Read Time: 4 minutes

Ever wonder why some stories captivate you while others fall flat?

The secret often lies in their structure – the invisible framework that supports every great tale.

This week we’re digging into the world of story construction so let’s get into it.

1. The Foundation: Laying Your Core Ideas

At the heart of every compelling story lies a powerful premise – the central idea that anchors your entire narrative.

A strong premise should:

  • Be concise (think one sentence)

  • Contain conflict

  • Hint at the story’s potential

Example: The Matrix (1999)

  • Premise: A computer hacker discovers humanity is trapped in a simulated reality and must embrace his role as mankind’s prophesied savior to overthrow machine overlords.

This premise packs a punch because:

  • It’s concise yet informative

  • It presents clear conflicts (man vs. machine, reality vs. illusion)

  • It sparks curiosity about the nature of reality and human perception

  • It hints at the protagonist’s journey from ordinary person to hero

  • It suggests a grand scale conflict with high stakes for all of humanity

  • It introduces elements of prophecy and destiny, adding intrigue

Pro Tip: Test your premise by asking, “What if?” because if it generates multiple story possibilities, you’re on the right track.

2. Support Beams: Erecting Key Plot Points

Just as a building needs structural support, your story requires pivotal moments that shape both the narrative and your characters.

Essential plot points include:

  • First Plot Point (end of Act I): The event that launches your main character(s) to pursue their overarching story goal that’s resolved at the Climax

  • Midpoint: A major twist or revelation that forces character growth

  • Climax: The highest point of tension where the main conflict is resolved and main characters face their ultimate test

Example: The Matrix (1999)

  • First Plot Point (end of Act I): Neo takes the red pill, learning the truth about the Matrix and waking up in the real world. This is the point of no return for Neo.

  • Midpoint: Neo visits the Oracle, who tells him he’s not The One, challenging his expectations and creating doubt. This shifts the direction of the story.

  • Climax: Neo fully embraces his potential, dies in the Matrix, resurrects through Trinity’s love in the real world, stops bullets, and defeats Agent Smith. This sequence represents the culmination of his journey and transformation.

These core turning points not only form the skeleton of the narrative but also showcase the characters’ evolution.

3. Floor Plans: Mapping Acts and Scenes

Now it’s time to lay out your story’s interior, considering how your protagonist changes throughout.

The three-act structure provides a blueprint to start expansion:

Act I: Setup (beginning 25% of story)

  • Introduce main characters, stakes and setting

  • Establish the protagonist’s initial state

  • Present the inciting incident and launch to overarching story goals

Act II: Confrontation (middle 50% of story)

  • Escalate conflicts for characters to overcome

  • Challenge characters including antagonist to grow stronger

  • Switch things up at the midpoint, marking a significant character or narrative shift

Act III: Resolution (final 25% of story)

  • All core story threads get resolved

  • Build tension toward a big payoff

  • Protagonist and antagonist face off in Climax

  • Climax aftermath provides closure

Example: The Matrix (1999)

Act I: Setup (beginning 25% of story)

  • Neo senses something’s wrong with his world

  • Trinity contacts Neo, leading him to Morpheus

  • Neo takes the red pill, discovering the truth about the Matrix

Act II: Confrontation (middle 50% of story)

  • Neo trains and learns about his potential as “The One”

  • The Oracle tells Neo he’s not “The One,” causing self-doubt

  • Morpheus is captured; Neo decides to save him

Act III: Resolution (final 25% of story)

  • Neo rescues Morpheus, catches Trinity and starts to believe

  • Neo faces Agent Smith until he dies in the Matrix but is resurrected by belief and love

  • Reborn as “The One,” Neo defeats Smith and vows to free humanity

This structure ensures your story has a clear beginning, middle, and end, while tracking your characters’ journeys.

4. Interior Design: Weaving Subplots and Character Arcs

With a base structure in place, it’s time to add depth and texture to your story world through subplots and character development.


  • Complement the main plot

  • Add complexity and realism

  • Explore secondary characters

  • Provide opportunities for protagonist growth

Character Arcs:

  • Show how characters grow or change

  • Parallel the main plot’s progress

  • Provide emotional resonance

  • Drive plot through character decisions

Example: The Matrix (1999)


  • Nature of the Matrix: Examines reality vs. illusion

  • “Freeing minds”: Explores consequences of awakening

  • Cypher’s betrayal: Reveals the temptation of blissful ignorance

  • Morpheus’s search for The One: Explores faith and destiny

  • Human-machine war: Provides urgency and raises stakes

  • Neo and Trinity’s relationship: Catalyzes Neo’s transformation

Character Arcs:

  • Neo: Skeptical hacker to self-believing savior

  • Trinity: Stoic warrior to catalyst for Neo’s resurrection

  • Morpheus: Unwavering leader to humble mentor

  • Agent Smith: Programmed enforcer to sentient entity

  • The Oracle: Enigmatic guide challenging notions of free will

  • Cypher: Jaded rebel to self-serving trader

  • Tank: Operator facing personal loss in the war

  • Secondary crew: Represent the human cost of rebellion

Developing these elements will transform your story from a simple narrative into a rich, immersive experience where character choices drive the plot forward.

Constructing Your Story with AI

Now it’s time to apply these concepts to your own story.

Copy, paste and edit this chatbot prompt to construct or refine your story.

Chatbot Prompt:

/ copy below and edit the bold text in [brackets] /

Imagine you are a master storyteller with decades of experience in crafting compelling narratives.

Using the following:

• Central Story Idea: [Provide a brief overview of your story’s plot, characters, themes, etc.]

• Protagonist: [Insert your protagonist’s name and key character traits or arc]

Please generate a story structure outline including:

1. Clarify and expand on the premise: Highlight its main conflicts and storytelling potential.
2. Outline three key plot points: 2a. The event that sets the protagonist on their main journey 2b. A major twist or revelation halfway through the story 2c. The final confrontation that resolves the main conflict
3. Break down the story into three acts: 3a. Beginning: Introduce characters, world, and the inciting incident 3b. Middle: Escalate conflicts and challenges for the characters 3c. End: Build to the climax and provide resolution
4. Enrich the story: 4a. Suggest two subplots that could add depth to the main story 4b. Describe how three main characters could grow or change throughout the story

5. Provide one specific storytelling tip or insight for this particular premise.

Additionally, suggest one potential subplot that could enrich the main storyline and contribute to the protagonist’s development.

Remember to keep your response concise, focusing on key story elements rather than extensive details. Aim to create a structure that’s both compelling and open to further development.

That’s it for this Saturday.

If you’re finding value in TSS, please share it with a fellow storyteller.

See ya next week!

— Dave