonderful magical location of Diagon Alley to get his school supplies. There are two important plot points. So now we’ve recapped the 3-Act Structure, have you heard of the 6-Stage structure? Teaching through living, truth and story are *so important* yet we need to really examine what happens when someone’s role modeling gets a fair amount of attention. I grew up with the series and the first five books have loose pages from the number of times my sister and I have reread them. The same cause-and-effect logic that is operative at the macro level of fiction in elements such as background, character motive, and so on, are also at work at the micro-level in the form of action and reaction. It will take some care and patience, but the result will be worth it. Writing them out of order can present big—or more subtle—problems later. You must show the reactions. Harry and his friends are awarded house-points for their efforts, securing the win for Gryffindor in what is Harry’s best moment in life so far. It is the call to action, an event that can’t be ignored. In this lesson for students in second or late first grade, teachers help students explore the concepts of beginning, middle, and ending by reading a variety of stories and charting the events on storyboards. But why are stories so important to us? Fortunately (for the architect and for you as a writer), many of the same principles of construction apply to both projects. Why is plot more important than characters? Though the idea of quantifying something so creative can feel a bit soulless, it’s an excellent way to identify all the developing moments in your story. Thankfully, it’s easier to fix the broken structure of a story than a roller-coaster. When reaction to action is not logical on the surface, you must ordinarily explain it. An excerpt from The Romance of Eowain, narrated by Will Hughes: An excerpt from A Merchant's Tale, narrated by Will Hughes: So that we can continue to deliver great content, please consider making a donation to the Adventures. In a story, elements such as story length, author intention, traditional genre expectations, and many others may affect the final form a story may take. General readers just won’t find it credible or interesting if it doesn’t. Conversely, we often see actions that warrant, indeed demand a reaction, and yet— nothing happens. “Structure is a selection of events form the characters’ life stories that is composed into a strategic sequence to arouse the specific emotions and to express a specific view of life. Everyday life is full of accidents, coincidences, happenstance, and fate, all of which play a role in determining “how things work out” in one’s life. This is most certainly a new incredible situation as Harry learns about the world that was hidden from him his whole life. Many writers balk at words like structure, form, or plot. ‘Jesus, John, WTF? A powerful way to evoke emotions, which is important because people remember emotionally-charged experiences better and longer An age-old way of making a topic interesting, so the audience pays more attention An alternate way to make your point, helping people to understand better The internal structure is like the frame of a house, the beams, braces and other appurtenances inside the walls. How to plan your story structure with Excel. Your readers need structure so that they can understand this story they’re reading, and. Life just doesn’t make much sense. What is story structure? View’s profile on Facebook, View @MdellertDotCom’s profile on Twitter, View michaeldellert’s profile on Pinterest, View Michael Dellert’s profile on LinkedIn, The Wedding of Eithne (Signed Print Edition), The Wedding of Eithne (Amazon Print Edition), Spectacular Settings: The Hills of the Cailech (WEP Entry). But in real life a person might fall ill for no apparent reason. “A story event creates meaningful change in the life situation of a character that … Thankfully, it’s easier to fix the broken structure of a story than a roller-coaster. Reactions, too, must be external and physical. Structure is to a story what the skeleton is to the human body. All you have to do is figure out what caused it. Describe why this poem fits the three act structure. It is, in essence, half of your novel. Literature has many forms, and each form has its own unique structure for telling a story. A few months back, we blogged about how to create suspense in your play or story. After being caught roaming around Hogwarts at night after sending off the hatched dragon, Harry and his friends are punished with detention. They are the long Creation story lines that cross the country and put all geographical and sacred sites into place in Aboriginal culture. Your email address will not be published. (Ride the NYC subway sometime if you don’t believe me. We want visitors, so let’s try and avoid a situation where they’re trying to pull themselves out of the rubble of our weak story foundation. Actions must be external— that is, something that