The Structure of Story

A nuts & bolts course on every story's key components.

The Structure of Story is about just that: structure. Often structure isn't taught because people assume it's a natural byproduct of writing.

Like if you write a story, you'll intuitively know how long to make your scenes, where to place chapter breaks, and how to maximize the effects of dramatic or comedic action.

But that simply isn't true.

Yes, literature (of all genres) is an art form. But like other art forms, it springs from a definite, working knowledge of craft.

By learning the mechanics of story structure, you will be able to identify the key elements of your story, shape them to increase your story's desired effect on your readers, and turn craft concepts into tools you have at your disposal whenever you sit down to write.

After all, it is by using the tools of one's craft that one masters them, turning conscious effort into unconscious working knowledge.

I've worked with hundreds of writers as a teacher, editor, and writing coach. I've seen time and again that certain fundamentals of writing simply are not common knowledge. They're the sort of things many teachers take for granted, assuming everyone in class knows them. And they're the sort of things that are critical to shaping a narrative, but aren't necessarily simple to grasp.

Now you don't have to worry about asking one of those "dumb" questions or whether or not you know what you don't know.

  • How long should my chapters be?
  • What belongs in the resolution?
  • How many kinds of movement are there in a story?
  • How do I know if my chapters end with a hook?

  • In this course, we're going to cover the Structure of Story from the three acts to the climax to the reveal. There are plenty of writing exercises to help you get a firm grasp on the tools of your trade - or art form - and to help you apply what you're learning to your current work-in-progress. We'll examine the key components of each act, hooks, and the point of no return 1 and 2, and lots more!


    Scroll down to preview Module 3.2: Chapters

    Your Instructor

    Alida Winternheimer
    Alida Winternheimer
    I look forward to guiding this creative inquiry into writing from memory, emotion, and body. I hope you’ll take this journey with me and our fellow writers. It is sure to be as enriching as it is challenging, from both a craft and personal perspective. What better way to embark on an adventure than together?


    Alida Winternheimer is an award-winning author and experienced teacher, editor, and writing coach. She’s published numerous short stories, two of which were nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Alida is the creator and host of two literary podcasts: Story Works Round Table, conversations about craft; and Story Works Reading Series, a literary journal for your ears. She is the author of the Story Works Guide to Writing Character and the Story Works Guide to Writing Point of View.

    Her essay, "The Sun Still Shines on the Worst Day of Your Life" was recently published in Under the Sun and nominated for the Best American Essays anthology.

    Every day, Alida helps writers write better through her craft books, the Story Works Fiction online school, free writing tips, and her podcasts. When she's not writing or teaching, you can spot her around Minneapolis on her bike, in her kayak, or being walked by her golden retriever.

    Course Curriculum

      Module 0 | How to Get the Most Out of This Course
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      Module 1 | Building Your Arc
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      Module 2 | The 3-Act Structure
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      Module 3 | Scenes, Chapters, Climaxes
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      Module 4 | Four Kinds of Movement
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      Module 5 | Three Critical Components of Story
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      Module 6 | Writing Strong
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    Frequently Asked Questions

    When does the course start and finish?
    The course starts now and never ends! It is a completely self-paced online course - you decide when you start and when you finish.
    How long do I have access to the course?
    How does unlimited access sound? After enrolling, you have access to this course for as long as you like - across any and all devices you own.
    What if I am unhappy with the course?
    We would never want you to be unhappy! If you are unsatisfied with your purchase, contact us in the first 30 days and we will give you a full refund.
    What if I have a question about the content?
    Go ahead and ask! Use the comments feature under each lecture. Alida will be notified when a comment posts and you'll get your answer just as soon as she's able to type up a reply!
    How long will this course take me to complete?
    That depends on you. You can watch the lectures in an afternoon. If you're really aiming to get the most possible out of this course, you'll carefully watch the videos. You'll also write notes in your journal whenever a lesson sparks new ideas. You'll take the time to complete all of the exercises, generating new work while increasing your writing skills. That last part, completing the exercises, is especially important to get the greatest value out of this course. In other words, this course will take you between 1 day and 2 months. I would think 2 weeks is plenty of time to digest the content and complete the writings. Most of all, have fun with it!

    Get started now!