All too often, the words ‘structure’ and ‘plot’ are used interchangeably.
Understanding the difference between the two can help you write a compelling story that will have your readers eagerly turning each and every page.
You could have an incredible and original idea for a plot (including characters, subplots, setting) and write beautifully, but without structure, your story will flop.
Let’s begin by defining both plot and structure.
The Plot – The main events that happen in your story.
Structure – The arrangement of these events and the techniques (including narrative) the writer uses to tell them.
I love Kelly Michelle Lawrence’s definition of plot and structure in her book ‘Building Your Story: A Guide To Structure and Plot.’ In the book, she talks about how the plot is the bricks of a novel and the structure is the cement that holds it all together.
Narrative, viewpoint and timing are the three main structural components. Who’s point of view is the story told from? Is it written in first person or third person? In what timeframe does the story unfold (a day, a week, a month, several years? And, finally, is the story told linearly or does it jump backwards and forward in time with flashbacks, POV chapters or diary entries?
Asking yourself these questions will lay the foundation for the structure of your novel. If, for example, the Lord of the Rings was told for Samwise’s point of view in the form of flashbacks, the plot would be the same but the story of the journey to destroy the powerful One Ring would be entirely different.
In fact, some authors actually write and publish books that tell the story of their best-selling books from the perspective of another character. The events that happen in the book are identical to that or the first, but the way in which it is told (the structure) is so different that it can be made into its own separate novel.
So, there we have it.
The difference between Structure and Plot.
I hope this post provided a bit more clarity on the subject. It is a bit of a tricky one.
If you have any questions, make sure to leave them in the comments.