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Creating a Thumbs Up Story Structure

August 31, 2012

Every interesting story has a basic structure that is roughly followed as a guide.

Think about any great book or movie. Now consider how the story flows from one event to another. Things are not just happening at random. If they were, it would feel broken and uninteresting.

The protagonist normally starts off with a belief. He may be a kind-hearted person, or someone full of arrogance. Whatever the case, he is confident in his belief and way of life.

Something happens, an event that triggers a journey, a search for truth, or a need to save the day.

Somewhere along the way, or maybe at the end, the protagonist becomes overwhelmed in despair as his belief is contradicted. Suddenly, his old belief system no longer seems applicable when he finally comprehends that events are far bigger than he imagined.

After being driven into a corner, or to make a critical choice, a revelation is realised. The protagonist now demonstrates a new belief. Characters grow, attitudes evolve, and the story is steered to an epic conclusion.

Different articles have many ways of expressing this structure. In Nigel Watts’ Write A Novel and Getting Published, it is expressed as eight points listed in the following order:

  1. Stasis
  2. Trigger
  3. The quest
  4. Surprise
  5. Critical choice
  6. Climax
  7. Reversal
  8. Resolution

On Write To Done, P J Reece expressed it as 2 stories with a dark night in the middle called the story heart.

  • Story One –the chain of events that brings a hero to his knees.
  • Heart of the Story –death of the old belief system accompanied by insights into one’s higher nature.
  • Story Two –the far side of the crisis, where the hero demonstrates a new worldview.

But they all mean the same thing. So now you know the basic structure of a story, do you have to follow this? No. Your story can be unique with your own flavour.

Will your story look similar to this when it’s ready to be presented to the world? Probably. After several revisions and professional editing, you may unintentionally develop this structure.

Can you relate every story you have seen or read to this structure? Let me know in your comments. And don’t forget to take a look at this week’s trailer of my latest book, King Larsen.

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From → Writing Tips

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