Story Structure

Story Structure

Whether you’re starting out and want to understand how to structure your story or novel, or are an established writer and need a refresher, this article is for you. 

Let’s talk about Freytag’s Pyramid first. This structure has six distinct parts: 

Exposition: the beginning of the story. The major characters are introduced, the setting and major conflicts are also introduced. I’ll use the movie ‘Hunger Games’ as an example. At the beginning of the movie, Katniss and her family, district 12, and her friends are all introduced. 

Inciting Incident: the event or situation that starts the action. HG example: the lottery and Katniss taking her sister’s place.

Rising action: the main conflict is acknowledged with action. The characters are actively engaged in dealing with the issue. HG example: the games, the battles against both competitors and the government structure that allows it to take place. 

Climax: the pivotal point of the story when the main character(s) are faced with their most difficult challenge and their actions here will change the course of the story. HG example: Katniss and Peeta decide to eat the poison berries instead of killing each other to win the games – this is a turning point in the story. (You might argue that the killing and ‘burial’ of Rue is the climax because it gives Katniss the extra push she needs, and unifies the other districts but, at this point, it doesn’t change the course of the narrative). 

Falling Action: occurs immediately after the climax and contains the consequences of the action or decision made by the characters at the story’s turning point. These consequences can be good or bad. HG example: the entire structure of Panem is shaken, the districts have started reacting and President White is backed into a corner.

Resolution: the end of the story, all loose ends are tied up, all conflicts are resolved (unless a second part is planned). Must leave the reader with a sense of closure.

This diagram better describes a structure for a novel than a short story, as you have more words and a bigger canvas in which to pursue one crisis after another before reaching the climax. Remember, between each crisis is a ‘resting’ point – a cooling down period for both your characters AND your reader. 

Three Act Structure

You can thank the ancient Greeks for this and, to this day, every story follows this structure: beginning, middle, and end. Many screenwriters still follow this structure, it’s about as basic as it gets!

I hope you found this helpful! 

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