Structure is everything for writers. It’s essential at all levels and scales, from the broadest structure of a written piece down to the way paragraphs, sentences and phrases are organised.
There’s a meme doing the rounds at the moment about adjective order. It’s not strictly correct, grammatically, but it highlights the point that structure’s essential even down to word organisation. But there’s more to it than that. Structure is also how authors answer the big issue of taking those pure ideas – the simultaneity of concept – and rendering them into a single linear thread, able to capture interest, without losing the concept along the way. Whole books could be written on structure, but it essentially has three scales:
- Macro-structure (the structure of the book)
You are telling a story – fiction or non-fiction. It will have a start, a middle and an end, which sounds facile, but it really IS the way stories work. The character who opens a novel is incapable of meeting the challenges facing them (beginning). They learn from experiences (middle) and then conquer those challenges (end). That structure covers all novels that are likely to work and be published. Sometimes it has particular form – the ‘hero story’, epitomised in film by The Wizard of Oz or Star Wars. At other times it is less obvious. Non-fiction has to have structure, too – it has to have an argument, again, with beginning, middle and end.
- Micro-structure (the structure of the paragraphs)
Each section of the story paints its own part of the thread. Characters need to develop in the right way to hold interest and make them credible. That requires careful planning. Sometimes that can be done with a spreadsheet, or note-cards. Or an author can ride waves of inspiration and see what follows. But at the end of the day, the story has to have the right structure to hold and capture the reader –to tell the tale, to have the right pace, and to do so efficiently.
- Word structure (the structure of the sentences)
The tone of the reading experience is guided by the way words, sentences and paragraphs fit together; the word structure. This is pivotal. The ideas have to be presented in the right order in the sentence to capture and hold the reader. The words have to be appropriate for it, too. And they do have to follow certain grammatical rules in order to make sense, which is the most detailed way structure is required for writing.
If you want to know more about ways to write – methods and techniques for getting up to speed and writing that book fast – check out my short quick-start manual How to get writing… fast. Available on Kindle.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016