Story Structures

Mar 19, 2014 | Better Writing

Star Wars is a great story. Part of the reason is that George Lucas used a proven story structure, the Hero’s Journey, as a guide. Call them plots or patterns or whatever you choose, proven story structures have made stories and storytellers better since Ancient Times.

Two ways to use story structures

Use a proven story structure to plan your storytelling. This works for books and other long forms. For shorter stories and blog posts, you can probably be just as effective by telling the story the way you’d tell it to a friend.

Use a proven story structure to improve a story that you’ve already written. A proven structure can help you identify how adding an element or moving some pieces around will make your story better.

Pick one story structure to use

Find a structure that works for you and then use it consistently. You’ll get better results if you find one structure that you like and then use it over and over.

You won’t have any trouble finding structures to follow. Search Amazon for “plots” and you’ll see there are more than fifteen thousand books ready with advice. But you don’t have to wade through all of those. Here are three popular structures that work for a lot of writers.

The Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s Journey is the pattern Joseph Campbell identified as common to stories in many cultures. I’ve written about how to apply the Hero’s Journey to a business book.

Nigel Watts’ Eight Point Arc

Nigel Watts developed an eight point story arc that many writers like. Read more about it here.

Freytag’s Pyramid

Freytag’s Pyramid is another good, basic structure. Read more about it in Harrison Monarth’s “The Irresistible Power of Storytelling as a Strategic Business Tool.

What do you use?

These are three popular and proven story structures, but they’re not the only ones. What do you use to guide your writing?