Structuring a fiction text

Home learning focus

Learn about the importance of structuring a piece of fiction writing.

This lesson includes:

  • two videos to help you look at how structure can affect your text on a whole text and sentence level

  • three activities

Learn

Watch this short clip to find out how the choices an author makes about story structure can change a reader's experience.

Learn how to shape your stories in order to create an emotional response in a reader.

What is narrative structure?

Narrative structure refers to how a story is ordered and shaped. A story may be told from different narrative perspectives. This means that the voice telling us the story could change as the narrative progresses.

With a chronological or linear structure, the reader finds out what happens in the ‘correct’ order - this can lead the reader through events clearly.

Alternatively, you may choose a non-linear structure, where flashbacks or flashforwards help to show the reader different events. This can cause the reader to feel they are being given knowledge that others may not.

Choosing your narrative voice

Using first person allows the reader to feel empathy as they learn the narrator’s inner thoughts and feelings. Third person allows the reader to picture the whole event as though they are watching it happen. It is less personal, but can allow the reader to see more than they would from first person.

Next, watch the following clip to understand the impact of varying your sentence structures as part of the overarching structure of a piece of writing.

Singer Jem explains how she considers sentence type and structure when writing a song.

Structure covers not only the order events are presented in, but could also cover the following:

  • sentence structures and their effect
  • paragraph sizes and their impact
  • how much information is revealed to the reader and why?

Practise

Activity 1

Check your understanding of structuring a text, by completing this practice activity. Highlight the words you would need to change to make the text third person.

Activity 2

Take a look at the following passage from The Red Room by HG Wells.

‘I heard the sound of a stick and a shambling step on the flags in the passage outside, and the door creaked on its hinges as a second old man entered, more bent, more wrinkled, more aged even than the first. He supported himself by a single crutch, his eyes were covered by a shade, and his lower lip, half averted, hung pale and pink from his decaying yellow teeth. He made straight for an arm-chair on the opposite side of the table, sat down clumsily, and began to cough. The man with the withered arm gave this new-comer a short glance of positive dislike; the old woman took no notice of his arrival, but remained with her eyes fixed steadily on the fire.’

  • Rewrite the passage to make it completely written in third person – to do this you will need to consider how you retell the event as though someone is watching it happen, rather than being in it as it happens.
  • Rewrite and change between five to ten parts of this extract, aiming to make it more engaging and interesting – improve the vocabulary including verbs, sentence openers etc.
  • Add some simple sentences to the passage to create pace and tension.

Top tip!
You do not need to simply swap all the ‘I’ to ‘he’ or ‘she’. Try to think how you would retell the event if you were watching it happen. You may need to change the sentence openers and reorder the words in some sentences, to help it make sense in third person.

Example
The sentence starts as – ‘I heard the sound of a stick and a shambling step on the flags in the passage outside, and the door creaked on its hinges’. By changing it to third person and making the sentence more ambitious, it may look like this – ‘Hearing the sharp snap of a stick, followed by the clumsy sound of footsteps, he turned hurriedly. A high-pitched squeak came from the forgotten hinges of the door’.

Activity 3

It's time to start structuring your own short story, using these prompts from Collins Learning draft your own ghost story.

Plan your own short ghost story
document

Where next?

In this lesson you have learnt about structuring a fiction text.

There are other useful articles on Bitesize to help you learn about the different ways authors use structure when creating pieces of fiction.

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