Literature has many forms, and each form has its own unique structure for telling a story. When studying, teaching, or learning about narration in literature, it is also important to understand its underlying arrangement. How is it created? What are the parts of a story? What aspects differ from one form to another?
The primary types of narrative structures, or literary structures, come in these forms:
For novels, novellas, and short stories, you will see that the typical pattern of three or five parts of a story. This is referred to as the plot diagram. It is the foundation of many other structures and is the most commonly used. It can also be applied to other forms of media, like movies and TV shows.
A similar diagram can be used for understanding the patterns of drama or plays. This is known as the Five Act Structure. It too has five parts, each act coinciding with one part of the narrative diagram. Shakespeare was famous for structuring his plays in five acts: Act I is the introduction, Act II is the rising action, Act III the climax, Act IV the falling action, and Act V the resolution or denouement. This pattern is widely successful, and has been used by many playwrights.
Lastly, the narrative structure used for epics and some myths, legends, folktales, and fairy tales is often the "Hero's Journey". Not every story will fit this structure, but it is commonly used for these types of narratives when the protagonist is considered a "hero". A famous example would be The Odyssey, a Greek epic where the hero, Odysseus, is forced to live, lost at sea, because of Poseidon's ill will towards him. Modern examples can be found in Disney movies animated adventures such as Toy Story or Finding Nemo.
Here at Storyboard That, we have compiled articles and storyboards created about the different structures of literature: Five Act Structure, types of Shakespearean plays, the plot diagram, and the Hero’s Journey.