how to choose your story's plot points

How to Choose Your Story’s Plot Points

You’ve got a story, and you’ve got characters who are doing stuff in that story. That means you’ve got a plot. But how do you know if you’ve got your characters doing the right stuff at the right time? At first glance, this seems intuitive. Story is (or should be) a chain of causes and effects. Something […]

story structure q and a

Story Structure Q&A: 6 Outstanding Questions About Structure

Being a good writer is all about being a good learner—having a wide-open mind that’s always looking for the next question. I think you guys must all be good writers, because you know how to ask some good questions! Today, I want to share a story structure Q&A, featuring six thought-provoking emails I’ve received. Story structure […]

how to write a great story despite its flaws

3 Tips for Writing a Story That’s Better Than Its Flaws

Steven Schwartz (composer and/or lyricist for musicals as varied as Pocahontas, Wicked, The Prince of Egypt, and Enchanted) has said  musicals are about structure first and foremost. If you get the structure right, then a multitude of sins can be forgiven. This is certainly the case in The Greatest Showman, whose sins are multitudinous. Any selection […]

4 Ways to Prevent Formulaic Story Structure

4 Ways to Prevent Formulaic Story Structure

One of the most common concerns writers have about story theory is the fear of creating formulaic story structure. If you’re following a set pattern of dictated beats for your story, then won’t your story lack originality? Won’t readers see the expected plot turns coming from a mile off? Indeed, won’t story structure inhibit your […]

4 Reasons You’re Confused About Scene Structure (With Examples)

Scene structure is the backbone of strong narrative storytelling. Built properly, scenes effortlessly link one to another to create a chain of give and take, cause and effect, action and reaction, question and answer. The whole point of scene structure is to create an ebb and flow that mimics how humans balance forward momentum with […]

How to Calculate Your Book's Length Before Writing

How to Calculate Your Book’s Length Before Writing

Story structure is all about timing. It’s about making sure your rhythm and pacing align for maximum impact, both in keeping readers glued to the page and in resonating emotionally. The reason this timing works is that it is largely instinctive, for both writers and readers. When I first started learning about story structure, I pulled […]

An Easy Way To Notch Up Your Scene Conflict

An Easy Way to Notch Up Your Scene Conflict

Scene conflict is what keeps your story running, chapter after chapter, page after page. Conflict is the heart of each scene, and each of those scenes is one of the dozens of tiny engines keeping your plot moving forward—and your readers glued to the page. It’s helpful to think of scene conflict as not so much […]

How To Troubleshoot and Repair Any Scene

8 Ways to Troubleshoot a Scene–and 5 Ways Make It Fabulous

So there I was: sitting at my desk, notebook in front of me—and absolutely no words staring back at me. The problem? I knew what needed to happen in this scene, but now that the time had come to write it, it seemed flat as a roadkill raccoon. It was clearly time to troubleshoot a […]

A New Way To Structure Your Story's Scenes

A New Way to Think About Scene Structure

Stories live and die on their scene structure. A great plot—even a well-structured great plot—won’t be able to stand if its individual scenes are floundering with no clear sense of purpose and direction in the overall story. Dwight V. Swain engineered the classic approach to scene structure, which breaks down each scene into integers of […]

Sign for the 3 Missing Pieces of Stunning Story Structure Webinar

The 3 Missing Pieces of Stunning Story Structure webinar is now available for sign up! This 90-minute presentation, hosted by Writer’s Digest, will be live online on September 15th, at 1 PM EDT (although, once you sign up, you can listen or re-listen anytime you want for up to a year). I’ll be talking story structure, answering live […]