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Story Structure Writing

How to structure your stories for greater impact – FYWV

The Finding Your Writers Voice community had a catch-up on the 16th of Feb with the topic of structuring your story up for discussion. The question asked of writers was, ‘do you consider or use structure when you’re writing your story?’. We were teed up to look at using a five-act versus three-act structure.

How to structure your stories

We started off looking at a five-act structure with an article from Writersedit. The idea of a beginning, middle, and end are well-known structures in film and books. Evolving that structure into five acts is a refinement of this framework. The article looks briefly at the history of story structure and touches on the Rhetorical Triangle and Freytag’s Pyramid. Although we didn’t get into much of a discussion on Aristotle’s Rhetorical Triangle it is worth pausing for a moment to remind us what this famous triangle has to teach us and how our writing might benefit from being mindful of its parts.

The Rhetorical Triangle is made up of three parts, Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. All three are required in order to effectively persuade your audience or readers.

Ethos – Can you be trusted as a writer? Are you credible? We spoke last week about how to open your stories with maximum impact. We looked at the example of Moneyball and how author Micheal Lewis built credibility from the opening paragraph. He had researched the game of baseball and knew how to talk about it as an insider. He built his ethos from the get-go.

Pathos – How do you appeal to emotion beliefs and values? This is less about the author and more about your readers. Who are your target readers? What values and beliefs do they have? How does your writing connect with them? If you can engage your readers with relatable examples in your story that connect emotionally with them and reflect back their beliefs and values then you’re displaying pathos.

Logos – As a writer, how well do you construct your argument? Does your logic hold water in the story you are telling or does it leak like a sieve? Are the sources that you’ve used to build your story reliable and accurate? When it comes to fiction it’s important that you build a narrative that can be held up against any real-life interrogation. If the plot of your murder mystery doesn’t ring true and you’ve built in one too many deus ex machina endings.

War of the Worlds – an example of ‘deus ex machina’

We continued through the article and covered all five acts, in summary they are:

  1. Introduction
  2. Rising Action
  3. Climax
  4. Falling Action
  5. Resolution & Denouement

We managed to squeeze in another article which looked at structure from a different point of view. The question posed in the Mastercalss article was, ‘How to Find the Perfect Structure for Your Novel in 5 Steps’. This sounds like an answer to all our literary prayers, just follow the yellow, sorry I mean five steps and your structure headaches are gone! So what are the five steps? As always I’ll let you read the original article but in summary the steps are:

  1. Think about character arc before determining your structure
  2. Select a narrative point of view
  3. Famalirise yourself with the three-act structure
  4. Outline using the snowflake method
  5. Understand and subvert genre conventions

I like the use of the word ‘subvert’ in the last point. The definition of subvert is, ‘undermine the power and authority of’. In this case you’re subverting the reader. You’re taking away their power and authority when it comes to them having an expectation when reading a particular genre. The use of this technique can lead to an unexpected outcome, not only in the story but especially with the reader.

Two additional articles pn structure that we didn’t get to but I would recommend you read are:

That was it folks for this sessions of Finding Your Writers Voice. Hope you have a read and perhaps join us next time on the call at FYWV.

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