Oct 9, 2011

On Writing: STORY STRUCTURE (Part 1)

After I learned about Story Structure everything fell into place for me.  Plotting novels has been so much more easier for me when I have the structure in mind. I’m glad that found out about it when I did otherwise many of my books would still be unfinished. Keeping your story’s structure in mind can make a HUGE difference in your writing. It’ll help you stay on course whether you’re an outlining type of person or not.

As an example I’ll be using HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE (Part 1) and DIVEREGENT by Veronica Roth (Part 2).

What I use is a simple 8-Point Structure (made by Nigel Watts) but if you want to go into more detail you can. (Click here for more detailed structure. Scroll down to chart. )

The Eight Main Turning Points:

(Use this as a checklist as you’re writing)
1. Stasis

Introduces characters, everyday life, and problem. (Harry Living with the Dursleys)

2. Trigger

Add in a trigger that sparks off the story. (Harry getting picked up by Hagrid & finding out he’s a wizard)

3. The quest

The Trigger results in a quest. (Harry goes to the Wizarding World for the first time and enters Hogwarts, Finds out what really happened to his parents.)

4. Surprise

Surprise takes up the most part of the story. It’s basically the middles. It includes pleasant events, but more often means obstacles, complications, conflict and trouble for the protagonist. (Harry explores life in Hogwarts. Becomes friends with Ron and Hermione. Has skirmishes with Malfoy. Trouble with Professor Snape. Learns more about Voldemort.  Plays Quidditch. Learns more about his family).

5. Critical choice

At some point the character makes a critical choice. It shows what kind of person your character is and determines what the real goal will be for the rest of the story. (Harry learns that Voldemort has been trying to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone. He decides that he must find the Stone before Voldemort does.)

6. Climax

In the climax basically everything possibly bad that can happen to your character does and he/she faces their worst struggle. The climax is the highest peak of tension in your story. Up until this point your character has been struggling to get better at something and this is the big test where he/she can show us what they can really do and who they really are as a person. Note that this portion is paced really quickly. (Harry finds the Sorcerer’s Stone before Voldemort does. He comes face to face with him through Quirrel, one of Harry’s teachers. But when he touches Harry the contact burns him. He dies. Harry is safe.)
7. Reversal

The reversal is the consequence of the critical choice and the climax, and it should change the status of the characters. (When Harry regains consciousness, he is in the hospital with Dumbledore. Dumbledore explains that he saved Harry from Quirrell just in time. He adds that he and Flamel have decided to destroy the stone.)

8. Resolution
The resolution is when things return back to normal and the main conflict is resolved. The characters should be changed, wiser and enlightened in some way due to the story’s events. You can always leave a few strings open though if you’re planning on continuing with a sequel. You might want to use a different central conflict this time around because the main conflict in the first book has to be resolved. (Harry heads down to the end-of-year banquet, where Slytherin is celebrating its seventh consecutive win of the house championship cup. Dumbledore gets up and awards many last-minute points to Gryffindor for the feats of Harry and his friends, winning the house cup for Gryffindor.)



  1. nice explanation. It really helps to see examples.

  2. Thanks! I find it really useful to see as well. The hard part is applying the structure to your work. It's hard to keep it in mind while you're writing. I find it a lot more helpful during the re-writting stage.


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