Friday Fix (Craft): Setting Up Your Story

Last week on Friday Fix we began our discussion of structure as the foundation of writing a great story. We said that the structure of every good story consists of four basic parts and that each part has its own requirements. Today we are going to explore the requirements of Part One of your story’s foundational structure. 

The first part of a story is call the setup. It consists of approximately the first 25% of your story and includes specific goals that must be accomplished in this first part. These goals include the following: 

• To introduce your protagonist (main character).

• To show us your protagonist in her ordinary life.

• To foreshadow your main character’s antagonist but not to introduce him yet.

• To create an inciting incident that turns your protagonist’s world upside down.

• To prepare (set up) the reader for the conflict that you will introduce at the First Plot Point in your story. This First Plot Point occurs at the end of Part One and not before.

• To create reader empathy for your protagonist. 

Larry Brooks, in his outstanding book entitled Story Engineering, calls Part One of a story the orphan stage. In this part of your story, your main character is an orphan in the following sense as described by Brooks: “An orphan has no mission, no need other than to survive the moment. His future is unknown, left to fate. So it is within a story though the hero may think he knows what’s ahead for him” (e-book, p. 150). 

Your story does not really start in Part One. It is only set up in Part One. In Part One, you have not yet defined your hero’s quest nor his antagonist. You have simply prepared the way for both.

Now it’s your turn. Have you understood the purpose of Part One in your own stories? Is there something you need to change in structuring your stories? Have you understood what goes into Part One of your story?  I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Friday Fix (Craft): Setting Up Your Story

  1. Skyecaitlin says:
    Dear MaryAnn; these structural techniques are creating a new and viable method of weaving together a story; ways to stay in control; while I do apply certain strategies in composing non fiction rhetoric, this structured concept is a new way of being in charge, and I intend to implement your ideas. I am very curious to read what others have to say. Thank you!

    • You are most welcome, dear Skye. Thank you for your comments. I am delighted that you are finding the information on story structure of value to you. You are right. These strategies help you, the writer, to be in charge of your story while still allowing room for creativity along the way.

      August 31, 2012 10:31 PM