Many writers don’t plan to fail – they just fail to plan.
The writer has four main building blocks –
Structure, Plan, Story, and Plot.
They are irrevocably linked. An author cannot have one without the other three and hope to be successful. Today we will deal with STRUCTURE.
First, decide your genre – that generally determines what Structure you use.
There are four accepted structures.
1. Freytag’s Pyramid – Simple story – Children’s Books
2. Fichtean Curve – Novelists – Mystery – Fiction – Young Adult – Adult - Poets
3. The Hero’s Journey – Science Fiction – Horror – Fantasy – Historical Fiction
4. In Medias Res - High Action Novels – Murders – Thrillers – Mysteries
1. Freytag’s Pyramid
The Exposition – About the characters – the setting – the moment. Rising Action – Conflict – complication. Climax – Discovery – Action – Turning Point. Falling Action – Long Recovery – Reversal. Resolution – Denouement (French, “untie”) – Love – Found – Lost.
This is the simplest of story structures and is used for children’s books and simple stories. Greek dramas, Shakespearian plays even the early Operas fell under this structure. However do not use it for adult books. It’s boring – not how modern novels are written.
2. Fichtean Curve
This is the most popular structure for modern writers – Young Adult, Adult, Fiction, Mystery, Novelists, Short Story, even Poets.
Why use this structure? The Fichtean Curve begins with rising action allowing you to build tension – sink the hook from the start. This then allows you to sprinkle the exposition throughout the first half of the story – reveal a little more of your main characters around each crises. Remember, you are building a page-turner so you need many crisis points, each followed by small falling and rising actions as shown in the diagram. Keep the reader with you.
You story should reach its climax – highest point of conflict – somewhere between two-thirds to three-quarters of the way through your book. Falling action is where you wrap up all the loose ends, answer the questions, uncover the ‘red-herrings’ you proposed. This is where you tidy up the minor characters, establish some semblance of calm for your main characters.
Why does the Fichtean create bestsellers? Because the multiple mini rising and falling crises keep the reader interested. Just when the reader thinks they know where the story is going, you shove another pin in the character, unsettling the reader and the story races off, taking another hairpin turn. How many times have you heard people say, ‘I couldn’t put this book down’? That’s because the author kept the tension high – won't let your readers off the hook.
Like having a Barramundi on a line – leaping, shaking its head to shake the hook and you furiously winding the reel to take up the slack as it comes straight for you, turning away stripping line, repeating the process again and again. You must keep the pressure on – you must keep that hook set.
3. The Hero’s Journey
This plot structure is favoured by writers of science fiction, horror and fantasy – and sometimes Historical Fiction. Whilst I have never written in either of these genres, it is all about planning your correct structure. This will give you the idea of how Hero’s structure differs to either Freytag or Fictean.
The Hero is transported, or walks from their known world into a new experience, a new world – the unknown. They receive their call to adventure and are either reluctantly forced, or willingly and fervently charge headlong into action. In their quest to defeat the antagonist, villains or inner demons they must overcome all sorts of challenges, privations, maybe even death and perhaps in Fantasy, rebirth. Somewhere on this upward stage of The Hero’s journey they must atone for their explained or unexplained past before being allowed back to their known world.
Go to it writers of Fantasy.
4. In Medias Res
For writers of high action novels such as Murders, Thrillers and Mysteries, In Medias Res is the Structure style you might like to research.
However it will not suite all novels!
Constructing your book using In Medias Res will require a lot of planning.
In Medias Res is Latin and literally means “into the middle or midst of things”.
It is not a plot structure I have consciously employed as the story or plot starts right in the middle of things – in the middle of the story.
Using this format, means your story will start at say the second or third crises, often in the middle of an action – the plot line still trending upwards – more crises coming. By starting after the “real start”, previous actions have to be relayed to the reader and this is often achieved through the ‘First Person Flashback’ method – sometimes in dialogue – often in a Police Interview room – with flashbacks as the interview unfolds.
Many film noir and countless Police Dramas on TV adopt In Medias Res. If you have ever watched the UK TV Police Drama “Vera” or “Midsummer Murders” you will appreciate they both use this structure very effectively.
Applied correctly, the “Hook” in the In Medias Res structure is set in the first few pages – on TV – the first few seconds.
You’re hooked – instant grab, you read on or continue watching.
Maybe this is why I like fishing and writing – in both I love feeling the hook set, feel the excitement, feel my adversary’s resistance wane – my resolution achieved.