Sunday, July 17, 2011

Story Structure on a Sunday

It's probably time for a proper post so I thought I would bring one of the Writers in Training ones over.  It's my take on story vs plot and a little bit of how I structure my writing.  So here we go.


Story vs Plot.  It’s a very important distinction to make and I found a nice definition of the two while browsing the net.

A story is a series of events recorded in their chronological order.
A plot is a series of events deliberately arranged so as to reveal their dramatic, thematic, and emotional significance.

Now this is a very clinical way of looking at it, though very accurate.  Writers are emotional creatures in general so I just have to put it in my own words.

In my simpler mind I see story as the tale being told and the plot as the important things that happen within the story.  On the surface it sounds relatively easy but the tricky and fun part is making your plot, and so your story, interesting and unique enough to stand the test of time.  Making the two work together and complement each other is where you’ll have to get things right.

Since this was a pretty pathetic post from me, I'll write up a better one later (maybe).  I'll add some images that will help if you struggle with structure, something we should really do a proper post on later.

When I write my novels, the three act structure above is a good way to compare my way of doing things. I just call mine the beginning, middle and end, like the image below.  This is exactly how I write.  I need something to happen all the time, it keeps things interesting for me and especially the reader.

To read about the above in detail, you can go hear: Conflict and Character within Story Structure.

Okay.  I think the images made this post a little more worthy of being read.  Hopefully.
I'd like to hear what kind of structures everybody else employs.
Here are the posts Dave and Lood wrote about the subject:  Writers in the Thick of Things.  Just scroll down a little.

Have a good Sunday.


  1. This is very timely for me. . .as I head into structural revisions. Plot is the more difficult of the two for me. It's very helpful for me to think of these two things working in concert. The plot is there to focus the story in a dynamic way, the story is there to give those plot points emotional depth and resonance.

    Another tool that you may not have seen is the 9 Box method of bringing your plot/story together. I love it. LOVE. It doesn't always map out perfectly on my stories, but it does give me another angel.

  2. Oh my word, Natalie. I think you might have changed the way I will be writing my novels from now on. Well, you and CJ. I'm a terrible pantser, I see writing my novels like reading them. I want to be surprised by what my characters are doing while trying to get them to go where I want them to go at the same time. Much more fun this way and keeps things exciting for me.

    The perfect time to try this method out will be this year's NaNoWriMo so I'll test the method then, but start my prepping early.

    Thanks for the link, you rock.

  3. After reading that post more thoroughly and combining it with your notes, I realized I need a new first chapter. I knew exactly what's supposed to happen and shouldn't have left it out, it was stupid of me. It'll add a new edge and introduce what you mentioned at the right time. Now I'm excited to get going with it.