Story Structure Should Imitate Life

Story Structure Should Imitate Life

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Fiction imitates a well planned life. A character finishes one thing just in time for what’s next. They graduate high school or university and find a job that they keep for years. They go through many unsatisfying relationships until they find one that works and get married. They end a career in order to get more education and start another one. I’m actually talking about bad fiction here.

In real life, our stories are always ongoing. There are no definite ends. As a novelist, you need to make your stories complete. Write good fiction. The character dropped out of high school and had to go back or work on a GED later. The job they thought they’d keep for years never got any better and they keep changing jobs. The perfect relationship fell apart when their significant other cheated on them. They ended a career, went for more education, failed, and now they’re in a crappy dead end job. That’s real life.

But that’s only one side of the story.

Read life isn’t all disappointments. It turns around for the good as much as it does for the bad. Returning to school is a chance to go for a different kind of degree. The next job could be a winner. The next relationship will be better. A social person who is always working toward self-improvement is going to have opportunities.

Drop Compartmentalization

In real life, people don’t neatly cut off one story before the next begins. They’ve done some studying or networking to get hooked up with their next job before quitting their old one. Some people have affairs because they are trying to find their next mate before dropping one that isn’t working out. Real people sometime have more than one job too.

In a novel, the stories being told to your reader need to be wrapped up. That doesn’t mean everything needs to be over at the end of a novel. There could be new beginnings.

Work, school, hobbies, friends, and lovers are compartmentalized in the long run of a life. They start somewhere, run for a long time, and have an end. Novels can end at any of those stages and that makes it possible to have overlaps in which stages of a character’s different significant events are happening as it ends.

A new beginning is going to be the start of something good.

Something staying the same for a long time will be something a character wants or has learned to accept.

An ending is going to be the end of something bad.

I feel like I’m talking too much about generalities here, but I don’t want to write examples. You should be able to get the point and I feel like trotting off to go work on my novel now.

Thanks for reading. Don’t be afraid to leave a comment.


Article by Ivan Izo.

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