A writer could do a six month course on story structure. But start with this blog post to give you a framework to build the rest of your story.

Here are WriteMentor‘s five tips for ensuring your novel has all the main components of story structure.

Inciting Incident

This is the ‘thing’ that starts the story structure. Something must change, otherwise there is no story. It can be a character, a change of fortunes, or something external. But the ordinary world of the main character must be altered. The result of this will force them to act or change in response, in some way, even if not immediately.

Doorway of No Return

Writers sometimes refer to this element of story structure as the end of Act 1 or Break into 2 and many other names. Essentially about 10% into your novel (this is very flexible) you need to make your character go forward on their journey, and they can’t go back, or at least not easily. It’s a sign of commitment from your main character and in turn, acts as a marker for your reader. If you want them to commit to the rest of your story, make sure your character has!

Mirror Middle

When your character, either literally or metaphorically, stands in front of a mirror and asks themselves, what kind of person are they, and what will they become? Can they become the person they need to be, in order to achieve their goals? Spend a lot of time on this aspect of story structure – overwrite it, especially in your first draft. It’s a big moment and as it’s a mirror moment, you can work out from here in both directions. The reader should feel the ripples from opening line to resolution.

Dark Night of the Soul

When your character is at their very lowest point – this is especially powerful when following a small success or when the path to success appeared to have opened up, but then their world comes crumbling down around them. Have they been separated from their ‘team’? Does the goal seem impossible now? We should be at the very lowest ebb and it should feel like there’s no way that either you or the protagonist can see how they can win.


This part of story structure is where we see what our main character is worth – have they learned their lesson, or obtained the knowledge or skills necessary to achieve their goal, or to overcome their fear or flaw or misbelief? They must be faced with the very worst thing imaginable, the most difficult obstacle of the entire book – GO BIG and make them really work for it. The pay-off for the reader will be all the greater.

Want to learn more about story structure? WriteMentor runs a WriteStart, a course led by Jenny Pearson, covering these building blocks of story. Find out about this and our other courses.

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