I can’t believe I’m writing this post. I mean, I used to hate structure. Even now, I’m not the biggest fan. What I disliked about structure is the fact that it turns stories into formulaic gimmicks. Stories become predictable, boring and less likely to challenge them or be groundbreaking. But I am now understanding the importance of writing structure as a way to make your message and convey your stories in a clearer way.
“But very often the reason it happens is that story templates work and they work for a reason that must be repeated. Each of these movies is an example of successful storytelling. The point I’m trying to get across here is — it works. And it works for a reason. Because the laws of physics that govern storytelling work every time, in every situation. Your job is to learn why it works and how these story cogs fit together. When it seems like you’re stealing — don’t. When it feels like a cliche — give it a twist. When you think it’s familiar — it probably is, so you’ve got to find a new way. But at least understand why you’re tempted to use the cliche and the familiar story. The rules are there for a reason. Once you get over feeling confined by these rules, you’ll be amazed at how freeing they are. True originality can’t begin until you know what you’re breaking away from.”
Save the cat, Blake Snyder, page 97
In many fiction writing structure forms, there must be conflict, antagonists and a resolution. Why does the protagonist must win or lose other someone or something else? How realistic is that? It’s simply too predictable. Sometimes, there’s win-win, or loose-loose situations. I believe that not following the 3 act structure help me to create stories that are more challenging that “the conflict must be resolved at the end and one must dominate the other, often by using violence”.
I came across in film school the Japanese structure KiShoTnKetsu which look like an ideal way to fit my stories into a structure where there’s enough room for it to be complex while conveying my message effectively. You can access the article here.
- Ki : Introduction
- Shō : Development
- Ten : Twist (complication)
- Ketsu : Conclusion (reconciliation)
Kishōtenketsu contains four acts: introduction, development, twist and reconciliation. The basics of the story–characters, setting, etc.–are established in the first act and developed in the second. No major changes occur until the third act, in which a new, often surprising element is introduced. The third act is the core of the plot, and it may be thought of as a kind of structural non sequitur. The fourth act draws a conclusion from the contrast between the first two “straight” acts and the disconnected third, thereby reconciling them into a coherent whole.
It is famously used in Kiki’s delivery service by Hayao Miyazaki.
But structure is not about just Kishotenketsu. The truth is, in order to challenge writing structure, you need to master them first. And her is a summary of the main story structure you will come across:
Do you like structure? Have you created your own? Or do you use one of these above you
Let me know in the comments.