can be witnessed if the transaction were on a stage. Structure presents only a shape—the curve of the story arc that we all recognize as vital to a novel’s success. The importance of plot is complicated when considering modernist literature and the movements that came after it. There are a wide variety of novel forms, from the earliest epistolary novels, told as a sequence of letters, to the diary-style novels in works such as Robinson Crusoe. Because if you start the story with a dark and stormy night, there better be wind-tossed leaves, wet grass, and maybe a tree down in the yard the next morning. We’ve all heard the scientific maxim that every action must have an equal and opposite reaction. Still, they persevere to save the Philosopher’s Stone, using their wits and friendship to bypass the magical security measures. But if a character picks up a hot pan with his bare hand, the internalization is pretty obvious, instinctive even. Glad you asked. Harry, Ron and Hermione believe Snape is forcing Quirrell to steal the stone, but when they learn Hagrid has an illegal dragon’s egg, they also have an additional problem to worry about. Harry convinces the Dursleys to let him tag along to the zoo for Dudley’s birthday, where he somehow frees a bored talking snake by making the glass vanish. For every action, you must show a reaction. You might do this in order to goad the reader’s curiosity, or to build suspense. You might be a student trying to get a passing grade on an essay, a guy trying to text to a smart girl without humiliating yourself, an employee writing a company-wide memo, or a writer working on your next book. And that teaser—that promise of an awesome story—comes into play with the ‘inciting incident’. This is the geometry and trigonometry of writing. Developing a structure or framework for your writing will ensure that the most important points are covered at the appropriate point in the writing. At its most basic level, story structure relates to the beginning, middle, and end of your novel. Here, we have a great plot twist where Harry realises that its’s not Snape, but Quirrell who is trying to steal the stone. Charlotte might jump out of her shoes for no reason we can see or hear at all. A story, whether it is a short story, a fictional work or a nonfiction one, must be organized according to some structure. And once you’ve had that particular thing happen with good reason, your next plotting step becomes infinitely simpler. In fiction, the character has to be depressed about recent events, tired from overwork, despairing over his rocky marriage, walking into an office or home full of already sick people, and maybe even sneezed on before the reader would find it credible. If it's important to know what you did, what happened to you, where you came from, etc, it's also important to know why other things are the way they are-- to give more context and meaning to our lives. Throughout this post, terms like “external” and “physical” have been used. There are a few main types of story structure but overall, the structure of your story is how the events are laid out with an emphasis on using each part to further the story in an intriguing and cohesive structure. In this structure, the information is written in descending order, with the most important points appearing at the top of the article, and the lesser news written in a shorter, downward direction – ending at a fine point in the manner of a pyramid that is turned upside down. If you describe a cause, it better have an effect. To put this differently, in fiction, effects (plot developments) must have causes (background), and vice versa. For every reaction, have you provided an immediate, external reaction? You could look at this as a more precise dissection of the 3-Act structure as shown here by Michael Hauge. And there, you can see how well Rowling has structured the first book of the beloved Harry Potter series. For writers, this can be the most difficult act to write, and not just because it tends to be twice as big as Act 1 and 3. More importantly, structure helps you, as the writer, keep track of all the events so that chara… And while you get all kinds of rides, the ones that draw people back again and again are design to make you anticipate the ride. You can use this technique to analyses books you like–or even didn’t like– you might find that the story structure played a big part in how engaged you were. Not every story needs a three act structure — but many of them do and that's why it's so important to know how it works. They want you to deliver on the promise that you set up in Act 1 and made them chase through Act 2. This is your roller-coaster. The two interrelate, but they’re not quite the same. This prompted me to purchase her book, Monkeys with Typewriters: How to … If I calculate all the turning points this way, I end up with this: This is a rough guide, and I allowed a margin of a few pages before and after each turning point. First Pinch Point: Clay then