Since you were young, you’ve probably learned the three-act story structure. When you got old enough to read on your own, you likely read through your most-loved books without noticing the structure applied.
But as you matured and found a love for writing, you likely began to notice different story structures in the varying books you read, movies you watched, and TV shows you went back to again and again.
What makes a great story structure? Should a story structure be followed rigorously, or is a structure more like a guideline?
According to MasterClass, “The best narrative structures are not restrictive. Instead, they offer a flexible guide that authors can use to get from their first chapter to their final beat.”
In this blog, we discuss:
Remember, simply because you learn a new structure does not mean you have found a new writing rut. The more structures you learn, the more it should widen your writing possibilities. The best writers know how to follow the rules, but the most remarkable writers also know when to break the rules they usually follow.
What Fichtean Curve Story Structure Is
When you employ the Fichtean curve in your writing, you use the three central writing moments: Rising action, climax, and falling action.
While stories must start somewhere, it’s essential to start with some type of action or tension to keep your reader reading. In fact, the faster you can get to the action, the more guaranteed you are to keep your reader hooked.
Especially in today’s world of social media, 15-second reels, nearly instant search engine refreshes, and Hollywood films, it’s imperative to write in a way that targets today’s audience.
Past writers had the luxury of slow starts, long sentences, and the ability to include an eclectic array of details that were not crucial to the story itself. To engage today’s market, use the Fichtean structure and start with action.
Next up in the Fichtean Curve is the climax. Stories take your readers on a journey, so it’s vital they feel like they’ve followed a path from start to finish by the time they close your book. Including a dramatic climax in your books is crucial to reader satisfaction.
Last but certainly not least, falling action. If you’ve ever closed a book and felt like you were left hanging, you’ve likely read an unsatisfactory ending that didn’t include falling action.
It’s one thing to start with action, reach a climax, and succinctly wrap up the story. It is not writing etiquette to skip your ending and simply close without one entirely. Readers need closure.
How To Use It
You can use the Fichtean Curve as a guide for your creative writing. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, this three-step process works and can do wonders for your manuscript.
Remember, this curve is a guide to help you, not a rule to restrict you. Let’s explore what it looks like to use this structure in fiction and nonfiction.
When it comes time to draft your manuscript, it’s essential to know where you’re going. Even if you write to find out what you’re characters are going to do, having some end in mind can help you avoid pages of rabbit trails you will delete later.
Writing through the climax allows you to then bring the action down to your ending—falling action. At this point, it’s crucial to give your readers the ending they’ve looked forward to for the last eighty-thousand or so words of your novel.
Give them the ending that satisfies them, but don’t confuse this with giving them an ending they expect.
Believe it or not, a similar method is used for nonfiction. Yes, nonfiction happens in real life, and there aren’t created elements in it. However, life is still a story and should be communicated as such.
Whether you write your memoir, autobiography, or a book on how to build a business from the ground up, you can include the Fichtean Curve to make your manuscript that much more enjoyable.
Don’t confuse nonfiction with the option to throw creativity to the side. Actually, nonfiction demands even more creativity in a way due to the need to reveal the tension in daily life.
Starting a business may not seem to include the three points of the Fichtean Curve, but it does. Remember starting your new career and working hard to get it off the ground. That’s the rising action. Then you had your best year of sales yet. Enter, the climax. And now you’re writing a book about your success. There’s your falling action.
Examples Of Stories That Use It
Explaining the Fichtean Curve and how to use it is helpful in many capacities, but some of us are more visual learners and need concrete examples. The following is a variety of examples from various genres that use this type of structure.
#1 – The Hunger Games is often used as an example of great writing, and for good reason. Not only did this standalone novel turn into a trilogy, but an entire film franchise resulted. This story starts with rising action at the Reaping, builds to a climax during the Games, and includes falling action when Katniss is finally allowed out of the arena.
However, the Fichtean Curve is also applied throughout the trilogy. Book one sets the stage for rising action, culminating in a climax at the end of book two when Peeta is captured by the Capitol. Readers can take a breath of relief at the end of Mockingjay when Katniss is married with a family, despite the trauma of her past.
#2 – Marketing Made Simple is nonfiction by Donald Miller, with Dr. J. J. Peterson. Miller even uses the idea of story throughout his book, even though it’s not fiction. He begins with rising action by describing where you may find yourself in the world of marketing and how crucial it is to grasp this structure.
Miller climaxes his book with detailed training on how to succeed well no matter what type or size of business you run. He wraps his book up with falling action: The reader has assessed where they were at, learned how to move forward, and now it’s up to them to put it into practice.
#3 – Running For My Life by Lopez Lomong is the true story of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Lomong shares his life story starting with himself as a barefoot boy, one of the lost boys from the Sudanese Civil War. He shares a major climax of his life when Nike chose to sponsor him as an athlete on the US Olympic Team. Lomong ends his story by meeting his educational goals and turning his tassel at last.
However you choose to apply the Fichtean Curve to your writing, take these examples and the rule itself as guidelines.
You have complete creative liberty to make your story the best it can be—whether that’s by following the rules or, at times, breaking them!