Those enjoying a tale might not always register it, but almost all stories have some kind of structure. The only exception might be stream-of-consciousness writing, and I highly suspect that might be one reason it's a style that's never taken off. Structure provides direction and a mild bit of predictability to narrative.
That might sound like a bad thing, and a predictable story isn't what you want. However, audiences do enjoy having some clue where the story is heading without being able to guess every plot point coming up. Having a story with no structure at all can feel unsettling at best and be confusing at worst.
What is story structure?
If you think of your story as a house, the structure is the blueprint. The structure of a story determines the major plot points as well as the ebb and flow of the story. The plot points make up the story's frame. All the details between make up the rest of the house.
How do I decide on a structure?
The type of story you are planning to tell will help you decide which structure is best. If you are planning a series of videos, a serial story, or an anthology an episodic structure would make a lot of sense. Short stories tend to have simplistic structures. Novels and movies tend to have multiple peaks and valleys.
There are several classic structures. Kimberly Appelcline has an excellent article on Aristotle's analysis of the topic, which I highly recommend for further reading. You don't have to follow them to the letter in order to create a structure for your story, but studying how other writers have created their works can help you figure out how to plot your own.
The main thing to keep in mind when structuring your story is the journey you want to take your readers on throughout the narrative. As I've mentioned before, the structure determines the ebb and flow of the story. Another way to phrase this is the rise and fall, which might make things a bit clearer. Structure takes your protagonist (hero) from high points to low points and back again.
Okay, so what do I do now?
Once you have an idea of the ride you want to take your characters and readers on, grab some paper and draw the line of your story. Label the peaks and valleys with the events behind the change in direction. Using those as a jumping off point, begin filling in the main events on each "ride" up or down.
Now you have the structure for your story set out and the bare bones of your outline.
Continue on to the last lesson in the "pre-writing" phase, outlining.
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