Four Act Structure

The four acts in this structure have acquired various names from different analysts, but in this discussion I'll refer to them as the Set-up, Response, Attack, and Resolution. 

This structure is essentially the same as a three act structure in which the second act, which is lengthy and sometimes difficult to handle all in one chunk, has been broken into two more manageable parts. This produces four acts of roughly equal length. 

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Save The Cat

Another popular model for structuring stories comes from Blake Snyder's popular book on screenwriting, Save the Cat. Of course, Blake Snyder goes into much more detail and has a lot of other good thoughts to share, so if this model appeals to you, definitely read his book.


In this book, Snyder presents a story structure model with 15 "beats", as follows: 

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The Hero's Journey

The next story model I'd like to briefly discuss is called The Hero's Journey. It's based on the work of scholar Joseph Campbell who, in his book The Hero With A Thousand Faces, examined the mythic stories of the past and identified certain patterns that kept surfacing over and over. Christopher Vogler translates Campbell's theories into practical application for writers in his book, The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers.

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The Virgin's Promise

The Virgin's Promise story structure was introduced by Kim Hudson, and you can read more about it in her book,  The Virgin's Promise: Writing Stories of Feminine Creative, Spiritual, and Sexual Awakening

This story structure was developed somewhat in reaction to the Hero's Journey structure that I described in my previous post, and is presented by Hudson as a "feminine" story structure, though she stresses that the "virgin" in the tale can be either male or female, just as the "hero" in the Hero's Journey can be of either sex. 

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Story Trumps Structure

In an examination of story structure, I could hardly leave out Steven James's excellent book, Story Trumps Structure,  which I greatly enjoyed and strongly recommendI will admit, though, that I put off reading it for a while because I thought I ought to gain a solid understanding of what story structure was before I read Mr. James's argument as to why I shouldn't worry about it.  If you want to understand a counter argument, it really helps to have a good grasp of the argument. 

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Apples to Apples: Fundamental Story Structure

After studying nine popular models for structuring stories, I found myself noticing that there were certain touch points that occurred in all of the models. They wore different names, and were described a little differently, but they were there. 

I decided to make myself a chart in which those touch points were visually aligned and see what happened with the rest of the pieces of each structure model. What I discovered was that all of the models lined neatly up, and even more matching touch points appeared. Sometimes two or more were combined under a single label, or a single touch point was subdivided into several smaller pieces. But these touch points were present in each of the models, they performed the same function in each model, and they occurred in the same order

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