Powerful books with strong story structure include "Romeo and Juliet," "Pride and Prejudice," "To Kill a Mockingbird," and "Harry Potter." Writing a well-crafted story such as these can be a challenge, but the result of your efforts can leave your readers completed invested in your story. Throughout the events, they may feel a range of emotions, from utter despair to elation and joy. A captivating story can even leave readers forever changed long after they've read the last word.
The plot of a story describes the events, which unfold with a pattern or sequence. The plot is the foundation of fiction, and all characters and settings build around the plot to help create it. A plot has five elements: exposition, conflict, rising action, climax, and the conclusion. The introduction or exposition begins the story, introducing characters and establishing the setting. The conflict of the story is also introduced in the exposition. The rising action begins when events start the conflict. Main characters contribute to the rising action, and sometimes events become complex. Readers experience rising tension and excitement at this point. The climax is the part of the plot where the turning point happens. This would be the point where the highest emotion happens, and the reader can't wait to find out what happens next. During the falling action part of the plot, events in the story begin to be wrapped up and the complications are resolved. The resolution is the conclusion of the story, and it can be happy or sad.
Writing a captivating plot can be tricky, and writers may need to revise writing repeatedly to create a riveting plot structure. Varying the intensity of the action is one way to make a plot more interesting. Unpredictable events, multiple story conflicts, flashbacks, and foreshadowing are a few techniques for making a plot more captivating. Writers may also revise repeatedly until every word and sentence contributes directly to the plot. Revising the beginnings and endings of scenes can also be helpful.
Narrative structure is the means by which the author presents the events in a story. Most writers will use one of five different types of narrative structure, including linear, nonlinear, parallel, circular, and interactive. A linear plot structure is the most common and presents the events in chronological order. A nonlinear plot structure features events that are introduced outside of chronological sequence. For example, the first scene of a book might involve the final event in the story. A parallel plot structure features more than one storyline that happens at the same time. The parallel storylines might intersect, but they may not. A circular plot structure concludes a story at the same point it began with all of the events leading back to the event or scene that started the story. An interactive plot structure invites readers to make choices about how a plot proceeds.
As a plot unfolds, characters develop and change throughout the story. Stories include a protagonist, which is the main character, usually the hero. An antagonist is the character who is in opposition to the protagonist. Plots that are character-driven, meaning they tell a story about how the main character develops and changes, will have a clear emotional arc. The reader is taken on a journey to find out how the main character will answer an internal question or deal with an internal conflict. Stories that are plot-driven focus on an external goal of the main character. Books can have elements of both.
Character-driven narratives have three categories: positive, negative, and static. Positive narrative arcs involve the main character overcoming a flaw or fear, becoming a better person by the end of the story. Negative character arcs focus on the main character holding onto a false belief, desire, or flaw, which results in a downfall at the end of the story. A static narrative arc involves the main character facing a challenge to morals or beliefs, but the character manages to maintain their original beliefs at the end of the story.
Character-driven narratives generally contain more emotional arcs as the protagonist struggles with answering an internal question or dealing with an internal issue. A strong internal desire that motivates and drives a protagonist demonstrates a character-driven narrative. A plot-driven narrative will differ because the main thrust of the story will be the protagonist struggling against an external goal or a physical challenge. A protagonist fighting against an antagonist is an example of a plot-driven narrative.
About the Author
Tricia Klos is a linguist and copywriter based in Barcelona, Spain. Born on a small farm in Wisconsin, she followed her passion for linguistics and culture to Europe in 2010 and has stayed there ever since. In addition to her bachelor’s degree in Linguistics and master’s degree in Marketing and Communication, she speaks (nearly) 4 languages: English, German, Spanish, and Korean. She’s a self-professed grammar nerd with a love for style guides and syntax. If you don’t find her with her nose buried in a book, you might catch her out on the road training for her next marathon.