Studying Story Structure

I’ve been writing fiction for a really long time. When I was a kid, I used to come up with absurd involving my family’s pets, write them down, and have my parents read them. I’m sure they weren’t very good, but it was fun and more importantly, it hooked me on fiction writing for life.

However, life intervened and for years, I wrote only sporadically. I started a ton of novels but never finished them. I didn’t take writing as a serious daily habit until I discovered the Writing Challenge on Twitter in 2014. I actually started finishing novels then, which made me happy.

Still, there’s been something lacking in my writing. No matter how much outlining I do, the stories weren’t fully working, which has been frustrating me to no end. This has actually been bothering me for almost a year now and it’s been annoying.

There is good news, though. I was browsing a blog I like, K.M. Weiland’s Helping Writers Become Authors, and I discovered three great series she has on her site: The Secrets of Story Structure, How to Structure Scenes in Your Story, and How to Write Character Arcs. I’ve read every single post in these three series and I feel like they’ve changed my life.

I was vaguely aware of story structure and character arcs before, but I never truly paid attention to it. Don’t ask me why. It’s silly not to pay attention to it because it’s present in any decent story, whether it’s a novel or movie. I guess I thought I had an instinctive knowledge of it and didn’t need to worry about it.

Boy, was I wrong. I decided to apply these principles I’ve learned to an outline I’m working on and I feel like it’s making a big different. I’ve plotted most of the first act and am working on the second act. The second act is the middle of the story, which I’ve always found difficult to write. However, with this structure to guide me, it’s been slightly easier so far. Writing a novel is still hard, but at least I have some sort of structure and idea of where I’m going.

There’s a lot of information out there about story structure and character arcs and scenes and all that good stuff. As I said, I find K.M. Weiland’s blog to be invaluable. She is amazing! (And amazingly nice, as well. She replies to comments on her site and responds on Twitter, too.) There are lots of other people talking about structure as well—including those who think it’s rubbish. For now, I’m in favor of structure because it’s already helped me so much. Though perhaps the big telling point will be how this next book of mine turns out…

Do you use a structure when you write fiction? Why or why not?


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