What Are Examples Of Story Structure

Story structure is crucial whether you're writing a novel or a screenplay. Creating a story structure is similar to creating a backbone for your story. It assists the audience in understanding the timeline and significance of each event, keeping them interested until the end.

Often, writers focus solely on describing their characters rather than the story's overall structure. This has repercussions, and a poorly developed story structure can ruin your characterization.

Plot development is as important, if not more important, than the protagonist's quirks and conflicts. To truly capture readers' hearts, you'll need to become an expert in story structure (and publishers).

The good news is that many stories can be crammed into a few tried-and-true templates. Most stories have certain elements in common or 'beats.' These are the status quo, the inciting incident, the rising action, the climax, and the resolution... They differ, however, in how they are knitted together.

With that in mind, let's look at five of the most popular story structures for outlining your story. Let's get started!

1. A hero's journey. Story structure

The Hero's Journey is the most famous plot structure to date, based on the concept of the monomyth, a storytelling scheme that recurs throughout mythology around the world. Some credit its success to George Lucas, whose Star Wars was heavily influenced by Campbell's Hero of a Thousand Men.

With plot points like "Belly of the Whale," "Woman as Seductress," and "Magical Flight," Campbell's original structure employs terminology well suited to epic tales of bravery and triumph. Disney executive Christopher Fogler created a simplified version of The Hero's Journey to make it more accessible to mainstream storytellers.

This section will examine a simplified 12-step version of Fogler's Hero's Journey.

Structure

  • Ordinary World. The everyday life of the hero is established.
  • Call of adventure. Otherwise known as the inflammatory incident.
  • Call rejection. For a moment, the hero does not want to accept the challenge.
  • Meeting with the Mentor. Our hero encounters someone who prepares them for what lies ahead—perhaps a parent character, a teacher, a wizard, or a wise hermit.
  • Crossing the first threshold. The hero leaves his comfort zone and enters the "new world."
  • Trials, allies, enemies. Our protagonist faces new challenges - and perhaps makes new friends. Think Dorothy on the yellow brick road.
  • Approach the most intimate cave. Finally, the hero approaches his goal. Luke Skywalker reaches the Death Star.
  • Trial. The hero meets (and overcomes) his biggest problem.
  • Reward (Taking the sword). The hero achieves something important they were striving for, and victory is not far off.
  • Return trip. The hero understands that achieving the goal is not the last obstacle. In fact, "grabbing the sword" may have made them even worse.
  • Resurrection. The hero faces the last task - a decisive test, which depends on everything he has learned along the way.
  • Return with the elixir. Having won, our main character returns to his former life. Dorothy returns to Kansas; Iron Man holds a press conference to blow his own trumpet.

While Vogler's simplistic steps still retain some of Campbell's mythological language with its references to swords and elixirs, the framework can be applied to almost any fiction genre.

2. Three-stage structure

"A story has a beginning, a middle, and an end," says the popular structure, which divides a story's components into three distinct activities: set-up, confrontation, and resolution. The three-act structure, in many ways, reworks The Hero's Journey with slightly less exciting labels.

Story structure

Act 1: Setting

  • Exposure. The status quo or "ordinary world" is established.
  • Inciting Incident. An event that sets history in motion.
  • Plot point one. The protagonist decides to take the challenge head-on. She "crosses the threshold," and now the story is touching.

Act 2: Confrontation

  • Upward action. The true stakes of history are becoming clear; our hero gets acquainted with his "new world" and meets enemies and allies for the first time. (see Trials, Allies, Enemies)
  • Middle point. An event that turns the mission of the protagonist. (Similar to the climax of Freytag's pyramid)
  • Plot point two. After a disorienting middle, the protagonist is put to the test - and fails. Her ability to succeed is now in question.

Act 3: Permission

  • Pre climax. The darkest night before dawn. The protagonist must pull himself together and choose between decisive action and failure.
  • Climax. She made her final stand against her antagonist. Can she win?
  • Interchange. All loose ends are tied. The reader discovers the consequences of the climax. A new status quo has been established.

When we say confronting an adversary, we don't always mean a fight to the death. Instead, the antagonist may be a love rival, a business rival, or simply an internal or environmental conflict our protagonist faces throughout the story.

4. Fichtean curve. Story structure

According to John Gardner's Art of Fiction, the Fichtean Curve is a narrative structure that puts our protagonists through a series of obstacles on their way to achieving their shared goals. It is similar to Freytag's pyramid in that it encourages writers to write stories with tension and mini-crises that keep readers waiting for the climax.

