The Secrets of Story Structure (Complete Series)

The Secrets of Story Structure (Complete Series)

The Secrets of Story StructureIf there’s just one thing that matters to your success as a writer, it’s story structure. Story structure is what allows authors to create stories that work every single time. Story structure is what allows you to quickly diagnose and remedy plot problems.

The fear that story structure is formulaic and difficult couldn’t be further from the truth. Story structure changed my life. The moment the foundational principles of this all-important technique clicked into place for me was the moment I came of age as a writer. Now it’s your turn!

>>Click here to read hundreds of story-structure analyses of books and books in the Story Structure Database.

Table of Contents

Secrets of Story Structure

In the “Secrets of Story Structure” blog series (which is the basis for my book Structuring Your Novel and its companion Structuring Your Novel Workbook), you’ll learn:

  • Why structure is make-or-break territory for every novel
  • How to implement a strong three-act structure
  • How to bring your story to life
  • How to ensure your story is built to have the greatest possible impact on readers.
Structuring Your Novel Workbook

Structuring Your Novel Workbook (Amazon affiliate link)

Want to claim the title of Author? An understanding of story structure is where writers become authors!

Part 1: 5 Reasons Story Structure Is Important

What’s the single most overlooked, misunderstood—and yet most important—part of storytelling? If you cheated and looked at the title, you already know the answer is structure.

Part 2: The Hook

Unless you hook readers into your story from the very first chapter, they won’t swim in deep enough to experience the rest of your rousing adventure, no matter how excellent it is. The Hook comes in many forms, but stripped down to its lowest common denominator, the hook is nothing more or less than a question.

Part 3: The First Act

The first 20-25% of the book comprises your setup. At first glance, this can seem like a tremendous chunk of story to devote to introductions, but if you expect readers to stick with you throughout the story, you first have to give them a reason to care.

Part 4: The First Plot Point

The First Plot Point changes everything. But this isn’t just an event that happens to the protagonist. This is an event that either incorporates or is directly followed by the character’s reacting in a strong and irrevocable way

Part 5: Inciting Event and Key Event

The first quarter of your story hinges upon two important and irreversible moments: the Inciting Event and the Key Event. Now that you have a sense of the Hook, the First Act, and the First Plot Point, you can see more clearly how and where the Inciting and Key events affect these moments.

Part 6: The First Half of the Second Act

This First Half of the Second Act is where your characters find the time and space to react to the First Plot Point. That reaction, which will lead to another reaction and another and another, launches your Second Act.

Part 7: The Midpoint

Legendary director Sam Peckinpah talked about how he always looked for a “centerpiece” on which to “hang” his story. That centerpiece is your Second Plot Point, or Midpoint, which divides your Second Act.

Part 8: The Second Half of the Second Act

The Second Half of the Second Act is where your plot really starts popping. Your main character caps the dramatic event at the Midpoint with the decision to stop reacting and start acting.

Part 9: The Third Act

Like all the other acts, the Third Act opens with a bang, but unlike the other acts, it never lets up. From the 75% mark on, the characters and the readers alike are in for a wild ride.

Part 10: The Climax

The Climax of a story should have readers on the edges of their seats. If you’ve done your job, they should have a general idea of what’s coming (thanks to artful foreshadowing), but they should also be suffering under the exquisite torture of more than a shade or two of doubt.

Part 11: The Resolution

Your story and its conflict officially ended with your Climax. Conceivably, you could end your story right then and there. But most books need an extra scene or two to tie off any leftover loose ends and, just as importantly, to guide your readers to the emotion with which you want to leave them.

Part 12: Your Questions Answered

Because of its fixed nature, story structure, once learned, is easy to grasp. However, it’s also a subject that inspires endless questions.

6 More FAQs About Story Structure

Have more questions about story structure? The best way to find good answers is to ask good questions. Here are six excellent questions about story structure.

