The Complete Story Structure Series
Throughout your writing journey, you’ll find that little is more important to your success than a strong understanding of story structure.
It influences every other aspect of your novel, from your characters to your themes, pacing, and world building, and it’ll let you turn ideas into successful novels every time. Not convinced? Let me explain:
I began my writing journey after a failed NaNoWriMo experience. I was frustrated and unsure of what I’d done wrong. Yet, instead of giving up and shoving my manuscript in a dark drawer never to be seen again, I began a quest to learn as much as I could about storytelling.
That’s what led me here; the more I studied structure, the more I began to see the flaws in my work, flaws I had previously been unable to explain in a constructive way. Story structure creates a foundation for your writing, and you can see it at work in almost every successful story in modern literature.
Structure simply can’t be ignored!
That’s where this series comes in. It’s here to help you navigate the world of story structure, from the basics to the advanced, letting you take your writing to the next level.
Through this series you’ll learn:
- Why the Three Act Structure is ideal for fiction writers.
- What each plot point within the Three Act Structure does and why.
- How to intertwine elements of structure and character to create deep, memorable novels.
So buckle up, and let’s get started!
If you’re looking to master story structure, but don’t have the time to read through 9+ articles at once, I hope you’ll check out The Keys to a Compelling Novel!
This FREE ebook is based on the articles you’ll find below, bringing them all together into a clean, easy to reference manual for the Three Act Structure. All the charts from the blog posts have been preserved here, plus each plot point of the Three Act Structure has it’s own link in the table of contents, meaning you can quickly jump to whatever you need.
This is a great way to read these posts at your leisure, from your tablet or desktop. I hope you’ll grab a copy and tell me what you think!
You can get your copy of The Keys to a Compelling Novel here!
The Three Act Structure
By learning the rules of structure, you equip yourself with the knowledge to break them in fascinating ways; but without this foundation, it’s easy to fall into common writing traps, creating stories that go nowhere and lack a meaningful payoff. Through a solid understanding of the Three Act Structure and lots of practice, you can understand not only your story’s plot, but your character arcs, theme, and pacing too!
This article is here to give you an introduction to the Three Act Structure and an understanding of the basics I needed do badly all those years ago.
Act 1: The Foundation
All of us know how important foundations are. They’re the basis and the support system for everything around them. Without a good one, the rest of your system falls apart. So let me ask you; how familiar are you with the foundation of your story? Things like Act 1, the Midpoint, or the Climactic Moment?
Well, if you’re looking to write a novel that’s cohesive, engaging, and memorable, you’ll need a good foundation. The time and effort it’ll save you when it comes time to edit your work is well worth the upfront investment, and it may save your story entirely!
The Inciting Event and Key Event are the beginnings of your story’s plot. They start your conflict, yet they remain an often overlooked part of story structure, sometimes conflated as one event, sometimes forgotten all together. Often this is because of how these two events overlap and how widely their placement can vary, but I promise they aren’t too confusing once you get a good grasp on them.
By understanding these plot points you can greatly increase the impact of your story, so let’s sort out their differences and how to use them once and for all!
This is the last post in the series covering Act 1, and it’s arguably the most important!
Today we’re looking at the First Plot Point, the pivotal moment that begins your story’s plot! The rest of Act 1 was setup, meant to move the relevant pieces into place to prepare for the journey ahead. The First Plot Point finally sees everything moving into action, marking an important narrative shift that begins your protagonist’s adventure. Fortunately, for such an important catalyst, the ingredients needed to create it are fairly simple!
Act 2: The Adventure
Act 2 is where you get to explore your characters and world in a deeper way. It’s that wonderful time when you get to dive into all of the scenarios you’ve dreamt of getting to write. However, there are also some important roles Act 2 needs to fill, because to come out with the best story, even Act 2 needs a bit of structure.
By learning what Act 2 does for your story, you’ll be all the more equipped to turn the great scenarios in your head into meaningful, memorable moments for your novel.
A time for reflection and a time for growth, the Midpoint is a big step on your protagonist’s adventure. They’re a long way from home, caught up in a strange new world with strange new people. Yet for the first time on their journey they can look back on where they’ve been and no longer feel unsure if they should’ve left home at all.
It’s no wonder the Midpoint is thought of as a turning point for every element of your story. Here your characters get the last boost they need to feel confident on their quest, the last piece of the puzzle to pursue the conflict in full force!
As you might expect, the Third Plot Point fulfills the important role of setting the tone and pace for Act 3, but that isn’t its only function. It also serves a critical purpose within your character’s arc and begins the path to the ultimate confrontation at the Climax. This is a complex section, one with lots of moving parts to keep in mind, so be prepared; this post might run a bit longer than usual.
Don’t worry though! The ability to effectively set up your story’s final scenes should be well worth your effort.
Act 3: The Finale
Act 3 does more than just end your novel; that’s where it becomes more complicated, and more important to understand! It’s responsible not only for bringing your story to a satisfying conclusion but also for completing your character’s arcs, tying together your overall theme, setting the tone for the end of your tale, and leaving your reader feeling satisfied by the journey you’ve taken them on.
With so much wrapped up in the final 25% of your book, it might be good to know exactly what Act 3 should look like.
If storytelling is a game of chess, the Climax is checkmate. Or more specifically, the Climactic Moment is. Here, both sides of your story’s conflict confront each other one final time. This is the last hurrah of your story (though not quite it’s ending!). Through this, you fulfill the promises you made to your readers, giving them an intense and dramatic conclusion to the journey you’ve just taken them on.
Yet, as I just alluded to, the Climax is more complicated than many realize at first glance. In fact, it contains an entirely distinct plot point within it, one you don’t want to ignore; the Climactic Moment.
…and so they lived happily ever after; The End. These famous words that wrap up so many fairytales and fantasies are, in essence, a simplified form of the Resolution. The Resolution of your novel won’t be much different. It’s a moment for your readers to say goodbye, to have one final moment with your now beloved cast, and to cement your story in their hearts forever. It’s often bittersweet, but also oh so important.
Through a combination of catharsis, world-building, characters, and theme you can give your story a satisfying end, both for you and your audience.