ONE of the most effective things novice screenwriters and novelists can do to improve their craft quickly is to learn as much as they can about story structure.
Happily the information is freely available in sites such as mine and in many others. Books and courses on the subject, too, number in the thousands.
So what is story structure?
Story structure refers to the overall shape of a story comprising of events arranged into scenes.
A fitting structure emerges when the right scenes occur in the right place, at the right time, to solicit maximum audience or reader engagement.
Laying out Story Structure
Typically, a well structured story comprises of three acts—a beginning, middle and end.
The beginning establishes the setting, situation, characters and their motivations, and, chiefly, the protagonist’s goal.
The middle expands and complicates the obstacles placed in the path of achieving that goal.
The end resolves the question of whether or not the goal can be achieved, most typically, against a background of mounting tension and pace, resulting in a crisis, its climax and resolution.
Having grouped your scenes into the three sections that form a beginning, middle and end, answer the following questions:
Do your scenes:
Add to or detract from the protagonist’s pursuit of the goal?
Accelerate the pace of the story?
Contribute to the overall rhythm of the story—fast scenes ought to be followed or preceded by slower ones and tense ones with lighter/humorous ones?
Surprise the reader/audience?
Foreshadow important events?
Contribute to character development?
Place the protagonist in jeopardy?
If the answer to these questions is mostly “yes”, then you are probably on your way to writing a successful story.
Story structure refers to a finite number of scenes arranged into three acts so that they facilitate the creation of suspense, verisimilitude, and impact in a story.