February 20, 2012

Story Structure


by Chris Redding
            The structure is how it all fits together.  This includes the different parts of a story including the characters, the story world and the events. I’m going to talk about several ways to structure your story. This way you can choose which one you want or make a hybrid of your own. One method is outlined by Jule Selbo in his book Gardner's Guide to Screenplay.  He maps out an eleven step story structure which will be a strong skeleton for your story.
1.      What are your hero’s overall wants and needs.
The more the character wants or needs something the better the story. The hero should be consumed by his desire. The immediate goals the hero sets are part of the plot.
2.      The hero attempts to get what he wants and needs.
This needs to be done logically or in character. If you want to win the lottery, you must first buy a ticket. The hero must pull out all the stops and have them fail before he can make a decision to do something he’s never done before this.
3.      The hero is denied it.
So our hero took logical steps to gain what he wants, but he is denied. This denial is an obstacle and will now set the hero on a new path to get what he wants.
4.      The hero gets a second chance to get what he wants and needs.
After the hero is denied, another method for getting what he wants opens up. Most of this time this opportunity does not look like a good idea, but our hero is running out of options.
5.      The hero encounters conflict surrounding going for what he wants and needs.
The hero realizes that if he takes this second opportunity, it isn’t necessarily what he wants or he has to pay a price to get what he wants.  More conflict here. More is at stake here. You have to build and build the stakes. The more conflict, the better the story.
6.      The hero decides to go for it anyway.
The hero decides the cost of getting what he wants is worth it.
7.      Everything goes as planned (for a bit).
Let your hero have a taste of success.
8.      Everything falls apart.
Your hero will now be severely tested. This usually a series of incidents that shows more obstacles in the hero’s way.
9.      There is a crisis.
The hero is now questioning his abilities. This is his black moment. Will he be able to move forward to get what he wants?
10. There is the climax.
The hero digs deep and realizes he can reach his goal. He has the fortitude.
11. The truth is revealed to make everything right.
In Cinderella, she had to reveal she went to the ball against her step-mother’s wishes or she won’t be able to try on the glass slipper. The truth comes out and reveals a new ordinary world.
(This is an excerpt from my workshop Lights! Camera! Bestseller! which I will be offering March 26 at www.savvyauthors.com and October 1 at www.writersonlineclasses.com)

Chris Redding lives in New Jersey with her husband, two kids, one dog, and three rabbits. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. When she isn't writing or teaching workshops, she works part time for her local hospital. She had three novels published in 2011.

You just can't hide from the past...

Mallory Sage lives in a small, idyllic town where nothing ever happens. Just the kind of life she has always wanted. No one, not even her fellow volunteer firefighters, knows about her past life as an agent for Homeland Security.

Former partner and lover, Trey McCrane, comes back into Mallory's life. He believes they made a great team once, and that they can do so again. Besides, they don't have much choice. Paul Stanley, a twisted killer and their old nemesis, is back.

Framed for a bombing and drawn together by necessity, Mallory and Trey go on the run and must learn to trust each other again―if they hope to survive. But Mallory has been hiding another secret, one that could destroy their relationship. And time is running out.

Amazon in print: http://tinyurl.com/87qdaam


Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Chris! Thanks for the being my guest today.Great post. I'm doing an only class on The Hero's Journey next month and this goes along with that structure, too.

Tanya Hanson said...

Great blog, Chris and Anna Kathryn. I'm starting a new project and these reminders are very timely! Thanks.

Chris Redding said...

Thanks for have me today Anna!

marybelle said...

I found this very interesting thank you. I don't write, but I certainly read.


Morgan Mandel said...

Great advice. Yes, we do need to put obstacls in the way of our characters, and somehow make everything right.

Great cover art, by the way!

Morgan Mandel

J.D., Tara, Carol said...

Hi Anna Kathryn and Chris.
This was a whole writing course crammed into a virtual nutshell. Good information.
J.D. Faver