Monday, March 12, 2012

Story Structure

There are many ways to structure a story. I have heard authors mention a few structures at conferences and have read about story structure in other blogs.

But today I wanted to share a story structure that was presented at a recent conference because it was phrased differently. It was presented in a more visual manner that suited me.

Part I- A Day in the Life...

In this section, you introduce your main character to the reader. Present just a slice of their regular day. 
Then present the problem...give the reader a sense that something is coming.

Part II: A Change Will Do You Good...

In this section of your story, you present what forces the character to change. A person? An event? An invitation to a school for wizards? A lottery where the main character has to fight for her life?  

You present the reader with that challenge that will force your main character to change.

Part III: I Don't Think I Can...

Uh oh, your main character is scared! Let your reader know that the challenge just might be too big for your character. This challenge can either make the hero excited...or scared out of his mind!  Your hero might even question if he can make it through to the end.

Part IV: You Can Do It!

This is usually where a mentor comes in and helps the hero. The mentor might even lead our character through. The mentor you present might not be the "classic" mentor. You know the type, the professor or the teacher or the parent or the kind neighbor. No, your mentor doesn't have to be the "classic" mentor. Perhaps it's a robot? A computer? The store owner? The librarian?  Be creative with who your mentor is.

Part V: Whole New World

What inspires your character to keep keeping on? Friends? Family? Home? In this section, your character might learn knew skills (just like Harry Potter did at Hogwarts...) or might even meet some enemies, but in this section, you reveal to your reader how the main character's world has indeed changed.

Part VI: The Trials


Now that your character has learned new skills, met some friends, found a mentor...she is ready to face that challenge! In The Hunger Games, Katniss fights in the arena... in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry must pass through the phases in order to succeed.

Present the challenge(s) your main character must face in order to make it to that final destination. Don't be nice to your protagonist. Add many obstacles. 

Part VII: Almost Over!  ...Or is it??

This section can be fun because you, the author, can add an element of surprise here. The surprise must align with the rest of the story, however, if it is to work. Think of when Gandalf dies in The Lord of the Rings. That was a sad surprise. But then we discover that he indeed lives and is better than ever before! What a great surprise! Notice how this type of surprise works in the story. 

In this section, it looks like your hero just might make it out alive. She just might make it through that challenge. But to make it more interesting to the reader, add that bit of uncertainty. Make them want to turn the page to see what happens in the end!

Part VIII: Okay, You Can Go Home

Whew! Your hero made it. Now he is changed forever. He has had his faith tested and came out stronger...or maybe he came out weaker. 

The point is, your character must come out changed in some way: emotionally, physically, psychologically, etc. But your character must come away from the challenge changed in order for your readers to relate.  

Here is where your hero earns her reward. Does she win a prize? Does she move to the next level? Perhaps she made a new friend. Who knows! But you, as the writer, should be creative in how you present that reward. 

In my book, The Dragon Forest 2: Son of the Oath, our hero is finally able to head off to Knight Training School. He showed his valor and made it through an enormous challenge. Now, he can have his reward!

So, as you can see, some of these parts may be familiar to you, but they are labeled differently. I liked how they were presented. I could visualize each part. 

I hope this structure has helped you as much as it has helped me. I found it easier to come up with ideas for my story after reading through it and discussing each part. Give it a try for your story!

Most importantly....just write!

Your Turn:  How was this structure helpful for you? Do you tend to rely on a certain story structure or do you just wing it?



  1. I can definitely see how this type of story structure would appeal to very visual you! :P

    1. Oh yes! I was so thrilled when the two authors explained it at the conference. It has really helped me out!

  2. Ruth, just wanted to let you know that you were one of the winners of the free ticket to Michael Drew's Writer's Hour seminar. I tried to email you through your art website's email, but it must not have gone through. If you want to claim your ticket, you'll need to contact me as soon as possible, since the event takes place on March 13th (tomorrow).

    1. Wow, Kim. Thank you for this opportunity! I hope I can attend the seminar. I will check it out...