Story Structure 101

Since I’m trying to bang out chapters on at least three story lines at once, I find myself on a learning curve. How comfortable am I with the classic story structure? When you’re under a time deadline, having a clear grasp of the main elements of story means you don’t (we hope!) waste time on extraneous scenes and dead-ends.
Writing Tip for Today: I’ve discussed this before but it’s amazing how often even I need a reminder. There are many story arc or story building techniques out there. The key is to find one which works for you. Here’s a sampling:

  • The Three Magic Questions. What does your character want? What obstacle stands in the way? What will character do to overcome obstacles and win the goal?
  • Classic Story Arc. Start with Inciting Incident (A), things get worse (B) and there is Rising Action until the Climax (C) and then things level out with the Resolution or Denouement (D).
  • Snowflake. Three disasters plus an ending.
  • Character + Goal + Obstacle + Action=Goal.
  • Three-Act Structure. Part I, Set-up. Part II (longest) Build-up. Part III (shortest) Pay-off.

There are probably others, all stress the character who wants something desperately, is blocked by something or someone and must rise to the occasion to overcome these obstacles in order to reach the goal. The goal attained, the character may realize he/she never really wanted that goal. Or the character may not attain goal, but the author can create some sort of reader satisfaction anyway.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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