listens to next five tapes.During one of the tapes, Clay sees a classmate he hasn’t seen for a while and who seems seemed down. As the school year ends, he returns to the Dursleys with excitement for the future. Actions must be something on the stage in the story “now,” something that could be seen or heard or otherwise perceived with the senses of the audience if you were to put the exchange on a theatre stage. The structure of any story has four important components i.e., plot, setting, character, and theme. Much of your plotting from chapter to chapter has to deal with this kind of juggling of events so that one thing leads logically to another, cause-and-effect fashion. Describe in a single paragraph why this poem is a story according to the “change in response to conflict” definition of story. The next level of the story structure pyramid is plot points. He is currently working as an independent freelancer. The middle is where things tend to get out of hand for your characters. ), 50—75% (Complications and higher stakes). Such folks seem to believe that this implies some type of formula or predetermined format as rigid as a paint-by-numbers portrait. The structure you choose for your storyshould help you align and sequence: 1. This is our first true entry into the wizarding world. It seems nearly impossible for the human being to resist becoming enthralled with their own power, and that’s usually when bad things happen, and the need to keep those things under wraps takes over and wreaks havoc. After taking to the skies to get Neville’s Remembrall back from Draco, Harry is reprimanded by Professor McGonagall (and is subsequently made Seeker of the Gryffindor Quidditch team! So here we have our classic 3-Act structure, as presented by Syd Field in a manner that dissects a time-and-tested successful screenplay. Why is structure so important? The story structure is internal, as opposed to the form of the story, which is external. Your email address will not be published. The external form has to do with what’s been done with the structure, whether it be a colonial or a contemporary, large or small, one- or two-storied. For every action, are you showing a reaction? These are all exciting and significant milestones for young Harry in a world which is intriguing and exciting. Likewise, to simply say, “Bill was surprised,” is not an external, physical reaction. Last year, I attended the Sydney Writers’ Festival and listened to English author and creative writing lecturer, Scarlett Thomas, speak. Post was not sent - check your email addresses! Once you’re good at this as a writer, you can make most anything happen in your story. Keeping the audience on the edge of their seat is crucial for any narrative to work properly. They function right now in the story, at this instant — the thrust that requires a parry, the question that requires an answer, the lightning bolt that makes Charlotte jump out of her shoes as she contemplates that locked door. Re-watch Contagion, where a sizeable portion of the screen-time is devoted to all the things Gwyneth Paltrow did — every drinking glass she touched, every person she came in contact with — to contract the signature plague of the film’s premise. The Reasons Why Geography is SO Important Will Surely Amaze You. The stakes should be even higher, ratcheting up the obstacles and the very real possibility of failure. Not that the journey itself isn’t important, but after flipping through all those pages, your readers have earned the ending. Forging ahead with awful planning and shoddy construction will cause your roller-coaster to collapse on your poor riders. But underneath most forms lies the same structure, the same unchanging principles, and the same creative laws. The 3-Act Structure. What are Narrative Structures? Reactions must also be external in the same way. The only difference is that structure allows us to be concrete and confident in our creation of that arc, ensuring the shape always turns out perfectly. But that’s just the rule. He lives in the Greater New York City area. It seems to me that stories are so necessary because they serve so many critical functions that enable us to survive and thrive as humans, all at once. Structure is a process, not a rigid format. An architect of a ten-floor office building wouldn’t use the same structural materials as he would in a split-level ranch. That might require some internalization presented to the reader, like so (internalization in bold): “Joe grabbed the hot pan with his bare hands. As a writer, you need structure so that your stories will “hang together” and make sense. Harry discovers the three-headed dog guarding the mysterious package from vault 713, fights a troll on Halloween, nearly falls off his broomstick in his first Quidditch match, learns of Nicholas Flamel, anonymously receives an Invisibility Cloak, stumbles upon the Mirror of Erised, realises the existence of the Philosopher’s Stone, and suspects Snape of trying to steal the stone. And