The Fichtean curve begins with a provocative incident and proceeds directly upward, bypassing the "ordinary world" setting of many other structures. Numerous crises occur, each of which contributes to the reader's overall understanding of the narrative, thus eliminating the need for an initial presentation.

Structure

Discussing this unusual structure is perhaps best to see it in action. We will use Celeste Ng's book. 

Everything I Never Told You is an example. Spoilers ahead.

Upward action. Story structure

  • Provocative incident. The novel begins with the line: “Lydia is dead. But they don't know it yet." Marilyn realizes that her daughter Lydia is missing in the first three paragraphs. Thus, readers immediately jump into action as Marilyn anxiously searches for all the usual places to find Lydia.
  • First crisis. Lydia's family was told that her body had been found in a nearby lake. Beginning at the climax of this first crisis, the narrative flashes back to provide a description and details of the family's history.
  • Second Crisis. In a flashback, we discover that 11 years ago, Marilyn left her family to resume her undergraduate studies. In her absence, the family begins to fall apart. Marilyn finds out she is pregnant and is forced to return home. Having lost the opportunity to continue her education, she puts pressure on her children with academic performance.
  • Third Crisis. Currently, Lydia's father, James, is cheating on Marilyn. The police decide to close the investigation, recognizing Lydia's death as a suicide. This leads to a massive argument between her parents, and James leaves to stay with "another woman."
  • Fourth Crisis. A memory of the day Lydia died. From her point of view, we see that her parents misunderstand her. She mourns her brother's upcoming departure from college, leaving her as the sole object of parental pressure. Isolated, she tries to seduce a friend who rejects her advances and explains that he loves her brother.

Climax

Lydia enters the lake in the middle of the night on a boat - she is determined to overcome her fear of water and take back control of her life. Finally, Lydia jumps off the boat into the water and out of this life. As in classical tragedy, this moment is both destructive and inevitable.

The fall

Some level of resolution is achieved, and readers can at least catch a glimpse of the "new normal" for characters. Lydia's family leans on each other in their grief. While they may never be able to make amends with Lydia, they can learn from her death. Of course, not all loose ends are resolved, but readers assume the family is on a long road to recovery.

All crises in the ascending action stage should build tension and be consistent with the story's central climax. The climax of the Fichtean curve, like a three-act narrative structure, usually occurs over two-thirds of the book.

While this structure works well in flashback-heavy novels like Everything I Never Told You, it is also prevalent in the theater. The action in stage plays like The Cherry Orchard, and A Doll's House takes place in a specific place and time, but the backstory and character development are revealed through high drama moments in front of the audience.

5. Seven Point Story Structure

The seven-point plot structure is a slightly less detailed adaptation of The Hero's Journey that focuses specifically on the pros and cons of the narrative arc.

Author Dan Wells, who created the seven-point story structure, advises writers to begin at the end with the solution and work their way back to the beginning: the hook. Because this structure is about dramatic change from beginning to end, they can start their main character and plot in a state that best contrasts with the ending.

Structure

  • Hook. Engage readers by explaining the main character's current situation. Their state at the novel's beginning should directly contrast to what it will be at the end.

Plot Point 1. 

  • There should be some "Call to Adventure" that drives the narrative and character development, whether a person, an idea, an incendiary incident, or whatever.
  • Important point 1. For your main character, there cannot be only sunbeams and roses. Something must go wrong here, which will pressure the protagonist, forcing him to come up and solve the problem.
  • Middle point. A "turning point" in which the protagonist changes from a passive force to an active one in the story. Whatever the story's main conflict, the protagonist decides to start a meeting with him face to face.
  • Pinpoint 2. The second pinch point involves another hit on the protagonist - things go even worse than during the first pinch point. This may include the departure of a mentor, the failure of a plan, the exposure of a traitor, etc.

Plot Point 2. 

  • After the disaster in Pinch Point 2, the protagonist learns that, in fact, they always had the key to resolving the conflict.
  • Permission. The story's main conflict is resolved - and the character goes through the last stage of development necessary to turn him into who he was at the novel's beginning.

Here are resources I recommend to get more in-depth knowledge

Storytelling 101 teaches you how to write compelling stories worthy of commercial success. This is best for screenwriters, novelists, filmmakers, videogame writers and storytellers.

Children’s Books 101 teaches you how to write stories that children will love. This is best for aspiring children’s book authors and storytellers.

Owl AI is the revolutionary AI-powered content production platform that helps storytellers, writers, and bloggers of all subject matter easily create highly-polished content.

Success, Money & Mindset Subliminal is a self-hypnosis recording that we recommend to new writers to help with focus, concentration, creativity, and motivation.

Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.

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