Story in Seventeen Chapters

Story in Seventeen ChaptersWriters recommend many different story structures including the classic story in seventeen chapters.  It’s built around the Fichtean curve and employs three to four moments of crisis. Each escalates and raises the stakes.

It makes for fast-paced stories and works well across genres.

The Fichtean curve isn’t a curve.  As a basic indicator of rising and falling action, it’s a triangle. Add the detail of crises and plot points, it’s more of a dorsal fin with spines.

A generic version of the story in seventeen chapters looks something like this:

  • Introducing the world, conflicts and main character’s wants and desires (Ch 1-2)
  • The Inciting Incident that subdues the wants (Ch 3)
  • Everything is goes sideways (Ch 4)
  • Everything goes down the trash compactor (Ch 5-6)
  • Small win, a path to putting things back on track (Ch 7)
  • Next fail. Everyone’s seriously screwed (Ch 8-9)
  • Small win, a dim light of hope (Ch10-11)
  • Progress! Things are looking up! (Ch12-14)
  • Things hit the fan worse than ever, but learning from the experience so far helps the main character pull through (Ch 15-16)
  • Things settle down and hint at a new life ahead (Ch 17)

This is just a framework for laying out plot. Useful as it is, it will only take you so far. As Lisa Cron reminds us, plot is not story.

2 thoughts on “Story in Seventeen Chapters”

    1. Which to use? What kind of story are you telling and what’s your target length. You can frame out short fiction with a 5-step, novella with 7, a full novel with 17 or 24. It’s an art, not a science. The more you look at all these frameworks, the more you measure out how many steps you need to complete your plot. And these are ALL about PLOT. Choosing one doesn’t guarantee you a working story, only the character arc will give you that.

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