Choosing the Right Narrative Structure for your Novel

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The purpose of developing a narrative structure is to layout parts of a story in order to avoid plot holes. Like a recipe, story elements are the ingredients and the structure are the steps to make a delicious narrative. A narrative structure helps build the world, guide the characters, and ultimately resolve events into a satisfying conclusion. However, choosing the right narrative structure will depend on the dominant ideas chosen by the author. Here are the most common story structures to help you decide what’s right for you. 

Picking a point of view

Before diving into a narrative structure, there are structural devices to consider that will determine your overall story design. Playing with time and space will affect not only story progression, but also character development and their story arcs. A linear structure can happen in real time or chronologically, but also in parallel between characters. These multi-layered structures can be nonlinear or circular and have multiple viewpoints or flashbacks. Picking a point of view will set how chapters are broken up and how the plot and characters move forward.

The 3-Act Structure

This rollercoaster of a narrative structure uses the classic beginning, middle and end style of storytelling. A main conflict occurs, which leads to the climax of the story, and then the resolution of the initial problems. The events in between each act create a 5-stage plot structure that form the ups and downs of a story. Build each of the following Acts to suit your storytelling needs: 

  • Act 1 – Exposition: The introduction of characters and settings to establish a status quo
    • Rising Actions: The catalyst to any story, the inciting incident occurs, conflicts are created and character goals are set.  
  • Act 2 – Midpoint: Where confrontations occur and actions are taken to help achieve a goal.
    • Falling Actions: Twist and flashbacks can be used to describe the results of the climax and answers are revealed. 
  • Act 3 – Climax & Denouement: The resolution of a story where problems are in a poignant and satisfying way. 

The Hero’s Journey

If you’re familiar with The Lord of the Rings, the Hero’s Journey can help recreate that sense of grand adventure. Perfect for characters exploring a new world and their place within it guided by friends and foe alike. After a long journey, with experiences gained and characters transformed, the story culminates in an epic conclusion. Follow each of these steps to go on your own adventure:  

  1. The Ordinary World: The setup where our protagonist lives their normal life.
  2. Call to Adventure: An incident or event pushes our hero to take action.
  3. Refusing the Call: The hero contemplates their role and needs convincing to accept their fate. 
  4. Meeting a Mentor: A supporting character guides our heroes through their journey. 
  5. Crossing the Threshold: The protagonist is progressing the story forward with their actions. 
  6. Tests, Allies, and Enemies: The characters in the story confront various obstacles they need to overcome. 
  7. The Approach: The biggest challenge our heroes will face. 
  8. The Ordeal: Our protagonist needs to endure a significant hardship and emerge victorious. 
  9. Reward: The things that turn the tide in the favor of our heroes. 
  10. The Road Back: Things go from bad to worse, and our heroes need to get ready for the final confrontation. 
  11. Resurrection and Atonement: The heroes use their experiences to overcome adversity. 
  12. Return: The hero achieves their goal thanks to what they learned throughout their journey and the friends they made along the way. 

Structure your novel the WriteWay 

Writing a book, especially your first book, is difficult without proper planning. To help authors on this journey, WriteWay includes tools to make the writing process a little easier. When inspiration strikes the Integrated Idea Board is the place for all your thoughts as you refine your narrative. The Editable Dynamic Outline system structures your content automatically as you write. Your content can be quickly dragged and dropped where necessary. 

Making WriteWay Work for You

The WriteWay team is excited to show you all the new features and apps we are cooking up to help you create better content. Sign up for our Waitlist to get notified immediately when new products and features become available. Our tools help you streamline your workflow by providing a clean interface and dynamic document creation. Discover the WriteWay to work.

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