Sunday, July 15, 2012

What is Story Form?


There are many different types of stories and styles to write them—but each may be described as consisting of the unified sequence of events having a beginning, middle and an ending. This is known as story form or a story’s structure.

Classic Plot Structure:
  • Story beginning—establishes a main character and a basic situation.
  • Story middle—develops a problem or difficulty and builds to a climax, which is then resolved.
  • Story ending—concludes the story’s events, leaving the reader satisfied.
Now briefly consider the three elements common to storytelling and help build the story's structure.

Characters—It’s important to make your characters life-like. Whether they are human or animal, they are the lifeblood of your story. Main characters need to have more detail and a background/history.

Setting—Denotes a story’s timeline and place. A setting may be merely a backdrop, such as a home, school or park. Another kind of setting is the action setting that either creates or is directly related to the story’s conflict, like the storm in “The Wizard of Oz.”

Theme—This is the point of the story. It’s important not to have your story be devoid of ethical or moral content. By adding this element, you will have a more satisfying story and some degree of healthy growth or change in the main character—about themselves, others, his world, and perhaps about the larger world beyond.  

Please note: Young readers do not want to feel a moral is being taught while reading. The primary purpose of a story is to entertain…not point to an explicit moral. Let me say this again another way…stories entertain while hiding the moral being taught to the young readers.

When working on Setting  and your story form a common term you’ll hear is the “Rule of 3”. This means your main character must go through three challenges (each one bigger than the first) before resolving the problem/conflict. This helps build climax and keeps the pacing of the story engaging for young readers.

Note a good story’s form will seem natural and organic to the reader. The opening paragraph leads logically into the second and then third; the middle, climax and resolution all seem part of the natural flow. Nothing feels added in as an afterthought or just there for the mere purpose of detail.

Many factors may determine the climax and resolution of your story from a lucky chance to a surprising turn of events. No matter the problem (which can take form as an urgent conflict, puzzle, question or challenge) the plot structure is the strongest and most compelling when it generates suspense for the reader. 

It’s important to remember that the main character resolves the problem and must go through some type effort—a crucial action or decision that constitutes the story’s climax before the problem is resolved.

Master this classical story style first and then you can apply its lesson to other kinds of stories.

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Writing Prompt:
Use the list of 20 words below that have no obvious relationship to one another or pick your own words and throw them into a hat/bowl. Choose up to 5 words and try and working them into a story for young readers; or you may choose a single word as an idea-starter, letting it suggest other words and concepts via the process called “clustering”.

Be creative and have fun!

Brainstorming Words:

Whisper           Flag                 Patch               Leap
Candle             Slide                Cup                 Sing
Brush               Float                Park                Fell
Bark                Sky                  Warm              Flip
Pancakes         Bag                  Crack              Rainbow

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