In my previous post I made a few suggestions about how you might approach the plotting of your story and finished with rash promises about offering some thoughts about structure, so here goes…

I’ve never read how-to books on structure, other than Christopher Vogler’s much trumpeted The Writer’s Journey and although I found it fascinating, I found it equally difficult to apply to my own work.I couldn’t forge my story to fit his framework, no matter how much I tried to hammer and bend it, so consequently I’m wary of instruction manuals that are too specific about assembling the elements of a narrative, because it’s such an intuitive, organic process and you don’t want your well-crafted work of fiction to read as though it’s come off a production line.

There are a few basics which are unarguably necessary, among them a beginning and an end. You’ll notice I’ve left out the middle, because in fact I think you need two middles, as I suspect the old three act structure of the well-made play does have something to recommend it. So…

  • Act One: a beginning, the arrival of some complicating factor, a crisis.
  • Act Two: some high-stakes attempts to resolve the crisis, denouement.
  • Act Three: resolution.

…and even that feels a little too prescriptive.

The best advice I can give you is to pay attention to contrast and pace, because if you are vigilant about these you will automatically create and then dissipate tension, thus providing well-integrated climaxes in your story.

Perhaps in my next post I’ll look at how you handle tension, (but on the other hand…)