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Writing Tips: Story Structure: The Basics

FIRST THINGS FIRST – YOU CANNOT BUILD A HOUSE WITHOUT FOUNDATION. Well I suppose for the sake of argument, you could but regarding what we're going to talk about – let's insist we need a foundation.


Because unless you can name the very basic elements to structure your story, you probably don't have much to go by which makes character development, plotting and actually writing a bit more tricky...okay a lot more tricky.

1. Exposition (THE SET UP): This is where we meet your character living his or her everyday life. We are introduced to what their normal is, whether that's single girl working babysitting jobs whose best friend is her dog, or being a space ranger assigned to protect the alien ruler of a far-off planet, it doesn't matter, so long as this is their version of normal, everyday life. 

2. Inciting Incident (THE EVENT THAT TRIGGERS ACTION): As its name would suggest, this is something that happens to your character that is going to encourage them to begin their journey. Maybe the girl who is best friends with her dog finds herself accidentally "liking" the popular guy's instagram post (when she was looking in secret) or the alien ruler who the space ranger is tasked with protecting, is kidnapped and held for ransom. 

3. Rising Action/Rising Action/Rising Action (INTERNAL RESPONSE, COMPLICATIONS, TURNING POINTS): As your character begins their journey (saving the alien ruler or now being forced to converse with the popular guy and beginning an surprise friendship/relationship, problems need to happen. Roadblocks or conflict. Things need to get in their way. My dad (who was also a writer) used to say, think about the worst possible thing that could happen to your character, and then do that to them. Once you've done that, make it worse. Careful not to overuse complications and roadblocks though. You have to also include small successes to keep your reader rooting for your hero. 

4. Climax: (THE WORST POSSIBLE THING!) It's the moment of the greatest suspense, and also the turning point for your character. Will the popular guy deny the relationship to save face in front of the entire school? Will space ranger defeat the enemy holding the alien ruler hostage? 

5. Falling Action/Denoument: (THE SERIES OF EVENTS THAT OCCURS AFTER THE CLIMAX): T Definitely not as exciting, but necessary in order to begin to wrap things up. You need to be tying up all of the loose ends here in order to bring the story to a close that will leave your readers happy and satisfied. 

6. Resolution: (THE END) Your hero has come full circle and changed. The space ranger believes in himself and is promoted. The girl who was caustic and skeptical about true love now believes it can happen.Once you know these basic things about the story you want to write, I promise you the next steps will be much easier and less stressful for you.

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