Story structure is the skeleton of the story. Its bones if you like. Everyone's story is different, but the structure must be the same. Without good bones, your story can stagnate, and you'll be left wondering what to do with a sagging middle. Here are five parts of story structure you can use to ensure your book has good bones.
1) Inciting incident - this is the thing that happens that starts the story. A few good examples are finding a dead body, or quitting a job because your protagonist has had enough, or meeting that dream guy or discovering your daughter has cancer. The inciting incident must push the story forward. It can be an action or a decision or a discovery. It must also be tied directly to the ending of the story.
2) Which leads me to story structure number two, the ending. The ending is the resolution of the story and it must be tied to the inciting incident. From our examples above the endings would be: solve the murder, find dream job, marry the dream guy, revolutionary treatment saves your daughter. Now these are all happy endings which I prefer, but that doesn't mean all endings are necessarily happy. They can be happy for the now. But they must satisfy the reader about the inciting incident.
3) The first turning point - Turning points are important to stories. If you write a book with scenes that follow one to another as if you said, "and then" you get a one note story. It's better if between scenes you add turning points. Think of the word "but." The protagonist made a decision, but the outcome was not in their favor. This leads them to a turning point. The first turning point they must decide to change. Examples are: Katniss taking her sister's place as tribute in "The Hunger Games," or the protagonist deciding they are the only one who can solve the murder, or they have to work with that dream guy on a project that they don't see eye to eye on. People like to think of this as the Act I turning point in a three Act play. A decision must be made.
4) The second turning point. This is usually found in Act II and is based on a second decision the protagonist made. That decision is the worst decision of their lives. They had no idea how bad things would get once the decision is made. Or they do and decide anyway. It can be life or death such as jumping in front of a bullet to shield a friend. Or betraying the dream guy's trust in order to save a small child.
5) The final story element is the dark moment. This is when the second turning point, decision, makes that absolute worse thing happen. The bad guy is about to kill you and the child regardless of your sacrifice. The dream guy will never trust you again. The new fangled treatment for your daughter's cancer has nearly killed her. You must have the worst thing that can happen before you get to the part that lifts the story into its final happy resolution.
These five parts of story structure are the bones of every story. They shore up the saggy middle, they give you clear conflicts and your protagonists goals to reach for. They take the reader on a satisfying journey and keep the pages turning. Want to talk more about your work or your writer's journey? Contact me for a free fifteen minute call to see if a writing coach is right for you.