Your Guide to Writing a Successful Story Structure

Your Guide to Writing a Successful Story Structure

A story structure is like a blueprint or the entire plot that holds your story together. It keeps your narrative well-planned. Regardless of your genre, every story requires a structure in literature to provide the author with a roadmap to carry their story on. This way, the storyteller creates a clear narrative despite the curves, twists, and turns or peaks their story will take.

If you are a beginner or have difficulty keeping track of your story, a story structure will guide you and your audience to stay on track despite the plot twists mentioned. For example, without a story structure in your book, your story could lose its sense of direction, confusing the readers and wondering. Your readers could lose the tension built up previously, causing them to lose interest in your reading overall. Now, we wouldn’t want that to happen!

There is a misconception that people believe that novels or documentaries only require a story structure. Still, all books, even if they are cohesive and engaging, take book structure seriously. In this comprehensive read, you will learn ways to write a successful story through the power of story structure.

What is a Story Structure?

Here, I will give you an example to help you understand a story structure. For example, when you create a portfolio for yourself and all the work or experiences you have gained beforehand, you add all those structural elements to ensure you do not miss out on anything. Not only this, but you would want your readers to see a sense of direction in your work and the progress you have gained throughout the years of your training. To translate this into book terms, you will have to take your readers through a narrative of thematically connected experiences you possess.

Or, say you want to write a success story about someone famous, you would tell their entire journey, all the hardships, successes, and lessons they had to face.

A story structure is the backbone, blueprint, or framework of your book. There is a standard line in how all story structures follow: rising action, climax, and resolution. If your story structure (depending on the genre of your book) keeps your readers on the edge of their chairs to know more, you have a successful story structure!

Now, before we head on with the different parts of a book and story archetypes, here are a few fundamental structural elements that you should know about:

1. Opener

The opener or the introduction sets your story’s plot and the role of each character. At times, some writers begin their stories with full mystery. Usually, the genres of such stories are mystery, thriller, or horror.

2. Incident

The incident acts as a catalyst, compelling the main character to act and establish the conflict, which sets the stage for the third phase of a story’s structure. This usually disrupts the protagonist’s normal life and sets the main conflict of the story in motion.

3. Crisis

In response to the incident, the story must have some crisis that unfolds along the way. This part of the structure of a story should be realistic, engaging, and, above all, related to the plot, even if it is a bit twisted. You would not want your readers to question, “What does this have to do with that anyway?” Additionally, if your character experiences more than one crisis, each one should connect with the last crisis to heighten the sense of danger.

4. Climax

This is the peak stage in the structure of a story or the height of the crisis. This is where you want your readers to think, “Oh, there’s no way they can get out of this mess now!” This is the part that moves your readers, makes their hearts race a bit, and makes them wonder what will happen after the climax throughout the day. Here, either your character has it all or has hit rock bottom, has to make a life-or-death decision, or that point seems hopeless. It is important to remember that the climax is not the end of your book but, in fact, the new beginning. This is where the tables have turned.

5. Ending

This is known as the final stage of the entire story. Of course, it is called the ending. Your story structure should include an ending that gives your readers closure unless you plan on creating a second part of your story. Your ending loosens up all those tight knots of problems and incidents or crises created throughout your story, so your readers can take a sigh of relief as well as your character!

Christopher Booker’s Seven-story Archetypes

Now that you have a basic understanding of a story structure sequence, we will look into the most famous seven-story archetypes, which are recognized worldwide. A story archetype is a basic plot that your story focuses on, no matter what obstacles it will take. Here, we will look into Christopher Book’s Seven-story archetypes. These fall under the main story archetypes that popular story writers follow.

1. Rags to Riches

Have you ever heard of the classic plot line about the Princess and the Pauper? This story archetype usually features a character who comes from a financially struggling background, is either orphaned, or has a family, but they are struggling badly. This character lives in poverty and despair, making them want to find ways to earn or come out of their difficult situation, which may have been caused by their parents or by poor decisions. However, after all the struggle, the character finally rises toward success and wealth, not just financially but also in terms of their general status quo.

Stories featuring this archetype Jane Eyre, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The Princess Diaries.

2. Comedy

Comedy is a broad genre that encompasses various types of humor. While some comedies feature light-hearted humor, others may involve dark humor. However, it is important to note that dark humor can be unsettling for some people. Therefore, it is advisable to include a disclaimer for your audience. In terms of storytelling, comedy often follows a plot wherein the protagonist’s destiny brings them together with their love interest. It’s worth noting that comedy doesn’t always have to be funny, as it can also include tragic elements.

Stories featuring this archetype: Pride & Prejudice, Oliver Twist, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

3. Overcoming the Monster

This plot is pretty self-explanatory and usually fits well with plots that include fictional demons or characters unless you decide to create a story structure in which an individual attempts to fight his or her own personal demons. That would be interesting.

Stories featuring this archetype: Dracula, Beowulf, and Harry Potter.

