Structure doesn’t sit in a bubble all by itself. Many factors make a story outstanding: emotion, character, voice, premise, the writing.
And they’re all interconnected.
Last summer, I broke down and analyzed ten different middle grade books – because that’s what I was writing at the time. More recently, I analyzed a movie and another mg, Princess For Hire. All this time, I’ve been reading YA, looking for a book that fits the bill when it comes to structure.
And so far I’ve come an interesting conclusion. One I didn’t expect.
But first let’s talk about middle grade.
Almost every single MG book followed the three-act structure perfectly. Some better than others, but it was definitely there. And the books I loved followed it absolutely perfectly. The authors used structure to their advantage to bring out the emotion and inner conflict. Maybe I got lucky with the books I picked?
Younger kids have a shorter attention span and need tight structure. What do you think?
Here’s what I realized so far about YA books: (because I’m still researching.)
- The books follow structure but it can sometimes be looser, less defined.
- What a book might lack in structure it makes up for in other areas like voice, premise, humor, or dialogue.
- Many YA writers follow structure naturally – but they don’t all use it to the full advantage.
- The structure is there but the midpoint, the climax, or plot points could be stronger.
- I could careless about the structure I loved the story and voice that much.
- I loved the character so much I didn’t care if there was a scene with her shampooing her dog.
But some things definitely happen in the YA books I love:
- Great character
- Inciting incident
- As the story continues more is revealed and the tension increases.
- There may or may not be a midpoint.
- Second half of the book – the tension is doubled with bigger reveals.
- Something devastating happens but there isn’t always a true dark moment
- Climax (And even that depends on if the book is part of a sequel.)
I’m sure there are YA books out there I like that also have exemplary structure. I’m just starting on the journey to find them. (I don’t analyze all the books I read.)
Were you surprised that a lot of YA has less defined structure? Do you think it’s because teens have a longer attention span? How important is structure to you in your writing? I wonder if these YA books I already loved would have been even stronger with great structure. (Who cares other than me?)