Portrait of Beautiful Young Woman over White Background

Writing a novel is like… trying to open a series of locked doors in under a minute while being chased by an angry group of rabid geese. Oh, and you also don’t have the correct key. For any of the doors.

Yeah… we think that just about covers it.

Structure Is Important

We’re sure you’re aware of this fact. But, you know, sometimes they have to be stated…

To us, structure (both in the short and long-term) is the bread and butter of story-craft. If you present a poorly paced story, but have the structure locked down, you’d likely get away with it. The same cannot be said for the reverse.

It’s worth noting that by ‘short and long-term’ we mean the structure of the overall plot (and everything that comes into that), and the structure of the intricacies (the sentences, the paragraphs etc.).

We’re going to be paying attention to the former, and in doing so, we’re going to teach you all about two of the most common types of structural genre.

What Is Arch-Plot?

We thought you’d never ask…

Arch-plot is a type of structural genre. It is defined by a multitude of different components, but we’re going to give you a simplified rundown. We don’t want to bore you with any information that isn’t necessary. That’s writing 101.

The arch-plot is more commonly used in terms of structural genre. It involves protagonists that must face terrible external conflict. They typically follow a linear structure in which the protagonist is introduced, their conflict is introduced, and then the race begins. The protagonist must battle against external antagonism, and must endure a shift by the end of the story. In basic, the ending must be closed.

An arch-plot is the classic story.

Something happens to change a rational protagonist’s world, and the reader follows along in a (most often) chronological order while the effects of this change play out. The antagonism they’re facing is predominantly external, meaning it’s a physical thing or scenario that they must overcome.

Example: A man falls off his bike and breaks his leg. He’s told he’ll never walk again. But his daughter’s wedding is only three months around the corner, and there’s no damn way he isn’t walking down that aisle beside her.

What About Mini-Plot

We’ll let you have an educated guess first. (HINT: It’s the opposite.)

Yep, you guessed it. A mini-plot story is a tale that follows a protagonist through predominantly internal antagonism. They have inner demons that plague their lives, and the success of the narrative hinges on whether or not they can defeat them (or rather, whether or not the climax is reached). Believe it or not, the conflict doesn’t always have to be resolved; it just has to be closed – positive or negative.

The structure tends to be more fractured than that of an arch-plot. Writers have more freedom and play a lot more with flashbacks and flash-forwards than they do in arch-plots. That’s because the mini-plot is more complex in its structure and telling – the flashes here and there help to add to this complexity.

Example: A lawyer is facing the biggest case of his life. He’s been in the game for thirty long years, and the success of this case will cement him as one of the greatest of all time. Not to mention the millions he’ll make along the way. There’s only one issue though… all he’s ever wanted to be is a singer. And now his depression has reached an all-time high.

Storyline A & Storyline B

Now, here’s where things go down a slightly different path.

A book can be both arch and mini-plot. It can contain elements of both structural genres and reflect components from each of them. It can focus on a protagonist who battles money issues but endures a ton of inner demons along the way.

In fact, a book always contains elements of both.

That’s where this notion of storyline A & B comes into the equation. Storyline A is the external conflict and storyline B is the internal conflict. But if a story contains both, how do you place it in terms of structural genre. Quite simply: it depends on which storyline drives the narrative. If it focusses on external conflict, it’s an arch-plot; if it focusses on internal conflict, it’s a mini-plot.

To put it plainly: the structural genre a story attains depends on which storyline it is mostly driven by.

The More You Know

We hope you found this article both helpful and informative. We really want to instill as much value as possible here. We think it’s good for writers to know about structural genre because when it’s time to plot, they’ll know exactly what it is they’re creating.

We’d love to write a similar article in terms of content genre, but that would take all year… There is one other type of structural genre – the anti-plot. That’ll be next week’s topic, so stay tuned for that.

The bottom line is that knowing the structure of your story is important. You need to know what components to focus on, and what that means for your reader. Once you master the knowledge, you can apply it in an effective way, thus creating a story that will stick in readers’ minds for many years to come.

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