Story Structure

The five basic story elements are characters, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution. The characters react to their setting the conflicts that you put them in when you are creating the plot. The resolution of the conflict depends solely on how the character changes throughout the story.

Characters are people. They have feelings and dreams. Developing characters that are complex can be difficult, but if you ask yourself if your characters meet all the humanistic checkpoint and can answer yes, then chances are you have a well-rounded character. What are the humanistic checkpoints for a character? I’m glad you asked. When creating a character, make sure they have a name, a physical description, and a viewpoint of the world. Then, develop their emotional personality (not just positive traits) and priorities. Your character needs to have values and dreams. The most important thing to remember is that your character needs to be relatable. Also, you must create intrinsic and extrinsic motivators for the character to solve the conflict.

Setting includes the time period and place of a story. It goes deeper than just saying your story takes place in Georgia in 1975 though. Setting has to include details like what the culture is like in the area at that time and how your character fits into the setting. Is it a small town or a big city? Does your character like it or hate it? Is it a place where people are free to be themselves or is it a place that sticks to the status quo? Setting isn’t just time and place, it’s culture and attitude of that time and place.

When you’re writing a fiction book, your setting comes from an in-depth background story that you create first. If your book is based on a specific time and place, do your research and make sure you know everything about that time and place before you write anything in your story about the setting. If you are creating a different world for your story to take place in, you have to completely build that world and know everything about it before introducing 

The conflict is part of the plot. The plot of the story is the sequence of events. It’s kind of like a summary of your outline. In a typical story, there are five stages; set up, the inciting incident, the climax, the falling action, and the resolution. 

Another way of breaking down plot is with the three act structure. The three acts are the set up, the confrontation, and the resolution. The set up includes the exposition, the inciting incident, and the first major plot point. The confrontation includes the rising action, the midpoint of the whole story, and the second major plot point. The resolution includes the pre-climax, the climax, and the denouement. 

Whether you choose to outline your book using the five stages or the three acts, your story will include all of the necessary elements of a story.

The set up is the introduction where the reader gets to know the characters and setting. The inciting incident is the problem that arises which comes to it’s most crucial moment in the story during the climax, this is the conflict, first major plot point or plot arch. The confrontation is when the character rises to the occasion and chooses their battle. The falling action is when it feels the most hopeless for the character, like he’s not going to be able to win, this is the second major plot point. Then, the resolution is when the character does win and all is well. The resolution can either have a lot of action in the climax or it can be a calm climax, depending on the story.

The resolution is usually a happy ending, but don’t let the usual stop you from telling the story you were meant to tell. It could be a catastrophe or a cliffhanger for the next book in the series, or a revelation that the character has that changes their outlook of the situation.

Dawn Zauner – Writing Expert
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