Here is a great article on the structure of your work, stressing the importance of making the structure as important as the plot.
What is Structure?
by David Mitchell
To begin with, structure need not just be a frame on which you hang narrative, but a kind of plot in its own right, running parallel to the narrative-plot. Twists in this ‘structure-plot’ occur as and when its nature and workings are revealed to the reader.
What follows are observations and suggestions about constructing, handling and using a complex structure. Structure can be to fiction what the work done in an editing suite is to a film, which is why I’ve chosen examples from films as well as books. Structure dictates how your reader will experience your writing, and the importance of that ‘how’ cannot be overstated.
A traditional narrative-plot is a sort of question-engine (“Who killed Professor Plum?”) whose leading answers give the text momentum (“Colonel Mustard, in the library, with a candlestick… but why?”). Characterization also has a propulsive quality (“Why was Old Plum such a swine anyway?”, “Ah, that’s because of the War – sit down and let me fill you in…”). Less obviously, structure, too, can be made to ask questions: often a variation on “What’s happening here, in what order, perceived by whom?” A complex structure has the potential to surprise, connect with and intrigue the reader in innovative ways.
But how complex is complex? “Complex enough to generate unusual effects, unusual problems with unusual solutions” is an answer only slightly less arbitrary than the question, but it’s the one I’d like to run with. Thus a narrative-alternating structure (A1, B1, A2, B2, A3, B3…) where narratives A and B share a world and are ‘aware’ of each other (as in, say, the second book of The Lord of the Rings) won’t be counted as complex because it’s old as the hills, but a structure such as that of Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire (A1-20, A1, B1, A2, B2…) will.Read More →