Every story needs structure. There, I said it. Don't come at me, pantsers, I promise you will agree with me as well after reading this blogpost. Because even if you don't like to plan a thing for your stories, you should at least use this amount of structure...
I don't care if you plan every scene, character and plot twist beforehand. You do you! What I do care about is that you write a story that keeps your reader interested and engaged. The way to do that is to give your story a clear beginning, middle and end. Also known as the 3-Act Structure. It's a structure most used by novelists, screenwriters, and other storytellers. Why? Because it works.
I could talk for hours about how each act of your story should look like, but today I will cover the basics to get you going. For starters, I would recommend you to open a new note document or grab a fresh piece of paper and start thinking about the main parts of each act of your story. Ready? Here's what I would recommend you to incorporate in each act.
The beginning of your story (Act 1) should get your reader hooked to your story. They need to want to keep reading, right? You haven't gone through writing an entire book just for them to stop after half a chapter. Two ways to do that are to introduce your readers to the world and the characters you've created (but don't overindulge them!) and to ruffle some feathers with an inciting incident. Do that and they will keep flipping those pages before they know it.
The middle of your story (Act 2) must keep your reader invested and make them care for your characters. In everything we do, action is reaction (Simon Leviev, anyone?) and that matters most to this part of your story! Don't be afraid to pull on your reader's heartstrings a little bit. Or a lot. It's all up to you. Either way, you want your readers to feel invested. A way to do that is through plot twists. My ab-so-lute favorite things to write! If you've read some of my work, you'd know. What's a story if it doesn't involve any good twists, huh?
The end of your story (Act 3) should incite an eruption of emotions for your reader. This is what they've been waiting for! They want to read how your main character wins the battle against the villain! They want to know if those two finally get together! Whatever it is you're writing about, they want to know how it ends. However, you shouldn't make it too easy for them (your characters, I mean). Make their world crumble. Kill your darlings. Or don't. Either way, it's time to give your reader some answers. And lessons. Show everyone what your characters have learned from this entire adventure.
And that's it. That's the absolute minimum of how you should structure your story. Have you started brainstorming already? Don't worry if you aren't overflowing with ideas just yet. Give it time. All I want to say is: please know where your story is going when you start writing it. It will only make your work better. I promise.
- Pia Sophia