First Act Timeline

Second Act Timeline

Third Act Timeline

How to Strengthen Your Story With Chiastic (or Linked) Story Structure

The Link Between Your Story’s Hook and Resolution

You can think of the link between your story’s Hook and Resolution in four different ways. Ask these questions to help in brainstorming.

The Crucial Link Between Your Story’s Inciting Event and Climactic Moment

Structurally speaking, the Inciting Event initiates the story’s conflict, while the Climactic Moment fully resolves it.

The Link Between Your Story’s First Plot Point and Third Plot Point

Deepen your understanding of story structure by examining the parallel functions of the First Plot Point and the Third Plot Point.

The Link Between Your Story’s Pinch Points

Learn to identify and leverage several important story structure similarities between your story’s Pinch Points.

The Midpoint as the Swivel Point of Your Story’s Linked Structure

How can you keep your pacing tight and the story interesting over the long haul of the Second Act? The simplest answer: Mind the Midpoint.

The Power of Chiastic Story Structure (Especially in a Series)

An overview of chiastic story structure itself, along with four tips to employ this technique over the longer work of an entire series.

Exploring the Two Halves of Each of the Major Plot Points

The Two Halves of the Inciting Event

A series examining the two important “halves” in each of story structure’s major beats, beginning with the Inciting Event in the First Act.

The Two Halves of the First Plot Point

The First Plot Point is often referred to as a threshold, a visual metaphor representing the native two-sidedness of all structural beats.

The Two Halves of the Midpoint

The halves of the Midpoint are unique in story structure in that they mark the dividing line between the two halves of the entire story arc.

The Two Halves of the Third Plot Point

The two halves of the Third Plot Point work together to create a scene arc that moves from the False Victory to the Low Moment.

The Two Halves of the Climactic Moment

The two halves of the Climactic Moment require the story’s final sequence to offer two very specific beats: Sacrifice and Victory/Failure.

Understanding the Four Metaphoric “Worlds” of Your Story’s Structure

Understanding the Normal World of a Story’s First Act

Authors need to understand the four “worlds” represented within a story’s structure, the first of which is the Normal World of the First Act.

Understanding the Adventure World of a Story’s Second Act

Writers can use the metaphoric Adventure World of a story’s Second Act to better understand this crucial part of story structure.

Understanding the Underworld of a Story’s Third Act

The Underworld of a Story’s Third Act is symbolically important for creating powerful and realistic change with your characters and plot.

Understanding the New Normal World of a Story’s Resolution

In many ways, the New Normal World of a story’s Resolution is what successfully completes the context of the entire story.

More Story Structure Posts

Your Book’s Inciting Event: It’s Not What You Think It Is

The trouble with identifying the Inciting Event is that the term is applied rather wildly to half a dozen different moments in the story. Which is right?

Never Confuse the Key Event and the First Plot Point in Your Book Again!

Did you know a full understanding of the Key Event, its role in story structure, and its timing will help you write stronger First Plot Points?

What Are Pinch Points? And How Can They Make Your Book Easier to Write?

What are pinch points? Of all the important moments in your story, they are most likely to be neglected. But they’re crucial to your story structure.

How the Perfect Midpoint Moves Your Protagonist From Reaction to Action

When your story’s Midpoint properly facilitates the all-important shift in the middle of your story, your conflict is sure to progress in a powerful way.

Want Readers to Adore Your Book? Learn How to Ace Your Climactic Moment

The Climactic Moment is the reason your story is even being told in the first place. Needless to say, it’s pretty important you get it right. Find out how!

How to Choose Your Story’s Plot Points

Learn how your story’s plot points can be rearranged and strengthened to create a more powerful overall effect for your readers.

4 Ways to Prevent Formulaic Story Structure

Worried about formulaic story structure? Learn four ways to find the perfect balance between utilizing structure and unleashing your originality.

The Role of the Antagonist in Story Structure

The major plot beats in a story are interwoven with the protagonist’s journey. But what is the role of the antagonist in story structure?

To learn more about story structure, click here for a full list of all my posts on the subject.

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