Story Structure

Story Structure

Chip Foose, Banana Flambe, and Story Structure

I recently caught an interview in which Jeff Foxworthy talked about seeing fellow comedian Ron White do his first standup bit.

Foxworthy said he quickly recognized White as star material because he was naturally funny.

And just as quickly, he identified the one thing preventing White from breakthrough: LACK OF STRUCTURE.

After the show, he went backstage, met White, and explained how to structure sketches for maximum effect.

It was a simple matter of reordering the phrases so the punch line was properly setup.

The result became comedy history.


Applying Structure To Stories

Foxworthy’s advice struck home.

I was at a pause in my storytelling life. Something was preventing story cohesion and momentum.

Thanks to Foxworthy’s ‘Aha!’ moment, I now had the answer to that missing piece: STRUCTURE.

The simple logistics of what goes where and why.

Structure Defined: (Merriam/Webster)

  • Arrangement OF and relationship BETWEEN parts or elements of something complex
  • Something arranged in a definite pattern of organization
  • Manner of construction
  • Organization of partsI found it first in the world of screenwriting:

My initial searches for story structure led me to screenwriters:

  • Syd Field
  • Alexandra Sokoloff
  • Laurie Hutzler

Secondary searches led me to fiction writers:

  • Dwight Swain
  • Larry Brooks
  • K. M. Weiland


So, What Is Story Structure?

Simply put, it’s the proper sequencing of story events.

Sounds pretty easy, right? Nothing scary about it. No hairy monster under the bed. No bogey man in the closet.

It’s as easy as one, two, three.

Actually, it’s more like “one through seven” according to story structure master Larry Brooks.

  1. SETUP – Status quo of story life and character
  2. PLOT POINT ONE – Primary conflict is introduced and will drive the hero through what follows
  3. PITCH POINT # 1 – Quick and simple snapshot of the story from the antagonist’s pov
  4. MID POINT TWIST – Curtain of knowledge is parted and changes the reader’s understanding
  5. PITCH POINT # 2 – Another snapshot of the story from the antagonist’s pov that raises the story stakes
  6. PLOT POINT TWO – Injects the last info necessary for hero to be catalyst of the story’s conclusion
  7. RESOLUTION – Hero conquers inner demons and fulfills quest – or doesn’t

Got structure? If not, pull up a chair and answer the questions above for your current WIP.

It’s almost as easy as stealing banana flambé from a hotrod builder. 


Breaking The Myth About Structure

The application of structure to creative projects often raises resistance.

Let me reassure you. STRUCTURE does not interfere with creativity or imagination or story soul. It supports it. It enhances it. It builds a platform and showcases the daylights out of it!

Look, creative powerhouses like Foose, Trepanier, and Voekel are at the pinnacle of hotrod building because they know that powder coated wheels don’t mean squat unless they’re mounted on a spec perfect chassis.

And cooking mavens like Deen, Ray, and De Laurentis can only churn out eye-popping mouth-watering food porn for your visual pleasure and gastronomic inspiration because they first mastered the culinary basics that make it possible for them to prepare and present epicurean delicacies every day of the week.


In Closing:

Foose wouldn’t waste custom paint on a rust bucket.

Deen wouldn’t make banana flambé with discount brandy.

So, don’t let your story teeter perilously on unfit scaffolding.

Give it the structure it deserves!