The Seven Sentence Story

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In my humble opinion, if there is one thing that matters most to your success as a YA writer, or any type of writer for that matter, it would be story structure. Story structure is what authors use to create stories that entertain readers.

Whether you realize it or not, no story goes from start to finish without structure. It is either something the writer purposely designs before writing their manuscript or something that just happens along the way.

I consider myself a novice writer, so I spend a great deal of time trying to learn more about the craft. Not too long ago a friend of mine, who happens to be an experienced published author, introduced me to something called The Seven Sentence Story.

But, Darly, how can I tell an engaging story in only seven sentences? Don’t worry…I asked the same question! And the more I researched the method the more it made sense.

The Seven Sentence Story is an exercise to help a writer design a framework for their story. There are four basic parts to every story:  the setting, the problem, solving the problem and the conclusion. These four parts can be told in seven different sentences. I have found this method to be a golden nugget in the world of writing and I’m going to share it with you.

The Seven Sentence Story

  1. The first goal is to introduce the who, what, where and when. Introduce the main character and let the reader know what he/she wants and the first action he/she takes to accomplish their goal.
  2. Something has to happen to upset the balance of the character’s life, and the result of the action the character takes to fix the problem only makes the situation worse. Now the character should be farther away from meeting the goal.
  3. Based on this new situation, the character makes a second attempt to fix the problem.
  4. The result of the second action the character takes once again makes the situation worse.
  5. Based on the new situation, the character makes a third and final attempt to accomplish the goal.
  6. The third action either accomplishes the character’s goal, fails to accomplish the goal, or there is an unusual but oddly satisfying different result of the last action.
  7. The conclusion. This sentence wraps up the story. It can tell the reader how the character felt about the results, provide a moral, or tell how the character’s life continued on afterward.

If you do your own research into The Seven Sentence Story you’ll most likely find different variations. Make sure to use the one that makes the most sense to you, and as you write your story continue to ask yourself these questions:

  • Did you force your protagonist out of his/her comfort zone?
  • Has each obstacle pushed the plot of your story and its characters forward?
  • Are the consequences of failure critical enough at each stage of the plot?
  • Does each scene in each chapter contribute to the chapter’s overall goal, and does every chapter contribute to the character’s achievement of his/her story goal?
  • If you take your protagonist as he/she is in the final scene and drop him/her back into the first scene of the story, has he/she matured enough to handle the initial conflict so well this time around that your novel wouldn’t even be necessary?

I am by no means an expert, all of the information I have shared with you can be found online, but I have discovered that many new writers do not utilize the many resources available to them. If you have a question about writing or want to learn different methods for accomplishing what you hope to, never be afraid to look it up. Your story—and your readers—will thank you!