How to Master Story Structure

The number one thing I learned from screenwriting is story structure.

Robert McKee, author of STORY, explains that there are two kinds of talent: story talent and literary talent. Most writers focus on literary talent … which are the words, the phrases, and how you use them. Often, literary talent is what we’re taught in creative writing classes and at university. It only makes sense. To be a good writer, we ought to sharpen those words and become master wordsmiths.

But that’s only half the equation. We also need to be master storytellers as well.

Screenwriting is all about story talent. It’s about how the story is constructed, how it’s designed and organized. A screenwriter’s words aren’t the final product. Instead it’s through the story design that the screenwriter puts his or her stamp on the final product.

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know I’m a little obsessed with story structure. I know goal-oriented story structure really well now. But the truth is, it doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m obsessed with it, but I’m a literary writer at heart. This was something I had to learn. It’s something I had to study.

And I studied it a lot!

I get asked about story structure all the time, so I’ve decided to dedicate a whole playlist on my YouTube Channel to story structure and design. If you’re ready to sharpen your story talent chops and master structure, check out the first three videos I’ve created on the topic. And be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any new content.

In this first video, I explore my five favorite story structure books. These will help you to gain an overall understanding and foundation of the structure screenwriters use and how to apply them to novel writing.

When you start down the path of exploring story structure you’ll inevitably come upon a myth known as the universal story. Story-structure gurus tend to talk in absolutes. They like to say there’s only ONE WAY to tell a story. This is a very limiting attitude and it can make you feel like you’re trying to force a round peg into a square hole. Arch plot structure can be seductive, but it is not the only option. In this video, I talk about how there’s no such thing as a universal story!

In my third video, I walk you through the eleven beats of arch plot structure (also known as the Hero’s Journey, or Aristotelian story shape, or classic plot, or screenwriting structure, etc.). If you want a copy of the structure chart I talk about in this video, you can download it here: Ingrid’s Story Structure Chart.

Thanks for diving into story structure with me! Please leave suggestions in the comments about structure topics you’d like to learn more about!

Happy writing!

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