What is Storytelling Structure?
Basic storytelling structure, also known as narrative structure or plotline, refers to the organizational framework that underlies a story. For a narrative to be truly engaging and effective, it must have a beginning, middle, and end that work together to create a cohesive whole.
Each part of the story must not only stand on its own as a compelling piece of writing, but it must also feed into and further develop the overarching narrative arc. When all three sections are simultaneously well-developed and interact seamlessly with each other, we are left feeling engaged and satisfied with our reading experience.
Whether we are in it for the thrills or the chills or simply wish to be transported to another world entirely, stories with strong story structures have lasting power because they draw us in with their captivating unfolding of events.
Whether weaving together grand high fantasy adventures with scores of character POVs or intimate realist short stories with little dialogue between characters, authors can create powerful narratives by understanding and employing the elements of good storytelling structure.
Oral storytelling structure
Oral storytelling has a very distinct structure compared to writing. Unlike written stories, which often have an indefinite amount of time to be conveyed, oral stories must be told in a finite amount of time.
Oral stories need to be easily digestible in one sitting, typically with little or no pauses between scenes or events. This means that the amount of detail that can be included is necessarily limited, leading to more concise and succinct narratives.
In addition, the conciseness of oral storytelling tends to favor omniscient points of view and head-hopping, rather than developing distinct perspectives for each character.
This is because speakers must be able to convey the thoughts and feelings of multiple characters in a short period of time, rather than taking the time to fully explore the inner worlds of individual characters through shifting viewpoints.
Overall, then, the structure of an oral story is very different from that of a written one, due to its unique demands and constraints on narrative complexity and depth.
Documentary storytelling structure
Documentary filmmaking can help us learn where the truth lies in past or current events. Documentarians create non-fiction films that present a real-life truth in cinematic form, using various techniques and compelling story structures to draw audiences in and make them care about the subject matter on camera.
The documentary structure is often determined by the subject matter of the film, but in general, a documentary is made up of the beginning, the middle, and the end, sometimes referred to as the "three-act structure."
In the beginning or exposition, the film typically introduces the subject matter and sets up the context for the story.
The middle, or rising action, is where the bulk of the story takes place and tension builds towards the climax.
The end, or resolution, is when the story comes to a close and any loose ends are tied up.
This traditional storytelling structure can be applied to any number of documentary subjects, from history to current affairs. By following this structure, documentarians can ensure that their films are engaging and informative, helping us to learn where the truth lies in past or current events.
Japanese storytelling structure
In Japan, kishōtenketsu is a quite popular method of structuring tales, poems, and even debates. To summarize, the four-act structure comprises an introduction (起), advancement (承), twist (転), and conclusion (結).
It happens like this: act one introduces the subject, context, characters, and so on. Act two expands on what was established in act one. The main event in terms of horror tales is act three when a major twist occurs that transforms everything seen thus far.
Finally, act four wraps things up by bringing everything you learned in the first two parts into a final clash with new information from the third. Because the third act twist revolves around this change in the third act, it is not particularly suited for delineating conflict, as does the Western three-act structure.
Instead, it communicates a sense of discovery and a shift in the viewpoint that has far-reaching implications. This is especially effective in the horror genre because if what you discover in the third act is a little frightening, everything else will seem even more so by association.