If you’re studying English Literature at GCSE level, you may be familiar with Assessment Objective 2 (AO2): Analyse the language, form and structure used by a writer to create meanings and effects, using relevant subject terminology where appropriate. This objective asks you to critically analyse the language (words), form (type of literature) and structure (how to text is put together), but why is structure so important in fiction? In this blog, we go through why fiction is so important in fiction (as well as other forms).
1. Structure = plot = character
The structure of a novel or fictional short story holds all of the stories together. The way an author structures their writing determines when the reader learns more about the protagonist (main character) as well as supporting characters, and where the exciting events sit in the story. Having a poor structure can make a potentially great story horrible, so it’s important that a story flows well. Some popular elements of a fictional story may include:
An Exciting Opening; The beginning of the story during which the author introduces the reader to the characters and setting, and sets the stage for the conflict. If the opening is boring, the reader will be reluctant to read on. A popular narrative device writer’s use is to start in medias res, which means to start in the middle of the conflict. By starting right in the action, the reader will likely want to read more.
Protagonists Fear: Every good protagonist has a fear that is often introduced early on in a story, such as Katniss’s fear that anything bad will happen to her sister. The fear often foreshadows the climax later on in the story.
Climax: The climax is the most exciting part of the story, where the protagonist usually faces their biggest fear.
Ending: At the end of the story all loose ends are tied up. It’s clear to the reader that the main character as well as other characters have either got what they wanted or not.
2. Predictability VS Mystery
The structure of a story determines how the story unfolds and what the reader learners as they turn the pages. Writers may opt for a structure that builds mystery by only revealing nuggets of information about the character and plot in each chapter until the big “ah-ha” moment, or they can use a familiar story structure such as The Hero’s Journey which may be more predictable.
Writers often change the structure of a story during the drafting process if their original draft doesn’t serve the plot and characterization well. The important thing to remember is that structure is purposeful and the type of structure used effects the whole story.