How do you go about writing a short story? You might have a good idea and an interesting character to portray, but you have no idea about how to create a valid structure. It’s a bit like building a house, or a bridge: you need to create a solid foundation first, then sturdy walls and a ceiling. It’s the same for story writing. You need:
A: a Beginning
B: a Middle and
C: an End.
Aristotle first stated that in 350 BC. And just as you can break the parts of a building down into smaller parts, a narrative structure contains smaller segments too. One way of analysing the structure is to think in terms of a seven point plan. The main part of the introduction is the hook: a focus that motivates the reader’s interest and involves a character facing a problem. The Middle of the story is the meaty part that contains the plot line or sequence of events. Finally you have the Ending, which involves resolution and/or validation.
A: (1) The Hook: The Main Character is portrayed in the Introduction as a personnage of interest. There may be a reference, at least implicitly, to a problem linked to the protagonist, who is often good but flawed or different from the personnage we find at the end of the story. The Setting can be included as part of the Introduction.
B: (2) The Plot proper (storyline, sequence of events) belongs to the Middle Section, and is the longest part of the story. Here the main character is faced with a problem and a call to action. The first attempt is a reactive one and ends in failure.
(3) Reversals of fortune, Recognitions follow: Pressure is placed on the protagonist to solve the problem and he makes several attempts to do so.
(4) The Midpoint: The protagonist makes an irreversible decision to take decisive action despite fears and overwhelming obstacles.
(5) Things Worsen, despite the well-meaning actions of the protagonist. Actions may even be the cause of reversals in fortune. At the same time, learning takes place. The character is henceforth prepared and ready for resolution.
C: (6) Extreme Deterioration: At the end comes climax: the character tries to resolve the problem once again and either fails or succeeds at last. It’s important that the protagonist doesn’t give up. We feel pity and fear for the character and hope for success.
(7) Resolution: Validation shows that the story is over. The ending validates the promise set up in the beginning. (It may overturn or reject it).
- Memoirs: Fact or Fiction? (mjshoonersblog.wordpress.com)
- Writing Advice (rachelmarsdenwords.wordpress.com)
- Unreliable narrators: a booklist (robbinslibrary.wordpress.com)
- The Best Fiction of 2012 (Feature) (popmatters.com)
Gustav Freytag in 1900 further developed Aristotle’s ideas by his pyramid diagram with its 7 points:
- Strong Character Development (beinganauthor.wordpress.com)
- Short Story by Unamuno (clarissasblog.com)
- The Rise of the Short Story – Lori at The Next Best Book Club Blog (booksexyreview.com)
- Credible Conversations: Writing Believable Dialogue in Your Short Story (homework.answers.com)
- Finding Common Themes in Short Stories (homework.answers.com)