Just like academic essays, stories have structure, though it's much more flexible.

The most important thing about a story - even more than structure - is to hook your reader. Be interesting, engaging and make them want to read more. Watch this lecture:

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

For this exercise, pick your favourite movie or book and go through the plot. Try to identify:


  1. The plot arc:
    a. What is the inciting incident? At what point does the story start to take off? What occurs to make that happen?
    b. What is the climactic point? The point at which the story stops building and starts to resolve itself? 
    c. What is satisfying about the end of the story? How does it conclude? Are all of the questions answered and challenges overcome? If not, does that matter? Has the story come to a natural end?


  2. Does the story begin in medias res (in the middle of the action)? If not, how long before something interesting happens?

  3. Does the story follow the Hero's Journey? If it doesn't follow it completely, are there elements of the Hero's Journey within it? Which ones?

  4. Does the story fit any of the seven basic plots (see additional resources below)?

  5. Can you identify the characters' key motivations and priorities? Do these priorities change or remain the same throughout the story?

  6. What are the challenges or obstacles that stand in the way of those characters achieving their objectives?
    a. Do all of the characters manage to overcome these obstacles and achieve their original goals?
    b. If not, what happens instead and how does that affect the end of the story? Does it still feel satisfying?


  7. Can you identify any points of conflict within the story, either human, environmental, social or internal?

  8. How does this conflict help to move the story forward?

  9. What are the main hooks of the story? What draws you in and keeps you reading or watching?

  10. What questions does the story pose that you want to answer by the end?

  11. Are there any cliffhanger moments where a scene leaves you on the edge of your seat, wondering what will happen next?

  12. Is the story told in a linear way, from start to finish, or does the timeline of the story jump around?



Additional Resources

Wikipedia: The Seven Basic Plots 

Video (5 mins): What are the 7 Major Plots in Storytelling? 

Video (5 mins): Netflix's Myths & Monsters: Joseph Campbell & The Hero's Journey

Videos (5 mins): What makes a hero?

Video (10 mins): The Hero's Journey 

Wikipedia: The Hero's Journey