Having trouble structuring your story?
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a no single formula to follow that created great stories every time? Of course such a formula doesn’t exist, but great stories do share some common characteristics.
In most interesting stories, elements of tension are revealed and a character in the story is forced to grapple with that tension. There has to be something at stake for the narrator or main characters and/or the reader, and the writer has to help the reader into the story and help him/her care about the struggle presented. It’s best if you can introduce that tension early on so that the reader knows the purpose and gains investment early.
The conflict in a story, however, doesn’t have to be major. It can even be an internal conflict or a small, nagging annoyance that guides a character’s actions.
You’ve probably heard the term “narrative arc.” This is a fancy way of describing the most basic story structure that can serve as a starting point when thinking about your own story’s structure. If you use Google to find images of a narrative arc, you’ll come across many diagrams that look like similar to this:
Writer’s Digest shares one perspective on creating a narrative arc here by introducing the concepts of beginning, middle, and end and what each part of a story must effectively do to be successful.
Of course, experimental writers often push back on the idea that a story needs a traditional narrative arc. Reading collage essays may help you get ideas for structure and jumping off points that can inspire a less linear story structure.
In any case, the structure should serve to connect the reader with the story and motivate him/her to continue reading/viewing your work from beginning to end, while staying true to your own vision.
Whew. That is a lot to accomplish. It might help to create a story board for your in-progress work to see an X-ray of the structure or experiment with a variety of approaches to sequencing your work.