Tuesday, March 19

Chuck Wendig On Story Structure, Part 2

Chuck Wendig On Story Structure, Part 2
What follows is based on Chuck Wendig's fabulous post (adult language warning): 25 Things You Should Know About Story Structure.

This is part two of a mini-series, here's a link to Part 1: Chuck Wendig On Story Structure.

The Microcosm Mirrors The Macrocosm

Chuck Wendig writes:
Whatever structure you give to a story is also a structure you can give to an individual act. In this way, each act is like a story within a story with its own ups and downs and conflicts and resolutions.
An example of this is how--in stories at least--things tend to come in threes.

The Magic Of Three

Chuck Wendig writes:
[Omne Trium Perfectum is] Latin for ... “Every set of three is complete.” Even if you ignore all other structural components, this is a good one to keep an eye on — the Rule of Threes suggests that all aspects of your story should have at least three beats. Anything that has any value or importance should be touched on three times and, further, evolve a little bit each time. Every character arc, every act, every scene, every setting, every motif or theme, needs you the storyteller to call it back at least three times.
You could argue that all stories fall into three acts — and, in filmmaking, if they don’t fall that way they’re damn well pushed. Act One is the Set-Up (first 25%), Act Two is the Confrontation (next 50%), Act Three is the Resolution (final 25%). It’s an imperfect description and damn sure not the only description, and in the grand scheme of things you could, if you chose, distill it down to beginning, middle, and end.


Like stories, arcs have three parts, a beginning, middle and end. Chuck writes that "a story comprises a number of smaller and larger arcs". Anything can have an arc, not just stories and characters. For example, "[c]haracters, themes, events, settings ..." can all have arcs.

Your main character's arc--from desire/motivation, getting a goal, encountering obstacles, encountering more obstacles, attaining her goal (or failing to)--lasts for the entire story. Heck, it is the story. But all the main characters can, and should, have their own arc. Many antagonists even have arcs (for more on this read How To Build A Villain, By Jim Butcher).

Chuck writes:
Some [arcs] fill a whole story, some are just little belt loops popping up here and there. Some arcs begin where others end. Many overlap, rubbing elbows or shoulders .... Television is a great place to study arcs (and if I may suggest a show: Justified, on FX). Comic books, too.

Well, that's it! I thought it would take me three posts to get through the material in 25 Things You Should Know About Story Structure, but it only took two. Yesterday I wrote about the monomyth and story structure and, of course, I'll be revisiting points Chuck Wendig touched on such as Freytag's Pyramid, the 7 act structure, and Vladimir Propp's 31 structural steps explicating "the narrative nature of folk-tales (Russian folk-tales in particular)".

Hope you have a great writing day!

By the way, the first chapter of Chuck Wendig's new book, Gods & Monsters: Unclean Spirits, is up over at io9.

What are you working on right now? Are you writing a first draft or editing one?

Other articles you might like:

- A Chance To Meet Stephen King And Help Mark Twain House
- Hugh Howey's 3 Rules For Writing
- Short Story Structures: Several Ways Of Structuring Short Fiction

Photo credit: "els pets:al seient del costat" by visualpanic under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

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