If you’ve been following my journey recently, you know that I’ve delved back into an old project, one I initiated during NANoWriMo in 2019. No outline, no plan—just an idea and 50,000 words of what I can only describe as a hot mess. As I navigate through this creative endeavor, it’s become evident how crucial structure is in the storytelling process.
When people hear the term “story structure,” their minds often gravitate towards the traditional three-act structure, particularly in the realm of fiction. The hero’s journey, inciting incidents, and climactic moments (what I consider plot) are commonly associated with this framework. However, in my experience, there’s so much more to story structure.
Finding Story Structure
For a fiction writer, especially one engaged in long-form storytelling, the concept of story structure expands beyond mere plot points. It encompasses the nuanced art of how you tell your story. This realization struck me while I was working on my second book, an epic tale spanning 250 years with a dual POV and a touch of magic.
Selecting which moments to highlight in a story of such magnitude proved to be a challenge. To overcome this, I turned to my bookshelf, examining some of my favorite books to discern different approaches to storytelling. What I discovered were seven fundamental story structures, each offering unique ways to convey a tale.
Different Story Structures for Different Stories
One approach (that I call “basic story structure”) involves a straightforward first-person point of view, be it in the present or past tense for a story that unfolds linearly over time. This was method I instinctively employed in my first book, providing a natural flow to the story.
In contrast, my second book demanded a more intricate structure due to its expansive timeline. I settled on a timeline that jumped 10, 20, 30, 40, and finally 50 years between sections. Deciding on that framework clarified what should be included and what could be discarded, even if I found joy in writing it.
A structured approach allowed me to discern what truly mattered to the characters and the overall narrative. Enjoying the writing process is essential, but it doesn’t justify retaining every enjoyable scene in the final work.
Think Beyond the Hero’s Journey
Story structure is not confined to plotting the hero’s journey or adhering to a predefined three-act structure. It’s about the art of storytelling—how you choose to convey your narrative. Aspiring writers, take heed: master the nuances of story structure, and you’ll find your path to weaving captivating tales.
Cheers to the journey ahead!