Have you ever been halfway through a piece and realized that events, even your timeline, may be out of order for good reader flow? It can happen to less experienced writers (raising my hand). How can you get the work back on track without losing enthusiasm and inspiration?

I’ve learned a couple of tricks recently. One is to print out your piece, cut it up into sections and begin to physically arrange elements to create a better flow. Another is to hand the piece off to a cold reader and let them tell you what the work needs from their perspective. One effective organization tool that I’ve used is Freytag’s Pyramid, modified from Aristotle’s unified plot structure:

Freytag’s Pyramid and Aristotle’s Unified Plot Structure

In 350 BCE, Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote in his book Poetics that the unified plot structure of a drama is formed like a basic triangle. The lowest left termed by the Greeks as protasis is the introduction; the highest –middle or epitasis contains the crisis and the lowest right called catastrophe has the resolution of the conflict. Freytag’s Pyramid is a modification of Aristotle’s structure where he transformed the triangle into a pyramid and added two other levels, the first is the rising action (or complication) placed between the lowest left and the highest middle and the second is the falling action placed between the highest middle and the lowest right end. Freytag used these five parts to analyze the structure: lowest left -exposition, left middle-rising action, highest-climax, right middle-falling action and right lowest-resolution.

Here is an early example of my novel laid out in a visual form that doesn’t require pieces of paper scattered about my house. This is the 3-act version and forms a W.


The sticky notes indicate actions, events, an introduction of characters, character interaction, anything that builds the story, creates conflict, provides a setting, and moves the plot along. One thing I’m discovering in my own book is a need for more humor. I can use this board to show me where to add ingredients I need, to make this piece of writing the best it can be.

Please share with us, what methods work best for you when structuring your piece.

Categories: General


Lakes Area Writers Alliance is a writers group in Brainerd, Minnesota that offers support, encouragement, and critique to members and visitors to their monthly meetings.

1 Comment

Bev · May 18, 2016 at 10:15 pm

Great information! Thanks Maggie.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: