Is Structure Really Important for a Modern Story?

This question has irked me in my efforts to writing novels and I think about this because I tend to read older, classic children’s stories where it seemed logic and form went out the window. Despite this odd choice of structure, the stories still were memorable enough and were marketed outside of the book medium. 

Just for example, I recently got my hands on a complete series of books and poems of Winnie the Pooh. The stories are extremely short, and don’t appear to have much of a purpose or storyline, but are very enjoyable because of the timeless sense of humor. It also breaks the rule about a narrator’s voice or point of view (POV). The story is told in the third person primarily, but is specifically being told to a character in the story named Christopher Robin. The narrator goes from saying “I said.” to “You said.” to “He/She said.”, which I learned was a big no-no since it creates confusion for the reader. 

But maybe over exposure to movies and television can cloud the mind about what a story is and how it can be told. Why do some of these rules exist? Can’t we just assume as readers that the narrator is a character too and this justifies the change in POV? In a movie, we don’t have to start at the beginning, so why is it recommended to start at the beginning in novels and not skip around too? 

The answer lies in medium. Books are read generally left to right, front to back, and when borrowing the rules of another medium, it is not likely it will translate the same in another. 

Writing how you want to write is not a crime of course. No one is going to arrest you if you have five protagonists and switch POVs at random. Though, I wonder how many readers will tolerate this writing choice. In any case, if the success of classic stories like Winnie the Pooh or say Grimm’s Fairy Tales is anything to go by, I say write for yourself and leave structure in the outlining stage. As long as you know where your novel is meant to go, let your audience be the judge of  your choices. 

Maybe you’ll be thought as incredible, or maybe you won’t get them past the first page. 

I say at least try experimenting with unusual structure.

Writing Original Content Through Fanfiction

It’s hard to transition from using established characters to write a story instead of just writing your own. I bring this up because this was the transition I had to go through before I decided I wanted to become an author. I liked making up original characters or OC’s as some may call them, but the most difficult thing I ever faced was staring at a blank page and actually writing them in a story of their own. However, it’s pretty popular for young teens and even adults to do.

I used to rely on the storylines of anime and western cartoons to write anything. It’s sad really, but I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to make original content. 

For starters, you need to establish a story, the conflict, and its protagonist. Maybe you want to tell a story about a hero who travels to dangerous lands. The conflict might be that the hero becomes trapped within a land by a group that overpowers him. Then you get to do the fun part, understanding who your character is. Why do they travel to such dangerous places? What is their backstory? Is it tragic? 

You see, when you use storylines from someone else, you already have a blueprint to go off where the story needs to end up. I personally think writing fanfiction can be a good exercise in identifying conflicts and exploring what makes a story good. Don’t copy and try to pass it off as your own, of course. But why not analyze other stories and play around with your own?

For example, I wrote a fanfiction using characters from Black Butler, an anime about a thirteen year old boy from Victorian London that summons a demon to be his butler. I liked the characters and the setting so much that I wanted to write my own protagonist into the setting. However, when I was writing my own story, I preferred the protagonist exist on a floating island in another universe. I felt at the time that too many fantasy stories took place on Earth, and that escaping to a magical world no one knows about was too common to be unique. But without experimenting with Black Butler as a setting for my character to fit in, I never would have thought deeply about my character and her setting.

So yeah, write what you want. But if you don’t know what to write, fanfiction is a tool that can guide you on a path to discovering your characters, story, conflict, and setting.