STORY STRUCTURE: The Foundation of any Good Story

Story Structure - Author Alliance Writing Tools

Our Writing Toolbox blog focuses today on Story Structure. Plot and Structure are often thought of as one and the same but are quite different. Our next topic is plotting, so all we want to do today is remind that structure and plot are two separate writing elements.

Structure is to authors what the foundation represents for the house. Done right, nobody thinks much about structure once a book, screenplay or house are completed.


If an author does not understand or practice good structure, all the great plotting in the world can’t cover up the weakness. The greatest of finish work won’t save a house build on a weak structure. Nor will exceptional plotting and writing save a story crafted around a flawed structure.

While their approach to writing differs, the best Plotters and Pantsers grasp and practice good structure.


Elements of Fiction Writing – Scene & Structure by Jack Bickham

One of my favorite writing instructors of all time is Jack Bickham. A professor at the University of Oklahoma, Bickham wrote fiction books, including The Apple Dumping Gang, good enough for Hollywood to turn into movies.

Decades ago, I hung out with two of Mr. Bickham’s sons and got a close look at how devoted he was to his writing craft. He taught at OU all day before racing across town to greet his four children when they arrived home after school. Once spending a few minutes with his offspring, he retreated to his office where he pecked out ten pages per day of quality writing on his old typewriter.

I ended up studying under Mr. Bickham at OU, but not until I’ve reread his books the past few years did I fully understand his genius.

We recommend Element of Fiction Writing: Scene & Structure and all other books you can get your hands on of Jack Bickham. He died many moons ago, but his work lives on. I suspect I’ll benefit from his work to my last breath, or at least my last as an author. The staff at Author Alliance and Indies Unite concurs.

Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story by K.M. Weiland

The Author Alliance staff considers K.M. Weiland an invaluable writing instructor. Regarded as one of the gurus when it comes to story structure, her Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys to Writing an Outstanding Story one of the best on the topic.

We highly recommend this book for every serious author’s toolbox. If you’re not already familiar with K.M. Weiland, you should acquaint yourself with her books and blog.

Structuring Your Novel Workbook: Hands-On Help for Building Strong and Successful Stories by K.M. Weiland

Author Alliance chose two K.M. Weiland books on story structure.

The first book Structuring Your Novel teaches story structure fundamentals and how to use it to provide the foundation to support the plot.

This second book Structuring Your Novel Workbook helps authors put into practice what they learn in the first book.

If you want to learn or review story structure, read both K.M. Weiland books.

Story Structure: The Key to Successful Fiction by William Bernhardt

Too many authors plunder along, not understanding structure, some lacking even a clue about this important writing aspect.

Story Structure: The Key to Successful Fiction 

will open the eyes of some authors while providing a needed review for those who already understand structure.

Super Structure: The Key to Unleashing the Power of Story by James Scott Bell

Writing guru James Scott Bell, who teaches writing courses at Pepperdine University, spent over two decades researching the information in this invaluable story structure book.

Super Structure: The Key to Unleashing the Power of Story explains Structure and its importance to every story. Bell describes how to create structure, and provides some helpful tips for Plotters and Pantsers.

Recommended for authors and screenwriters.


Hollywood icon William Goldman said, “writing is structure.” When Goldman places such an emphasize on one element of storytelling, the rest of us, whether we write novels or screenplays, should listen.

Authors can learn much from screenwriters. The staff decided to include one book that teaches how to “shoot your novel.” Any writer who excels in story structure already incorporates many tricks the best screenwriters use to craft powerful and unforgettable screenplays.

Screenwriting Tricks for Authors (and Screenwriters!): STEALING HOLLYWOOD by Alexandra Sokoloff

Alexandra Sokoloff teaches Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workshops. This book provides the rich learning experience gained by dozens of students fortunate to attend her classes.

Screenwriting Tricks for Authors (and Screenwriters!): STEALING HOLLYWOOD teaches secrets practiced decades by William Goldman and the best screenwriters.

If you want to master story structure, read any or all six of the above-recommended books and practice the lessons learned. You can read and own all six books for less than one college class costs on the subject.

If you want to write like a master, you must learn their tricks. Download these six books or order copies today, and get to work. Good luck!

Once one learns structure, the next step is plotting. Every great story demands solid structure to hold it together, much like a foundation holds a house together. An excellent plot builds on a solid structure and brings a story to life, just as the finish work makes a home pop and sparkle.

Because of plot’s importance and its connection to structure, plotting is the subject of our next Writing Tool Box issue. See you then!

Thanks to authors for your continued support. Thanks to the Author Alliance and Indies Unite staffs for your constant quality assistance.

Jerry Beller

STORY STRUCTURE: The Foundation of any Good Story

Plot: 18 Great Books on Plotting

Writing Point of View: 7 Books for New & Advanced Authors

Jerry Beller

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