4. Voyage & Return

In this plot, there is a huge journey that leads the protagonist from one place to another. They keep on with the quest or journey until they reach home again.

Stories featuring this archetype Alice in Wonderland, The Hobbit, and The Wizard of Oz.

5. The Quest

In this plot, there would normally be a heroic figure who embarks on several quests to save the world or his people and eventually finds success through trial and error.

Stories featuring this archetype: The Lord of the Rings, Finding Nemo, The Neverending Story.

6. Rebirth

Here, the protagonist will either fall under a spell or drown in a lake when the eclipse is about to happen, or they will undergo some major hypnosis, where they are reborn in another dimension or timeline and live their lives all over again.

Come to think of it, what if someone went through this? They were reborn, but at a certain age, when they had enough consciousness and knew all the right and wrongs of their old life, what would they decide to do then? It seems like a pretty neat story structure archetype, right?

Stories featuring this archetype: Beauty & The Beast, The Secret Garden, and A Christmas Carol.

7. Tragedy

In this story structure, either the protagonist has a flaw or the universe has something against them. This makes the readers feel that there is no undoing these endless tragic events.

Stories featuring this archetype: Macbeth, Wuthering Heights, and Hamlet.

These are just a few story archetypes to get you started with your story structure, but as the world keeps advancing and new stories come up, you can see that there are many other plots for you to follow and choose from.

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Different Narrative Story Structure Types

Although we have listed the most famous story archetypes, there are still so many story structures you can follow and even make up or add to. Some story structures may follow similar patterns or common traits, but you can always create a little twist in between, making sure that you stay true to the story structure.

11 narrative story structure types

The Hero’s Journey

This story structure usually comprises three main stages: departure, initiation, and return. Here, the heroic figure would have a reason to set for departure. It could be to save their tribe or the whole world, make a sacrifice, or search for a better place. The reasons could be endless.

This story structure requires a strong character or protagonist, and people depend on this figure in their lives. The hero’s journey would include a mixed story structure: there will be a refusal call, they meet a mentor, cross the threshold, face the enemies, face deception, build a climax, receive a reward, return to their tribe or place of origin, undergo a transformation, and keep up with their newfound wisdom.

The Three-Act Structure

This is one of the most common story structure narratives that story writers choose. This story structure is divided into three main parts:

1.    The First Act (Setup)

This act lays the groundwork for your story. It introduces the reader to the protagonist (main character), their world, and their initial situation. You’ll establish the setting, introduce any important secondary characters, and provide any necessary backstory. Most importantly, you’ll introduce the inciting incident, the event that disrupts the protagonist’s normal life and sets the story’s main conflict in motion.

2.    The Second Act (Confrontation)

This is where the story really gets going. The protagonist faces a series of challenges and obstacles related to the main conflict. The stakes increase, tension builds, and the protagonist is forced to adapt and grow. This act often includes plot points, which are major turning points that shift the direction of the story and raise the stakes even further. The midpoint is a crucial moment within Act 2, where the protagonist experiences a setback or a major decision that forces them to commit to their goal fully.

3.    The Third Act (Resolution)

This is the final act where the main conflict is resolved. The protagonist faces their biggest challenge in the climax, the moment of greatest tension or suspense. The falling action shows the consequences of the climax and how the characters’ lives have changed. Finally, the resolution provides closure for the reader by tying up loose ends and answering any lingering questions.

The Three-Act Structure helps provide a clear, precise, and concise way of structuring events in a story. People can get carried away, but this story structure helps them stay in line. This story structure is used in novels, plays, photo books, and comics.

The Classic Story Structure

The classic story structure, also known as the dramatic story structure, is known for its standard and simplified formatting in story structure writing. This story structure includes seven main themes or parts in order to make the story structure slightly more unique. These include:

  • The exposition
  • Rising Action
  • Climax
  • Falling Action
  • Resolution,
  • Dénouement
  • Themes

While most of these elements are self-explanatory, they follow the conventional story structure. The dénouement is the part of the story where the main character’s long-term consequences are revealed. The theme, on the other hand, is the underlying message of the story. Classic story structures often overlap with other types of story structures and are generally considered to be umbrella types that describe the structures of fiction stories.

The Snowflake Method

The snowflake method includes a ten-step writing process that is designed to help story writers expand upon ideas to form a complete and better story. This story structure method is a story-planning technique developed by Randy Ingermanson. Unlike traditional structures that focus on plot points, the snowflake method starts with a central idea and gradually expands it outwards, adding layers of detail until you have a fully fleshed-out story. This is how the snowflake method goes:

1.    The Core Concept
  • One Sentence Summary: Here, you begin with a single sentence that encapsulates the essence of your whole story. This is your elevator pitch, the core of the conflict and situation of your story.
  • Paragraph Summary: Once you have finalized your one-sentence summary, it is time to expand it into a paragraph summary. Expand your core concept into a short paragraph. This fleshes out the basic plot, introducing the main characters, their goals, and the central challenge they face.
2.    Character Development

Each character needs a brief summary or introduction, something that changes after some events or tragedies. Over time, their personality becomes better or worse. It is how the story plot goes. This includes their personality, motivations, desires, and potential conflicts with other characters or the story’s world.

