How to write a complex story (part II: Case studies)


After having studied the theory of how to write a complex story, let’s see what we can do with it.

How to write a complex story : case study

Let’s say we have the project to write a story about love.

Depending on the other parameters of the project, in particular the message that we want to deliver to the public, we will be able to implement the various plot structures available to create the desired narrative effects.

(In this page we’ll mainly talk about plots; if you’re interested in building characters, see for exemple Creating unforgettable characters.

Story n° 1: the bad dredger

We want to satirize the overly simplistic approach of men to flirting.

We will choose a series plot structure, to have a repetitive comic effect, included in another framing plot.

We will first exhibit a male character, awkward but confident, rustic but proud, macho but believing himself to be almost a feminist. Noting that he suffers from his loneliness, and believing that he deserves to be loved, he signs up on a dating site and gets dates.

Then, we will tell one after the other four of these meetings, which will all fail. And this character, instead of learning from his mistakes, will instead make them bigger and bigger.

In conclusion, this man will tell himself that women do not deserve it and that only one person is worthy to love him: himself.

Story n° 2: Three students looking for love

We will reuse roughly the same structure — a series of plots included — but by changing an important parameter: instead of keeping the same Hero for the plots in series, we will change Heroes each time.

It is therefore the story of 3 students and their loves. Initially, all 3 single, they decide to encourage each other to solve the problem, and set the goal of finding their ideal partner in a month. They will meet every week to take stock. At the end, they take stock.

We get a plan like this:

  • Framing plot, Act I: the 3 friends define the project and its terms
  • Framing plot, Act II:
    • Plot in Series 1, Act II: Student 1 fails to meet people
    • Plot in Series 2, Act II: Student 2 multiplies the meetings — but none is suitable
    • Plot in series 3, Act II and false Act III: Student 3 has a meeting, which seems to be conclusive
  • Framing plot, Act II, continuation: they take stock: Student 1 confides her distress and receives advice, Student 2 talks about her multiple experiences and receives advice in the opposite direction, Student 3 says she has found love perfect
  • Framing plot, Act II, continued:
    • Plot in series 1, Act II continued: after a few new failures, Student 1 finally finds a meeting to her liking, but she struggles to materialize
    • Plot in series 2, Act II continuation: Student 2 has difficulty applying the advice, always multiplies the meetings, but none is suitable
    • Plot in series 3, Act II sequel: perfect love of Student 3 turns out to be a complete failure, so she gives up looking, depressed
  • Framing plot, Act II, continuation: they take stock again …
    • New adventures in each plot
  • Framing plot, Act III:
    • The plots in series arrive at their Act III therefore at their conclusion, happy or unhappy
    • Framing plot, Act III: The 3 friends give a contrasting assessment of their experiences

Such a plan mobilizes 3 types of plot structure: love plots are both serial and intertwined, and their whole is interwoven with a framing plot.

Story n° 3: the ghost of love

In this story, we want to show that love can survive death.

We will therefore tell a first plot, the love story between two people, which will end in a serious accident resulting in the death of one of them.

This tragic plot gives way to a second plot, where the deceased returns to live with the first in the form of a ghost.

It is therefore a structure of factorial plots, where the first plot is the exposure of the second and transfers a major character to it.

Story n° 4: the farandole of love

In this story, we are going to have fun linking four love stories by melting them into each other to create a beautiful effect of continuity.

We are therefore going to create a structure of interwoven plots, each plot of which will take at least one major character from the previous plot.

We will obtain an assembly plan of this type:

  • Plot 1, Act I: A and B meet and start a relationship
  • Plot 2, Act I: C and D are in a relationship, but C begins to move away
  • Plot 3, Act I: A and C meet, C is interested but A is already taken
  • Plot 1, Act II: the relationship is going well, but B shows some signs of weariness
  • Plot 2, Act II: C tries to stay in the couple without deviating, but D discovers his attempt with A
  • Plot 1, Act III: A leaves B
  • Plot 2, Act III: D leaves C
  • Plot 3, Act II: A decides to see C again, and they start a relationship
  • Plot 4, Act I: D consoles himself after a friend, E
  • Etc., etc

With such a structure, we make a fairly realistic representation of the complexity of real life, we show the characters in various facets, and we treat the theme in a rich and always renewed way.


Nowadays, when every person has read hundreds of books or comics, watched hundreds of movies and series (Game of Thrones…), listened to thousands of song lyrics, telling simple stories is no longer competitive.

Just as it is necessary, in order to compose a piece of music, to master at least intuitively the concepts of music theory, it is necessary, in order to write a good story, to master the concepts of plot, structure of plot and play of actantial characters.

And when we master them, we can then tell an infinite number of rich and complex stories, capable of delivering subtle messages, of producing remarkable narrative effects, of competing with reality, of representing the kaleidoscope of life.

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