There are many ways to structure a story. But one theory says that they are all really saying the same thing.
Here I create a table comparing the four major narrative structures: Aristotle’s chronological structure, John Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, Dan Harmon’s Story Circle (the source for my “But-Fore Story Circle“), and the classic three-act play.
I’ve also included two other structures, which aren’t normally considered part of dramatic storytelling. First is something I call “MMO”, which stands for means, motive, and opportunity. This is how typically how detectives determine who is the perpetrator of a crime. Second is “Human Action”, Ludwig von Mises’s title for his treatise on economics (I wrote a one-syllable summary here); it is a theory of how basic principles of choosing can be used to explain all economic phenomena.
|Chronological||Hero’s Journey||Story Circle||Three Acts||MMO (detective principles)||Human Action (economic theory principles)|
|Beginning||Call to adventure||You. Need. Go.||Setup||Motive||Prerequisites of action: felt unease about the current state of affairs, ideas about a possible better world, and a logical connection between ends sought and means required to instigate the change to get them|
|Middle||Challenges and transformation||Look. Find. Take.||Confrontation||Means||Entrepreneurial judgment: whether the benefits of change outweigh the costs|
|End||Atonement and return||Return. Changed.||Resolution||Opportunity||Action: making the choices necessary to bring about the desired state of affairs: exchanging with oneself and others to alter the structure of production.|