3.    The Story Outline

This part includes either a one-page summary or a two-page summary. You can begin off by expanding your one-page summary into a two-page summary.

4.    Diving into More

Here, you will begin with character charts and scene breakdowns. Create in-depth character charts to explore your characters’ backstories, relationships, strengths, weaknesses, and how they will evolve throughout the story. This part boosts the character development phase.

5.    Crafting Narrative

This part will help you outline the action needed for your story structure, each dialogue, setting, and emotional beats. With the right narrative, your story structure will have a visual flow.

6.    Draft

Once you have a detailed roadmap in place, you will be able to create a flawless draft for your work and overall enhance your story structure without leaving the pot being misguided or getting lost!

Relevant Read: Pitch Perfect: Conquering the Publishers with Your Book Idea.

The Five-Act Structure

This story structure is a hybrid of the Three-Act and Seven-Point structures (we will discuss more about the seven-point structure). It is used widely across many tales and helps the writers stay organized with their thoughts and the steps they are taking in their story. It helps them stay on track no matter how complex their tales may be.

These include Introduction, Rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

This structure helps storytellers develop a well-paced and engaging narrative by segmenting the story into distinct parts.

The Seven-Point Structure

This story structure is a more detailed expansion of the three-act structure. With the seven-point structure, your story can be broken down into more granular components for storytelling. These include the following:

  • Hook
  • Set-up
  • Catalyst
  • Debate
  • Break into Two
  • Confrontation Resolution

This is yet another very traditional story structure used by the most famous and renowned story writers and it has helped them stay on track with their plot, even the most complex storyline will make sense and stay in rhythm with this story structure method.

Inciting Incident

The inciting interest centers are the one unexpected turn of events, the show stopping event, or the jaw-dropping event that happens with the protagonist. This event is known as the inciting incident since it disrupts the protagonist’s status quo. The inciting incident includes a series of stages as well to be matched with each event happening. These include the following:

  • Status Quo
  • Inciting Incident
  • Response
  • Journey
  • Climax
  • Resolution

Compared to the other story structure types, this inciting incident story structure is one of the core elements that spark a catalyst for change by upsetting the main protagonist’s status quo and adding triggering causes and events to the story. This makes your story somewhat relatable to readers.

Fichtean Curve

The Fichtean Curve is a narrative structure that revolves around a protagonist’s journey of self-discovery, based on the work of German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte. The story follows a rising action that comprises a series of crises, which the protagonist must overcome to build tension until they reach the climax. This structure is often characterized by constant ups and downs and is used across various genres and formats, including film.

Fichtean Curve

A Disturbance and Two Doors

The inciting incident is a significant event in the protagonist’s life that causes a major disruption to their normal routine. It presents a challenge or conflict that they must confront and overcome. It can be anything from receiving unexpected news to witnessing a crime or discovering a hidden truth. The crucial aspect is that it forces the protagonist to make a decision that will impact the rest of the story.

These represent two possible paths the protagonist can take in response to the disturbance. Each door leads to a different course of action with distinct consequences.

Door #1: This is typically the “safe” or familiar option. It might be the easier choice or the one that aligns with the protagonist’s initial goals. However, it may not lead to personal growth or a satisfying resolution.

Door #2: This is the more challenging or risky option. It might require the protagonist to step outside their comfort zone or face their fears. However, it has the potential for greater rewards and a more significant impact.

Read here: How To Start Writing A Book Of Your Life? Tips To Start Writing.

The Story Circle

A narrative structure used in drama, fantasy, science fiction, and unknown/mysterious genres, the Story Circle involves the protagonist traveling through an eight-stage circular model. Here, I have converted that into a single paragraph.

Experiencing a desire to need or want something, or without knowing, they enter an unfamiliar situation, adapt to the situation they have to face, and then, to obtain the object of desire or need, they will have to pay the price for it, return to their familiar world, and work around with their newly acquired power. Then, apply that knowledge and keep it going.

Freytag’s Pyramid

Freytag's Pyramid

Freytag’s Pyramid is a narrative structure proposed by German playwright Gustav Freytag in the 19th century. The structure is represented as a pyramid with five points, including the exposition (lower left), rising action (left middle), climax (highest point), falling action (right middle), and resolution (lower right). This structure is widely used in dramatic storytelling, where the protagonist faces significant obstacles and must overcome challenges to achieve their goal. Over time, the pyramid evolved to include seven more descriptive stages of the story.

Ready to Add Story Structure To Your Book?

Using different story structures in one plot can be a challenging task, even for professional writers. Sometimes, writers tend to get carried away, which is why it is essential to understand these story structures, especially if you are a beginner. Our Book Creating services can help you get the most out of these story structures without any worries. We provide clear and practical directions to help you create compelling narratives.

Ready to begin crafting your story? Learn more about how to get started creating your book with Book Creating.