How to Structure a Story: Understanding Narrative Structure

There are a number of elements involved in story and narrative structure. It’s important to be able to recognize them for your own writing.  Having a working knowledge of how these elements are used and how they affect the reader can go a long way in helping you tell a better story and get your story across. A story is a sequence of events that unfolds in a particular order. The best stories are the ones that touch on an important part of life. You want to convey emotions, feelings, and life lessons through your stories. While your story can be one of fiction or one of reality, there are certain elements that make a good story both realistic and unique to you. It is important to recognize these elements.  If you do not then you may not know how to tell a good story.


What is Narrative Structure?

A story is a sequence of events that unfolds in a particular order. Narrative structure is the way the sequence is formed and how it impacts the reader. It is the sequence and order of scenes, the use of time and how it relates to events. Narrative structure determines the path the reader takes through your story. It determines how they interpret the events and how they feel as they read your story.

The three major components to narrative structure are

Acts: the largest section of the story are the main events of the story. A key part of narrative structure is how these acts are arranged. Scenes: a sequence of events, characters, and locations within the larger sequence of events in the story. Scenes are arranged together to create Acts.

Points: smaller elements of the story are the details in the story. It is these elements that create meaning within the story and ultimately create emotion within the reader.

What is the role of the reader in Narrative Structure?

The reader must read the story in order for it to have a beginning, middle, and end. In order to do that the reader must move from the beginning to the end. As the reader progresses through the story they move through the narrative structure. It is at this point that they encounter the events and scenes.

How is Narrative Structure Determined?

There are two main types of narrative structure, free-form and classic.

Free Form

In free-form narrative structure, the writer has a lot of freedom in how they arrange the story. This means that the writer does not have to stick to certain conventions. This can include disregarding certain narrative structure elements.

The order of the story is not important.  If you choose to, you can put any part of the story first.  There is no priority and there are no climaxes. The focus is on the story.  Events and details are arranged as the author wishes.

Classic Narrative Structure

In classic narrative structure, the writer must follow specific conventions and pay particular attention to the details. The writer must focus on the sequence of the events, the character development, and the pacing.

The order of the events must follow a priority and be arranged in a specific order.  There must be a climax at the end.  The pacing of the story must also be managed in order to create a dramatic effect on the reader.

What are the narrative structure elements of both free-form and classic narrative structure?

Below are the three main narrative structure elements.

1.  Exposition: In the exposition, you are giving the reader an introduction to the story. It contains background information, the main characters, and the situations that your characters are going through.  It should introduce your character and their situation, and explain why they are in that situation.

2.  Rising Action: This is the part where the plot of your story takes place.  The story should start with an introduction and an exposition. Then you move into the rising action where the plot unfolds.  It is the rising action that increases the dramatic tension in the story.  This is where you need to keep the reader engaged in your story.

3.  Climax: The climax is the turning point in the story. It is where the dramatic tension in the story peaks and then falls.

4.  Falling Action: This part of the narrative structure comes right after the climax. In this part of the story, you can take time to let the characters reflect on what has happened. It is also a good time to let the reader relax after the tension that they have been experiencing throughout the story.

5.  Conclusion: This is the part of the narrative structure where you show the resolution of the story.  It is the last part of the story, and it includes a summary or end of the story.  You should tie up any loose ends and explain what happens after the climax.  In the conclusion, you should resolve any unanswered questions that you have been raising through the story.

What is Narrative Voice?

Narrative voice is the form that is used in telling the story. The narrative voice consists of your word choice, sentence structure, and your point of view. All of these play a large part in the way your story is conveyed to the reader. It is through these elements that you create the mood, the feeling, and the setting.

The use of narrative voice is a very important part of your story. It is how the reader is able to connect to the story. It is through your word choice and sentence structure that the reader creates a picture in their head.

The main types of narrative voice that you can use are either first person or third person.

1.  First Person: In first person, the story is told through the point of view of the main character.  This means that the reader is given insight into the minds of the characters and they can connect to the characters more easily.  It also allows for the reader to better connect to the emotions and feelings of the characters.

2.  Third Person: In third person, the story is told from the point of view of an outside observer.  This means that the reader is given insight into the feelings of the characters but are not able to connect to them as well.

3.  First-Person Limited: The difference between first and first-person limited is that the first-person limited tells the story from the point of view of the main character but only from their limited perspective. The reader only gets insight into the minds of the characters and cannot necessarily connect to the emotions or feelings of the characters.

4.  Third-Person Limited: The third-person limited tells the story from the point of view of an outside observer but from their limited perspective. The reader is given insight into the feelings of the characters, but they cannot necessarily connect to the emotions or feelings of the characters.

What does narrative structure do for your story?

Narrative structure helps to create a story that is meaningful, exciting, and gripping.  You need to use a number of narrative structure elements to create a compelling story.  If you are able to create a great story, then you will have a successful novel.

What does narrative structure do for you as a writer?

In the end, you are the one to decide the meaning for your story. You can use a lot of narrative structure elements or you can use a few. You want your reader to see the meaning that you have created. If they don’t see the meaning that you have created for your story, then they won’t understand your story.

