Understanding Story Structure

Understanding Story Structure

Who: Laurel Cohn
Saturday 13 May, 10am-4pm
Full Price: $180; Member: $125; Conc Member: $110
Level: Beginner to intermediate. This course assumes you have a substantial piece of writing, or have a plan for a piece of writing that you need help structuring.

A story is like a creature. It can have a multitude of limbs and unusual features, but it needs to be able to stand on its own and deliver its creator’s intent. In order to be viable, your story needs to have healthy vital organs and a strong spine. In this workshop I introduce tools and strategies for writers to be able to check that their story has the key elements required to carry a compelling story. Being able to identify the backbone of the story is crucial to help you work out whether you have unwanted growths that need to be excised or require additional material needed for balance. Participants have the opportunity to practice the tools introduced on their own work so they can continue to use these skills as they develop their manuscript.

This workshop will address some of the common structural issues found in manuscripts by would-be editors and publishers. While there is no right structure, there are tools and strategies that writers can learn to use to find the best possible structure for their story. This requires a clear understanding of the story itself. This workshop helps writers identify the ‘vital organs’ in their work: the story essence, the major dramatic question and the central event.

Using three short texts that will be distributed for all to read (fiction and non-fiction), we will practice identifying these vital organs and discussing their approaches to aspects of story structure (including backstory/exposition). Visual strategies such as storyboarding are also introduced to help writers understand what the current structure of their draft is and how to strengthen it.

Learning outcomes:

  1. An understanding of what story structure is and why it is important.
  2. Specific tools and strategies to strengthen the story structure.
  3. Practise with using the tools and strategies discussed.

Participant Requirements
Pen and paper. Participants are invited to bring works-in-progress.

You may also be interested in:
Ignite Your Creative Fire with Jan Cornall
World Building: Writing Speculative Fiction with Terry Dowling 

About the tutor
Laurel Cohn
has spent her adult working life exploring ways of communicating stories about ourselves and others. As a developmental editor she has been helping writers since the 1980s prepare their work for publication. Many writers she has worked with have gone on to be published successfully, and to acclaim. She spent five years with one of Australia’s top literary agents and four years as Consultant Editor to the NSW Writers’ Centre before turning freelance. She works with individual writers, publishers and self-publishers, and is a popular workshop presenter. She has recently completed a PhD in Australian literature at the University of Queensland.


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