Story Structure: How do you do it?

Hello everyone! Its your favourite letter B here.

This here is mainly addressed to authors but everyone else is free to chip in of course!

I have been writing on and off for a few years. Never truly being satisfied with my work due to myself wishing for it to be as perfect as possible. Which is well… impossible.

But one main issue I’ve always encountered is how exactly to make the whole story. The arc, the plot points. Do I write a basic summary of the story and connect the dots in between? Changing it as I go? Do I just start with a general idea of an end and start my journey to it? I honestly never really understood how to properly start here and because of that I’ve always had issues actually pushing the story forward.

World building I can do. I can do an insane amount of it. I mean I have 50+ pages of world building for a couple of worlds each that I will never use. I just love doing it. But the story I have issues with.

I even have an idea for what I have yet to see done here on CoG or HG, which might be a bit complex for a first actual title but would offer a unique way to tell the whole thing.

I know that @Cataphrak (I hope you don’t mind me pinging you! Apologies if it is inconvenient and feel free to ignore the post. It’s all good.) seems to have some sort of structure planned for the whole Dragoon Saga of Sabres, Guns, Lords, Wars and Masters of Infinity. Which I find as quite the amazing feat. Not only managing to plan something out for a single title but multiple installments.

So here I am, confused Ruski wondering how you guys do it.

Thank you all for taking your time to read!

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If worldbuilding is writing without narrative, writing a story is… writing with a narrative.


In IF, a story usually tells a snippet or whole life of a character, mostly the protagonist.

Is your protag been through a hurdle or obstacle in their life that you want to tell the reader?
Perhaps something significant happened in their life?
Meanwhile, what kind of impact they leave to the people around them?

But perhaps, the most important question is

“What story do you want to tell?”

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Yes. Yes and yes.

The thing is, you need a core to hinge your story on. One single thing that you really want to tell. And you do need to know why you want to tell it. Once that is done you can just do the simplest of summaries, because it will change as you go. Everything changes, you don’t really need to know everything, all you need is a start, a direction to go, and a vague notion of what you’re going towards.

Another thing, don’t start your story at the beginning. There is a reason why the joke starts ‘a man a duck and a horse walks into a bar’, and not with the story of how they met.

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Well. I’m currently trying to write my biggest project yet. So, I’m no expert or anything. But I have written short stories for a long while. Ever since I could write, basically. I say the principle for a novel and short story is the same. Both do well with a bit of planning beforehand.

For me, it’s never worked just to start writing as soon as I get inspiration. Instead, what I do nowadays is I let the thought spinn away, and I evolve it further before putting my pen to paper. It can take some time, but that’s part of the beauty in it.

I wouldn’t say that my story is “set” before I write it, though. That would be boring. I need room for me to change my mind and rearrange things. Because that will happen, and is also part of the process. I’m actually doing this right now, because I realised that the way I wrote was not fit for a “choice your own adventure” type of game. There’s no harm in it. You often grow to like the end result even better than the previous draft. :heartbeat:

The most basic thing I figure out before I start any sort of worldbuilding is to have a beginning and an end. One thing that causes a problem, and then the end of that problem/situation. Then, as I begin writing I keep that ‘end’ in mind. Because everything in your novel should always move the plot forward, to that same point.

It’s often easier to break it up in chapters, so do that too. So instead of you trying to reach all the way to the final scene without really knowing how to get there, it’s like placing out checkpoints along the way. I hope that makes scene.

Also, writing is different for everyone. I might agree with some one the points Stephen king might make, for example- but my writing process is still different from him.

My advice is to take time to experiment, and to be aware of how much joy you feel about writing as you do.

Best of luck friend! :four_leaf_clover:

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I think you’re asking some very good questions. We’ve had a few structure-oriented threads pop up lately, and that’s a good sign that the community of authors is maturing as a whole and is only getting better!

Here are a couple of those threads:

As for my input, I’ve written a blogpost on my website about the Power of the Premise Line. That structure was a godsend during the development of Samurai of Hyuga Book 3. Often, writers have a lot of particular scenes they want to explore–and so they just start writing from there. That’s a good way to get lost in a mess of pages and discouraged!

A premise line helps you know where those scenes should go and how they need to be altered to serve your narrative. The most satisfying part is when everything comes out smooth, with plenty of juicy foreshadowing and details that aren’t written by accident.

Simply put, these are the clauses that structure a story:

Clause#1 = Character, Constriction
Clause#2 = Desire, Relationship
Clause#3 = Resistance, Adventure
Clause#4 = Adventure, Change

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Thank you very much! The premise line looks and sounds like pretty much what I needed. You sir are a legend for finding and sharing such a great thing.

The other CoG links have been a great help too. You certainly are right that what we wrote in English class isnt a story. Honestly now that I think about it I’m shocked that they make us write a ton of stories but never teach us how to write a story. At least in my school. Weird.

I know I’ve always ended up in a huge mess trying to write what I want! Usually ending up with branching paths filled with branching paths filled with branching paths in a single chapter… then getting horribly lost amidst it all and having to keep a rather complicated looking image just to know where I am… I need to stop this. Bad Yuri, no! :joy:

Before now my premise line equivalent was pretty much “characters do things, encounter resistance, change or learn something about a secondary character.” Which became a mess real fast especially since I have a habit of rambling.

Anyways before I go on too much: thank you. With the rather weird thing I’m trying to write this will certainly be a big help in keeping a solid direction.

May the old gods bless your fingers to eternally enthrall your readers.

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Without getting overly detailed, I usually start with a premise or a hook. From there I like to know the beginning and where I want to end my story. Next, the characters to fill my main roles and supporting roles. I love characters, so I like to know the ins and outs of my characters so when I write about certain scenarios I know how each of them will react. I also try to give every important character a goal or goals and what’s stopping them from achieving those goals. Once I have all of that, the writing flows fairly easily, or at the very least, I know what I want to happen next.

There are some times I just write stories where I have two characters interacting off each other but I’ve found that my best writing comes when I’m loosely organized with at least the skeleton of my story.

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@MultipleChoice
Hey! Read more stuff on your blog and honestly a lot of this stuff looks like something that should be pinned on the forums here. All of it is extremely useful for someone new to writing and wishing that English classes actually taught us how to write stories instead of making us write stories without said knowledge.

I’m surprised I didn’t get linked to it the moment I spoke about story structure! Then again maybe I enjoyed your posts so much becuase it really resonates with the style of interactive fiction I like best. As in not CYOA (which I’d consider most CoG titles to lean towards, while HG seem to move away from that luckily for me), and more interactive Novel! With the character being more than a self-insert for the player or a blank slate. Honestly only author to do anything near that right, in regards to my taste at least, has been Cataphrak.

So your stuff is great and I’d say is a must read. Seriously thank you, you linked me to one post but I learned a lot more than that. Keep up the good work!

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