A reader needs to understand the narrative structure that you have created for the story. It will help them to see the reason for the story and what it is trying to convey. The more that the reader can understand the story, the better the chance that they will connect with the story and will continue reading.

It is important to convey the reasons for telling the story. You want to engage your reader so that they can relate to your story. If you are able to reach your reader, then you are able to deliver your story successfully. The more that you can engage the reader, the more likely that they will want to read your book.

How does your plot affect your narrative structure?

The plot is another essential element of narrative structure.  Your story needs to flow along with the plot.  The plot is going to create a sequence of events that unfold in a particular order.

It is your plot that is going to direct the readers as they read your story. It is the plot that is going to create the unique flow of your story. The plot will determine how the characters will interact with each other and what they are going to do within the story. It is the plot that will make the story exciting.

The story will fall apart if your plot is not up to par. It is what is going to determine the sequence of events in the story. It is your plot that is going to give your story a beginning, middle, and an end.

What is the role of narrative structure in dialogue?

The dialogue is also an important element of narrative structure.  It is going to flow throughout your story and help the reader to understand what is happening. The dialogue will make the story more meaningful and real to your readers.

The dialogue is going to make the characters seem more real to your reader. The dialogue will help your reader to become connected with your characters. The more that they become connected with your characters, the more engaged they will be with your story.

How To Build Narrative Structure

It’s important to know the narrative structure elements and how they affect the story. These elements come together to create a more meaningful and enjoyable experience for the reader.

Character – A character is the protagonist or the antagonist. They are the characters that make up the story. There are a number of different character traits that a reader may find interesting. For example, the character may be shy or outgoing. It all depends on what the character brings to the story. It all depends on what the character does and what their personality is like.

Character traits are the personality traits that a reader will relate to. If a reader is shy like the character, then they may be able to relate to the character.  If a reader is outgoing like the character, they may be able to relate to the character as well. If the reader is both shy and outgoing, they may be able to connect with both the shy and the outgoing characters.

Character motivation is the reason why a character does what they do. Motivation is what drives a character’s actions.  It is motivation that helps to propel the story forward. If you have a good understanding of how to build a character’s motivation, then you can do a better job of creating an interesting character and an interesting story.

Plot – The plot is the series of events that happen within the story. It’s important to understand how to build the plot of the story and to understand how the plot affects the character. The plot brings out different aspects of the character’s personality. It’s important to recognize the different plot elements. This will help to bring the story to life. It will help to draw in the reader and keep them interested.

Plot twists are important to consider as well. If a story has too many plot twists, then it can lose its meaning and its impact. Too many plot twists may cause the story to have a disorganized appearance. It can be a lot to take in for the reader.

The outcome of a plot twist is what causes the plot to move forward.  It is what keeps the reader involved with the story. If you create a plot twist that is not resolved or does not have a conclusion, then the reader will become disengaged with the story. You want the plot twist to contribute to the plot development, but you do not want it to take over the story.

NarrationNarration is the way in which the story is presented. It is how you tell the story. It is the author’s use of words to describe the story and to bring the characters to life. If a story is written in the first person, then the narrative is being told from the main character’s point of view. It is a one sided view of the story.  There are not a lot of other characters involved and the reader is only seeing the story through the eyes of one character.

Second person narrative is when the story is being told as if it is happening to the reader. If the story is being told in the second person, then the reader is experiencing the story as they read it. It is being told from the reader’s point of view and the reader is living the story as if they were the character themselves. The reader is seeing the story through their own eyes. This can be an interesting approach, but the reader should be aware that it is a different approach and it may be a little off putting for some.

Non-linear narrative is when the story is being told through a number of different points of view.  It can include several different time lines and there can be different aspects that are being explored at the same time. The story will unfold in a different way and the reader will get a lot of different perspectives of the same thing.

It’s important to have a narrative style that fits your story and how you want to tell it. If your narrative is organized in a particular way, then it is easier to tell the story. You should have a narrative style that contributes to the story and gives it the right structure.

Tone – Tone is the feeling or atmosphere that surrounds the story. It is the way that you feel as you read the story. The tone of the story can be exciting and thrilling or calm and quiet. If you have a certain tone that you want your story to take, then it’s important to recognize what the tone is and how you are going to accomplish it. Tone is how you get the reader to feel as they read the story.

You want to give the reader an emotional experience. You want to make them feel a certain way.  If your story has a sad tone to it, then you want the reader to feel sad. You want to create the right tone for your story. It’s important that the story has the right tone to it in order to create the right mood.

Theme – Theme is what the story is all about. The theme will help you understand the purpose of the story. Theme is an important part of narrative structure. The theme is what helps you to focus and to define your story. Theme gives the story structure and meaning.  It is what gives your story life and allows you to connect with your audience. Theme is what helps to tell a good story.


There are many elements that go into story structure. It’s important to have a basic understanding of each of the elements and how they work within the story.  These elements are what give the story structure. It is through the use of these elements that you get the story to come alive.

If you have a working knowledge of how these elements work, then you will be able to create a good story.  It will help you convey a message and make the reader feel something.

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