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Story Structure in 5 minutes – Lizzie Harwood
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Story Structure in 5 minutes

Lizzie Harwood / Pep Talk  / Story Structure in 5 minutes

Story Structure in 5 minutes

A few weeks ago I spoke at the Stockholm Writers Festival — a new writers’ conference created to bring craft, business, and inspiration to writers in the Nordics (and beyond) in English. Our inaugural event in April was a sold-out success. We gathered switched-on authors to teach and inspire, literary agents and acquisitions editors from the US and the UK who shared the low-down on publishing today, and a magical atmosphere prevailed over the 3-day event with attendees mingling with faculty and everyone buzzing on books and writing! All in central Stockholm on a weekend of sunshine and clement temperatures (not always easy in April up here!).

For my part I appeared on a panel about indie (self) publishing today. I talked about “Story Structure” in the Buttonhole the Expert sessions. And I led our First Pages Prize presentation plus MC’ed the Literary Idol event on Saturday night. The whole experience was phenomenal.

I promised those who attended my Story Structure table all the details in blog form so they could look up the resources and links I mentioned. So, voilà!


Story 7 parts – here it is as a handy PDF to print out and stare at as you write.

Here’s the Pixar video on the Set-Up phase: Pixar Setting a Story in Motion.

How to tackle the Middle with the “Mirror Moment” from James Scott Bell’s book: Write from the Middle. And an article describing a few novels that do this.

And a few Golden Rules: Character drives plot. Use what you introduce. Get in and out fast (in scenes). Being nice to your characters makes us stop reading. Engagement comes from relating to the characters. Even creative non-fiction needs a red thread of story structure throughout it to keep us reading so treat your memoir as if it’s a fiction novel. The final phase is also where you resolve all of your subplots. A good way to build up this story structure before you start writing is to use index cards to plot out 60 STAFs (Scenes That Are Fundamental) and then move them around to figure out which ones work where… then get writing!

If you’ve written your novel or creative non-fiction and need to embark on revisions, I wrote a super short free e-book about Self-Editing!

See you at Stockholm Writers Festival 2019 next May?


  • leanne harwood

    Wow this is good thanks, almost like being there at your talk , loved this fascinating nutshell approach , so simple, do-able, and yet simplicity is one of the most elusive skills to master. Takes years of practice !

    May 7, 2018 at 8:47 am
  • Jac

    Awesome pDF Thank you Lizzie. Immediate takeaways: 25-50-75% mini crisis points. Being nice to your characters turns the reader off.

    May 7, 2018 at 2:58 pm

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