Does Story Structure Exist?

Story Structure | Part of an ongoing series

Welcome to our new series that explores the elements of story structure and describes how they work together to form a framework for your story.

We begin with a fundamental question:

Does Story Structure Exist?

It might seem a silly question on its face, but dig a little deeper and it is worthy of an answer – especially if you want to justify putting time into studying it!

Some folks feel stories are so organic and fluid that they can’t possibly described by a fixed and restrictive structure.

Other folks note that the same elements and forms keep showing up such as protagonist, goal, and acts, and figure there must be some Great Wheel that drives a story forward.

Over the years theorists like Joseph Campbell championed the concept of the mythic Hero and his relationships with other archetypes who helped or hindered him along the way (based on archetypes of the Collective Unconscious originally outlined by Jung).

Other theorists, such as Chris Vogler in his book, The Writer’s Journey, adapted and extended Campbell into a practical guide for story development.

Many have found these perspectives useful forming and refining stories, but many others have found them limiting and incomplete. Still, the bottom line is that most writers sense there is some underlying mechanism that gives stories their spines, but they also tend to feel that the truth of it is foggy at best and obscure at worst.

And that is where we will leave things (until next time) with this conclusion: Story structure probably exists, but no one has ever gotten a really good look at it nor laid out a complete explanation for it much less a practical guide for employing it.

In our next installment, we’ll take our first step into a new way of looking at story structure that incorporates but also transcends the other theories mentioned here so far.

Until then, May the Muse be with you!

Melanie Anne Phillips
Co-creator, Dramatica

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