Aristotle said it best when he spoke about dramatic structure in good storytelling. Aristotle stated that “all good storytelling must have a beginning, a middle, and an end.”
About 2,000 years later, Gustav Freytag added to Aristotle’s take on good storytelling, saying that there must also exist additional five key elements within the beginning, the middle, and the end. Freytag said that the beginning must contain exposition (an enlightening of what the story will be about) and then as the beginning moves toward the middle of the story, must have a sense of rising action. The climax–that major point of conflict for the main character–is also found in the middle of the story per Freytag. The end of the story is where we find falling action and the denouement (French for “to untie the knot”) where the story tends to explain what has happened.
Through the years since Freytag, many experts and scholars have added to Aristotle’s original take on dramatic structure. Aristotle’s structure is the base for all other versions and remains the strongest because it is the simplest. I have even added to Aristotle’s structure incorporating elements that help the writer add in some sense of urgency and pacing to their story. As well, I have included a dashed line connecting the beginning of the story to the end. Plus, mine is much more colorful!
So, what does this all have to with writing faith-based fiction? Well, I agree with Aristotle but I also believe that the genres–whether thriller, sci-fi, romance, western, fantasy, or literary fiction–all tweak structure in order to satisfy their readers. Readers expect that exposition will be heavier in the beginning than the thriller. Readers expect that literary will have more internal conflict than commercial fiction. These tropes within each genre are structure related because they must exist within the stories.
Where faith-based fiction can employ structure
What writers sometimes miss is an over-arching of their storytelling–a layering of additional information within their story. We can write any fiction genre and make it faith-based if we weave faith through the story.
It’s pretty simple really. However you set up your story, whether you use an formal outline or a general idea, as if you would any of the fiction genres. Then, sprinkle through the outline the additional substory, in this case faith, to the outline or idea line you use.
And, if you’re an outliner, you can see how to create a well-developed out line in my latest nonfiction how-to on writing called, “Muscle-Up the Gut of Your Story“.