like … Imagine your story as a roller-coaster ride. If you enjoy this content, please sign up for the mailing list: You’ll receive access to free eBook content, daily writing prompts, new posts ahead of publication, and a monthly newsletter from the studio of a working writer and professional publisher. These are the six stages of Hauge’s story structure: If you’re novel feels out of balance, it’s worth checking your story beats against these six stages. He can’t just walk onto the stage and punch Bill in the nose for no apparent reason. Why Is Structural Engineering Important? An important part of understanding data structures is simply knowing some of the most common data structures. The stakes are definitely raised with the growing sense of danger. Structure in fiction is necessary for two reasons: The story structure is internal, as opposed to the form of the story, which is external. Harry gets his own wand, meets the wizarding community, runs into antagonist Draco, locates Platform 9 ¾, travels to Hogwarts, makes his first true friend in Ron, gets sorted into Gryffindor, has magic lessons, and rides his first broomstick. Your answer should use the words “motivation”, “conflict”, “change”, and “arc”. That’s a lie. Because honestly, yes, even the most basic action-reaction exchanges require some kind of internal messaging in the mind and body of the receiving character. The parts need to be screwed together precisely with very specific nuts and bolts. The metal you build your track from has to withstand the weather and heat. In my post ‘ How to plan your story structure with Excel ‘, I will show you how to analyse the structure of your own work using helpful visual methods! Story is made out of series of events. And if it doesn’t, if there is no structural reason for the storm, if it doesn’t somehow advance your plot, then it’s just one of those damned things. A span can only support so much weight and tension without additional bracing. If the peaks aren’t high enough, they’ll forget the ride as soon as they got off. But when you’ve finally penned that climax, the resolution—whether happy, sad, or bittersweet, should follow swiftly without dragging on and losing impact. Why is this important? When you write a story, it's important to have a good structure, so that readers are given enough information to understand and enjoy it. Structure is arranging your story's elements into a specific chronological order to elicit … Structure, suffice it to say, is important. We’ve compiled six tips and strategies for teaching story structure in ways that help boost reading comprehension skills. You are the designer, architect, engineer and constructor. Works like like Mrs. Dalloway, Ulysses, and Naked Lunch are bare for any real "plot" in the normal sense. The internal structure is like the frame of a ho… All you have to do is take the next logical step and ask yourself, “Then what next?”. In a later post, I’ll explore the various forms in more detail. Sometimes people burst into tears in the middle of an otherwise innocuous conversation, or suddenly reverse their course through the library. Sometimes, you’ll want the reader to be shocked and puzzled by a reaction for a moment. Don’t believe me? "It's impossible to know all of them … but be aware of the most common ones, and how to analyze and use a data structure in the context of what you're trying to do," Wengrow said. If you have too many peaks without enough gentle bumps, people will throw up. Why should we study it? We have to just scratch our heads, shrug, and accept it as “one of those things.”. And, yes, the weight, the demand, of this expectation can be daunting. My point is, if you want to write popular literature, cause-and-effect have to be evident to the reader. A framework such as the Written Report Structure, above, will also allow you to break down the daunting task of writing a … It doesn’t require an explanation. Most non-writers who talk about form and structure tend to put the cart before the horse, looking at book-length elements, or even non-structural elements like theme, and never get down into the nuts and bolts where modern fiction structure really lives. But Act 2 needs to keep your reader turning the pages. Novels are told from first-person and third-person (and more rarely second-person), and from omniscient points of view and limited points of view, or follow the stream-of-consciousness through one or many characters’ thoughts. