How to Structure a Creative Narrative

Below is a diagram of the “Three-Act Structure” that is helpful to follow when writing a creative narrative. Outlined in BLUE are the steps you ought to follow, and an approximation of how long you should remain in each step. In RED are some suggestions that point out some of the more common mistakes that student writers make when they write short stories. See the bottom of this page for a glossary of helpful terms.


The Three-Act Structure

Acts = fiction is generally divided into three acts – an introductory section, the middle – which is the bulk of the story, and the conclusion.
Denouement = The winding down of the story – what can you introduce at the ending that doesn’t further the plot, but gives a sense of closure?
Exposition = The very first part of the story, where the writer introduces the characters, the setting, the mood.
Mood = The overall feel of the story
POV = Point of View – who is telling the story? From what timeline (i.e. is the story taking place now? A week ago? A lifetime ago?)
Problem = And moment that throws the protagonist out of his or her routine. This does NOT have to be an Earth-shattering problem, or even something you might traditionally think of as a “problem” necessarily. Finding a priceless antique sword in your attic, or getting asked out on a date might be a narrative “problem.”
Protagonist = Main character
Setting = Where and when the story takes place

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