1. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Types of Structures

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Mallory, Mar 23, 2011.

    What are the various types of structures people use to outline -- planning when the major turning-point events will happen in their novels, etc?

    I've heard of three-act and snowflake and that's about it...are there any others, whether "official" ones or just ones that you make up for yourself? Do you deliberately structure at all, and if so, how?
     
  2. JMTweedie
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    JMTweedie Senior Member

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    There are four types of creative paradigm on constructing a fictional novel.

    Seat-Of-The-Pants
    Edit as you go
    Snowflake
    Outline

    The first two are bottom-up methods, you just write your body of text - no planning.

    The second two are top-down methods, you plan your storyworld and storyline first then plan all your scenes before you start writing.

    They all have to have a three act structure otherwise your story will not work. The three act structure is goal, conflict, resolution, you don't really have a story at all without this.

    It's down to individual choice which you use.
     
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  3. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    JMTweedie, very nice, brief answer. I like it!
     
  4. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I tried the snowflake method once and I found it very helpful even though I didnt follow it precisely to the end. But then I always plan the scenes IN MY HEAD, just not putting it on paper. I think my planning is mostly about that; thinking a scene through over and over again until I feel its ready to be written down. But I found that the snowflake method gives more structure and sense to the story than I had before.
     
  5. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    When I'm inspired I write down an insanely detailed outline of every chapter, including some dialog if I think of something good I want to remember. Then when I lose inspiration, I write it properly. This works best for me, as I have a tendency to go all over the place when I'm inspired. Since the outline is very detailed, it's also easy to see what works and what doesn't before I actually write it down.
     
  6. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    That sounds like a really good idea and a professional approach. After getting the ideas out you can concentrate on the techinque of storytelling and the inspiration wont distract you anymore. I find that if I try to write a scene in the middle of inspiration it comes out in a totally different way than when i already know what to say and just focus on the ways to say it. Sometimes I do that too with the most strong or elaborate scenes or the ones that I have had in my brain for quite some time. So I think you are onto something important.
     
  7. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I say I don't outline or plan but it's not strictly true. My first draft is entirely seat of the pants freewheeling. I draw the plan from that, so you could say my plan is usually 50-70K words long.
     
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  8. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    This. :)

    Brief outlines don't work for me - I get side-tracked, confused and eventually blocked. I spend a couple of months writing and editing an outline (they can end up anywhere between 10,000-36,000 words) before I get started on a project. I write all year-round but my key writing months are July-August (JulNoWriMo/AugNo) and November-December (NaNoWriMo/FiMo), so I do a lot of planning in September-October and May-June each year.

    I treat my outlines more like a first draft: I'll make a ridiculous amount of notes, sometimes writing conversations out in full, so that the writing process itself will be faster and less frustrating. I never need to stop and wonder, "What will happen next?" I know there are writers who like a bit of mystery but I prefer to know where I'm going right from square one.
     
  9. Booker
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    Booker New Member

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    I prefer to use Dramatica to make a very thorough outline before I start.
     
  10. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    That is wrong.

    The three arch structure (also called three act structure) is a story layout with three well defined arches. That is why it is called three arch structure. All plots have conflict, setting and some sort of resolution. But not all stories have three story arches.

    First off there are a lot of X-arch structures. If you watching your favoritevshow on TV, lets say House, Desperate House wifes or V, each episode will be split into a 5-arch structure.
    Why? Commercial brakes make the writers plan out 5 arches to give a meaningful chunk of story, a climax or turning point between each commercial brake. The same way the theaters two breaks gave birth to the three arch structure. Ancient Greek dramas on the other hand had only one brake have a two arch structure.
    If you view the whole season of a TV series as a story, you have a 24-arch structure perhaps broken into 3-7 mini-arches within the season.
    There is a lot of other works of fiction that for no particular reason have an different number arch structure different three. A good example is "A beautiful mind" with five arch structure.

    Secondly there is a lot of fiction that doesn't use the classical arch structure at all. If you watched Asian movies ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is an excellent example), or anime or read manga or asian books they just don't fit how an X-arch story is planned in western fiction. But they still work. Conflict, setting and resolution is still there but you just cant fit it into the three arch structure (or any X-arch structure) at all.
    They follow other convention. Not better or worse, but they generally don't do three arch structure. They tie their stories together in other ways. You also see works of mainstream western fiction that also dint follow three act structure. GGR Martins long fantasy series "A song of ice and fire" for example tells an interwoven tale that you cant grasp or nail down as a x-arch structure either.

