Narrative Structure

There are several ways of approaching narrative structure, but however you do choose to approach it, structure is an essential consideration in any form of writing. At the most basic level, structure can be considered in terms of three acts – essentially the beginning, the middle, and the end.

Considering the three act structure in a little more detail, each act usually consists of the following:

Beginning (Setup) – will often consist of some exposition and the introduction of a conflict, or the inciting incident.

Middle (Confrontation) – will usually feature rising action until a climax is reached, while

The End (Resolution) is falling action and resolution.

The five act structure, on the other hand, can be described as follows:

Five Act Narrative Structure

The opening is some disruption to everyday life which makes it impossible to continue as before.

The development, as the name suggests, shows events and characters developing in reaction to the opening events.

The climax is the peak of the action in most cases, or the crisis point.

The turning point is where the protagonist gains full knowledge or understanding themselves/the world/events.

The denouement ties up all the loose threads and the protagonist moves on with their life (providing they survive the ordeal you just put them through).

There is also the Seven Act Structure:

Seven Act Narrative Structure

Along with the Nine Act Structure:

Nine Act Structure

Each of these narrative theories progressively develop upon each other (for example, a narrative utilising the nine act structure must still have the basic beginning, middle, and end of the three act structure to be a complete story).

There are also many other ways of looking at narrative structure that aren’t discussed here, such as the four and six act structures. Next time I’ll have a look at the hero’s journey structure, and its variations.

Useful Links:

On the nine act structure:

The seven act structure:

The six act structure (not discussed above):


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