Research – Constructing A Solid Story

cathedral_finalImage from

Constructing a Solid Story

Not a lot of people know this about me, but before I studied writing in college, I was an architecture major. I’ve always been interested in design and construction, even landscaping and inte…

Source: Constructing a Solid Story

This article sparked my imagination. Staci Troilo does a splendid job of illustrating the ideas of story structure using a couple of construction analogies.

She compares the timeline of a story with the structure of a simple house, like the ones you’d see on a kindergartener’s drawing. Marsbarn Designs has the perfect example.

Marsbarn Designs

You have the left wall, the left side of the roof, the apex, the right side of the roof, and the right wall. You need all of those things to keep the house from falling down. According to Staci, the left wall represents the introduction, the left roof line is the rising action, the apex is the climax, the right side of the roof is the falling action, and the right wall is the resolution.

Simple, but compelling. Any proud parent will tell you this basic structure is a work of art straight from the unfettered imagination of their little darling.

If you aren’t a fan of the house analogy, Staci presents an alternative – blueprints.

In this variation, the house is divided into three parts – the basement, main floor, and attic. These parts represent the Three Act Structure, so the basement is the First Act, the main floor is the Second, and so on.

Her explanation of these analogies got me thinking. My idea of structure is a little more complex. Instead of a simple A-frame, I want to build a cathedral.


The first step, for me, is the basic plan. Seven Point Story Structure, Three Act Structure, and the classic structure described above can all be used as the blueprint to give you the broad strokes of your story.

As anyone who has worked in construction can tell you, blueprints are subject to change. The owners change their minds on wall positioning, the supplier doesn’t have the right grade of steel for the supports, etc., etc. What usually happens to me is that at a certain point the characters in my head start telling me their story, instead of the other way around. Together, we finalize construction plans.


Using the blueprint for guidance, I begin the next and most important part – building the foundation and the support. Without a good, solid foundation, my cathedral will topple under its own weight. If the arches of my plot points aren’t properly supported, then they, too, will crumble. There is nothing more dangerous to the pillars of my story than a disbelieving reader who huffs and puffs and blows them off their shaky pedestals.

With my plan in front of me, my foundation carefully laid, my pillars and arches in place, I can apply the finishing touches. Now is the time for the decorative word work, the stained glass mood windows, the landscaping that showcases the setting, and the careful placement of all the furniture elements that give depth and richness. With a little editorial polish, my cathedral is magnificent.