Story Structure: 7 Narrative Structures All Writers Should Know

Bypassing the “ordinary world” setup of many other structures, the Fichtean Curve starts with the inciting incident and goes straight into the rising action. Multiple crises occur, each of which contributes to the readers’ overall understanding of the narrative — replacing the need for the initial exposition.

Story Structure: 7 Narrative Structures All Writers Should Know

While using a pre-existing blueprint might make you worry about ending up with a formulaic, predictable story, you can probably analyze most of your favorite books using various narrative structures that writers have been using for decades (if not centuries)!

By weaving together a plot and its driving forces, a storyteller can draw connections between ‘things that happen’ and ‘things that matter.’ A tale about two vastly different people falling in love can also be about the value of compromise. An account of two brothers who rob a bank can become an examination of greed, loyalty, or the failure of the American Dream.

Good narrative structure is about presenting the plot and story elements to allow readers to understand what is happening and what it all means. It unravels the plot in a way that doesn’t accidentally confuse the reader while also pushing along the characters’ development and the central conflicts. Structure helps the storyteller deliver a satisfying narrative experience — whether it’s meant to be happy, hilarious, or tragic.

Writers can turn to story theory and narrative structure whenever their story just isn’t working; when they feel that their writing is awkward, aimless, or — worst of all — boring. Writing is an art, but if there’s one part of the craft that’s closer to science, this would be it. Become a master of story structure, and you will have the world at your feet.

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The 5 Types of Writing Styles and Why You Should Master Each

1. Narrative Writing

Narrative writing is storytelling at its most basic: it’s all about sharing something that happens to a character. It can be an epic tale or a small anecdote; it can span years of time or a few minutes; it can be fact or fiction.

Narrative writing uses many of the most common elements of storytelling, such as plot, character, setting, conflict, emotion, and a core message you’re trying to get across. There are also tried-and-true story archetypes or narrative structures you can use to shape your narrative writing, such as coming of age, rags to riches, or the hero’s journey.

While narrative writing can take a lot of forms, one thing is always true: You should be taking the reader on a journey with a beginning, middle, and end. Even if you’re just telling the story of a funny incident that happened to you yesterday, your character should start somewhere, run into some sort of conflict or interesting experience, and then ultimately reach a resolution.

When to Use Narrative Writing

Narrative writing is most commonly used in fiction and creative writing, but it can also be used in nonfiction to help make true stories more compelling to your reader. Whatever you’re writing, the narrative style is worth mastering because people tend to connect best with stories. For instance, you might use narrative writing in:

Examples of Narrative Writing

Pick up any of your favorite novels and you’re sure to find narrative writing, but here are some great examples on the web, all of which are recommended reading by writer Noah Milligan in his Skillshare class on writing short stories:

2. Descriptive Writing

When trying to achieve a descriptive writing style, think of it as painting a picture with your words. What can you say to help the reader truly envision the subject in their mind’s eye? This usually involves crafting vivid descriptions using all five senses: sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste. But it could also involve use of simile and metaphor to evoke a mood or feeling that’s too hard to capture with physical descriptors. This can help elevate your writing from a simple description to something that connects with others on a deeper level.

According to Skillshare teacher Kathy Fish, descriptive writing is about more than just making your story pretty. “Great description accomplishes four things. It immerses the reader and gives them a ‘felt experience.’ It also establishes, enhances, or changes the tone of the story. It can compel the reader forward into the story, especially if you include something that’s surprising or unexpected into your description. It can give the reader a sense of the internal state of your character.”

When to Use Descriptive Writing

Descriptive writing is most often in creative writing and can be used along with narrative writing to build scene and setting. It can occasionally be seen used in more formal writing to help explain an idea more deeply or get the reader to emotionally connect with the story you’re telling. Some examples of where you might use descriptive writing include:

Examples of Descriptive Writing

3. Persuasive Writing

Persuasive writing is all about getting your point across. The goal is to share your opinion in a thoughtful way—or, even better, to actually convince the reader of a viewpoint or idea. Whether you have a strong stance on an issue or need to inspire people to take action towards a cause, persuasive writing is the way to do it.

Of course, you can’t expect to simply state your viewpoint and have everyone convinced—you need to effectively back it up to bring the reader over to your side. There several main types of evidence in writing you can use when trying to persuade, including:

Whatever evidence you use, it’s often best to keep emotions at bay in persuasive writing. While sharing a bit of your personal story can help build a compelling argument, too much emotion could cloud your key points and turn the reader off. Instead, try and think from the reader’s point of view and ask yourself: What are the most important things I could say to help convince them?

When to Use Persuasive Writing

Persuasive writing is often found in nonfiction and is almost never used in fiction. It’s particularly worth mastering if you do any kind of business writing—even just drafting emails to your colleagues!—since clearly convincing people of your ideas or point of view can be so valuable at work. You’ll also see persuasive writing used in:

Example of Persuasive Writing

4. Expository Writing

Expository writing should aim to answer any questions a reader might have about a subject: think about the classic who, what, why, when, how questions. You want to lay everything out clearly, avoiding any jargon or overly technical language that may confuse people. Try to approach expository writing from a beginner’s mindset to make your piece as useful as possible.