Dancing, painting, singing, you name it— are all art forms that require structure. Writing is no different. To bring a story to its full potential, authors must understand the forms limitations, as well as how to put its many parts into the proper order to achieve maximum effect.
Authors also need to realise that structure does not limit their creativity. If they have to follow a certain road in their story and observe certain pit stops, won’t the story be written for them? But this isn’t the case. Structure presents only a shape—the curve of the story arc that we all recognize as vital to a novel’s success. The only difference is that structure allows us to be concrete and confident in our creation of that arc, ensuring the shape always turns out perfectly.
Something else authors also fear is that if every story has the same structure, won’t every story ultimately be the same? But this isn’t any truer than is the idea that because every ballet incorporates the same movements, every ballet must be the same. Structure is only the box that holds the gift. What that gift may be is as wildly varied as the wrapping paper it hides behind.
Structure offers the writer a kind of check list of must have elements. Don’t we read how-to books because we’re wanting to discover and remember all the elements that make up a successful story? Structure is nothing more than a list of those elements, all tied up in one tidy package.
Learning to consciously understand the techniques you’re probably already using on an instinctive level can only broaden your understanding and tighten your mastery of the craft. When I first discovered the intricacies of structure, I was amazed to realize I was already incorporating most of the elements into my stories. Learning about them then allowed me to strengthen my raw instinct into purposeful knowledge.
So are you ready to open up a whole new world of storytelling?