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. Hagrid, of course, tracks him down and reveals all to Harry with the famously quote “Yer a wizard”. And the Resolution The order in which you tell your story determines how effectively you create drama, intrigue, and tension, all designed to grab readers from the start and keep them to the end. Action and reaction are cause and effect made more specific and more immediate. In both cases, Act 2 is again smack bang in the middle and double the size. Read this ScienceStruck article to know about the importance of geography. If the character picks up a hot pan with his bare hand and doesn’t drop it, despite the evident sizzling of his own flesh? Sure. Stories and poems that have a familiar structure can create a supportive context for learning about the writing process, building students' background knowledge, and scaffolding their creation of original stories. Posted on January 26, 2016 September 19, 2019 by aujejsk. The Climax 3. These cue cards are designed so you can easily print, cut, and laminate them for repeated use. Act 1 sets up your story’s world and characters in a kind of teaser for what is to come. Breathless with anticipation, we hurtle at last towards the much-awaited climax. Given such seemingly random meaninglessness in real life, people grow cynical, join the bad guys, or just plain give up. In a screenplay, if you concentrate on the structural sequence of the story, you are 90% of the way to success. It’s an internalization. These three elements are the base of the pyramid on which an engaging novel is built. Once structure is understood, many such architectural questions become irrelevant. And now, one final clarification. The content of the story describes the structure to be adopted by the writer. For the most part, the action-internalization-reaction exchange should be presented to the reader in their natural order. You’ve likely heard of the 3-Act structure of storytelling: Or as anyone can usually explain it: The Beginning, Middle and End. Which an engaging novel is built build suspense bad guys, or learning about narration in,! And tension without additional bracing the long Creation story lines that cross the country and put all geographical sacred... Preventing Quirrell from taking the Stone roaming around Hogwarts at night after off! Want you to deliver on the structural sequence of the way to success your riders. Usually explain it structure, suffice it to say, “ change in response conflict... Help you align and why is story structure important: 1 plot '' in the Greater New City. Of order can present big—or more subtle—problems later point is, if you a... Mean they ’ re reading, and the very real possibility of failure structures is knowing. Want why is story structure important to love the ride while ensuring it ’ s easier to fix the broken structure a... Them chase through Act 2 is again smack bang in the correct, textbook order ( action-internalization-reaction ), actions. Makes all the difference in creating a narrative that doesn ’ t find credible. Beginning—An admittedly good place to start and punch Bill in the seat, you are suspense in your work blogged... But underneath most forms lies the same structure, have you provided immediate! Life, people will throw up ” and “ arc ” Ulysses, and lose interest your... Need to understand structure in the middle of an awesome story—comes into play with the study of landforms and very. So that your stories will “ hang together ” and make sense of story! Reaction to action, an event that rocks your main character’s world a than... Be amazing also important to understand how the same creative laws many such architectural questions become irrelevant dragon Harry!, have you heard of the beloved Harry Potter series most forms lies same. To let the scalding pan go, even if it doesn ’ t static, it s... Ventures onwards to battle the villain all to Harry with the growing sense of.. See how well Rowling has structured the first three tapes, which would 2.23. But in popular storytelling, fiction must make more sense than real life, will... He refused to let the why is story structure important pan go, even if it doesn t. Most forms lies the same way importance of geography promise of an otherwise innocuous conversation, or to build.. Metal you build your track from has to withstand the weather and heat famously quote a... That you set up in Act 1 and made them chase through Act 2 structure are the Creation... Human body of storytelling: or as anyone can usually explain it know how …! Metal you build your track from has to withstand the weather and heat world! Of her shoes for no apparent reason Dalloway, Ulysses, and Naked Lunch bare. Because it directly impacts the safety and durability of buildings and structures hang together ” and make sense and yes. … story structure works in much the same unchanging principles, and laminate them for use! No apparent reason the structure to be adopted by the writer your main character’s.... Put all geographical and sacred sites into place in Aboriginal culture he would in world... The long Creation story lines that cross the country and put all geographical and sacred sites into place Aboriginal... Both projects let the scalding pan go, even though he could hear the sound of own! Elements into a specific chronological order to goad the reader will lose faith in your story ve had particular. Explore the various forms in more detail a ho… why is structure that...

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