    I'm sure that other storytelling traditions in the world also have their own traditions for story structure, I just used Asian as a way to point out that 3 act structure pretty much is a western thing.
     
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  11. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    w176, awesome post, thank you!!

    So an X-arch structure means that it has 5 high-tension/climax/peak moments?
     
  12. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    X as in any number. Not just five.

    I'm not sure about the technical definition here, but I would say that an arch is defined as a stage of the story where the conflict is posed a different way then before. In a classical thee arch structure first arch is about introducing the conflict, the second act is where the conflict gets worse, and the last act is where we reach conflict resolution.

    In the typical 5 act structured tv show (I'm going to use House as an example.) Often plays out as following:

    The first act is where the the conflict is introduced (There is a scene when someone gets sick.)
    The second act is where they connect the conflict to he overall story and explore the conflict. (We get so know what conflicts there are among the main cast private life and what they think of the patient. And we get to know a bit more about the patient.)
    The third act is when they try to solve the conflict and something goes wrong (both with the patient and privately)
    The forth act is where things gets worse and then they manage to resolve the conflict. (They mope a little because the patient is dying and there is conflict with in the team on a personal level that peaks. Someone says something, and House and he realize what is wrong. They threat the patient)
    The fifth act is fallout from the conflict.

    At each act, the conflict is transformed in some way. It can be five peaks or it might be something else. "A beautiful mind" as I mentioned had 5 different stages of the main character life where the overall conflict presents itself differently.
     
  13. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Oooh okay. Thanks!
     
  14. JMTweedie
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    JMTweedie Senior Member

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    Sorry, I know that but wanted to keep my answer short and quick. Didn't want to go into explaining about structure.

    My novel currently has three acts but may add another depending on which way I want the third act to go. I'm a snowflaker.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i don't use any 'packaged' plan for fiction... i just write...

    when i get to a point where time frames and subplots are at risk of getting tangled, i'll do up a skeleton outline of some sort... but just enough to keep things straight, nothing more complicated or detailed...

    i never bother with acts, plot points, etc., unless i'm writing a screenplay...
     
  16. Lothgar
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    Lothgar Contributing Member

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    Well, just off the top of my head, I loosely work from an informal hashed together formula, something like starting with the plot (Basic idea of the concept you are shooting for) and rolling through the following possible concepts.

    ELEMENTS:

    Start with a bang, intense action or dramatic event to pull the reader in and get them hooked (at least enough to read the rest of the story).

    Character definition (flesh out who the MC is why the Antagonist opposes them).

    Plot formation and play out (where the basic story unfolds and plays itself out).

    Introduce romantic element (the "chick flick" part of the story)

    The Monkey Wrench (The event that triggers the first plot twist)

    Violence (No good story is complete without a healthy dose of egregious violence. A combination of "The Monkey Wrench" and "Violence" often adds up to the "Damsel in distress")

    Possible Damsel in Distress (Where the MC gets to go after the bad guy to rescue his romantic interest...this part is optional).

    Confrontation (MC butts heads with badguy...may result in "Secondary plot twist" or "Rescue")

    Secondary Plot Twist (Optional - Yet another unexpected twist of fate in your tale)

    Rescue (Optional, links with Confrontation and Romantic Interest - The cliche' of good guy getting the girl and saving the day, done to death, yet timelessly traditional and expected).

    Wrap up (The traditional closing of loose ends and wrapping up the story)

    Surprise ending (Optional - The unexpected, from out of no where, just BAM in your face, revelation that was totally not hinted at or foreshadowed in any way...may end story with cliffhanger hook for sequel).
     
  17. JMTweedie
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    JMTweedie Senior Member

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    Thanks, I like to keep my replies short and sweet.

    If I have the time to spend writing a long one then I should be putting that effort into my writing. I procrastinate enough as it is. Managed to avoid the internet for 2 hrs last night, I wrote quite a lot. Must try that more often.
     

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