Story Structure

Story is made out of series of events. The sequence of all the events is called a Plot.

Event is a meaningful change in character’s life, the thing that happens during a story that transforms the world from one state into another.

During a story, the main character(protagonist) goes through a series of events, each of them taking him closer to, or farther away from his Goal.

This series of events culminates in Climax — the major, most important event of a story, the moment when protagonist achieves his goal (or, less often, fails to achieve it).

Climax is what the story is about:

  • Frodo drops the ring into the Mount Doom

  • Luke destroys the Death Star

  • Neo defeats the Agent Smith

Story is divided into 3 Acts.

The first act is about protagonist’s normal, regular life being disrupted by some event. This event is called Inciting Incident(IInc).

IIncs is the main reason the story has happened, the thing that kicks off the series of events that lead to climax.

IInc gives protagonist a challenge, creares a Goal — the main value for a character, the thing he will be trying to achieve for the rest of the story. Usually, it is the result of a problem created by antagonist.

  • Gandalf gives Frodo the Ring he will have to drop into Mount Doom

  • Luke hears the message from Princess Leia about the plans he will have to use to destroy the Death Star

  • Neo meets Morpheus, who will tell him about the Matrix, which he will have to destroy to liberate humanity

The first act culminates in the First Turning Point(TP1).

TP1 is the moment when hero decides to go on adventure. Me makes a conscious decision to engage with a story, and starts striving to achieve his goal.

  • Frodo leaves the Shire

  • Neo takes the red pill

Second act is about the series of escalating events(successes and failures) that happen as protagonist struggles to achieve his goal.

Hero pursues his goal, and overcomes the obstacles set by antagonist. From his victories and mistakes he learns lessons about the world, and gains powers.

As hero moves further, stakes rise, protagonist’s commitment to the goal increases, he has to apply more effort and take bigger and bigger risks to move forward.

In the middle of second act, protagonist goes through the Mid Point (MP)— the point of no return. He swims pass the middle of the river, and now turning back is harder than reaching the other shore.

Stakes continue to escalate, until he has to risk everytning in his biggest attempt to win. He engages in final battle against the antagonist, and puts everything on the line.

Second act culminates in the Second Turning Point(TP2) — the moment when hero’s biggest attempt fails, when all is lost, the goal is no longer attainable, when antagonist seems to win and the protagonist is defeated.

The third act is about the final battle and it’s outcome.

Defeated, half-dead hero learns his biggest lesson from his worst failure.

This is usually when the biggest twist happens. Hero sees the truth. Comes up with a brilliant creative solution, understands his mistake, finds the mega weapon, realizes who was the murderer all along, etc. This is what will enable him to turn lose into win.

  • Harry has a basilisk fang

  • Neo sees the Matrix code

  • Unnamed narrator holds a gun

Armed with this knowledge he gathers all of his strength, and takes the final effort to turn things around, to win the battle.

Hero defeats the antagonist and finally achieves his goal.