Story Structure

Lightbox for Jan 9 - story structure

I attended a weekend writing retreat a few years ago in which the presenter, Barbara Kyle, author, story consultant, story editor, and speaker, emphasized the importance of story structure.

Most of us roll our eyes and turn down the volume when anyone talks about laying out a story in advance of writing it. Half the time we don’t know what we’ll be writing or even how the story will play out until we get there. Our characters have their our own way of doing things thank you very much.

As the weekend retreat fleshed out with valuable information, Barbara began to write a plot skeleton on the whiteboard, one vertebra at a time.

Wait a minute. This is starting to look really, really familiar!

I’ve previously posted a list of screenwriting books I’ve read, re-read and nearly wore the pages of to death with my constant underlining and highlighting. Books that I constantly recommend that novel writers consume as well.

Screenwriting books - resized cropped

And there she was, writing an all-too-familiar screenwriting skeleton on the whiteboard while telling us how to use it in our novels.

What Does Movie Structure Have to Do with Novel Writing?


Human nature expects the Hero’s Journey in stories. Even if we have never heard as much as a fairy tale in our life, our DNA desires the Hero’s Journey structure.

This link lays the Hero’s Journey out well:’s_journey.htm

Rather than go on and on repeating what I’ve read in several books, I’ll cite the titles of my two favourites (once again):

  1. Eric Edson’s The Story Solution: 23 Actions All Great Heroes Must Take
  2. James Scott Bell’s Revision & Self-Editing: Techniques for transforming your first draft into a finished novel

If you want a literal page-by-page skeleton (for a 120-page screenplay), try

  • Todd Klick’s Something Startling Happens: The 120 Story Beats Every Writer Needs to Know

To my rebellious nature, this latter book is total overload, but nonetheless extremely valuable. And please don’t blame me — blame him! — if, after you read this one, your friends won’t go to movies with you anymore because you’ll be: “Hey. Right on. Minute 17! That’s exactly what’s supposed to happen.”


Next Post — De-Stressing

Sherrill Wark is the author of Really Stupid Writing Mistakes: How to Avoid Them:

… and Death in l’Acadie: a Kesk8a story (fiction):


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