Narrative Structure

It helps to create an outline before starting the writing. Putting it together, you make sure you know where you’re starting and where you want to take your readers. The outline determines the narrative structure: the central argument and flow of content that makes sense for the piece. Once you have all that, you can write with focus and attention to the logic of your argument.

Developing a thesis

Most narrative structures begin with the statement of the thesis. A thesis statement is the central message, argument, or main idea of a piece of writing, distilled into one or two sentences.

State your thesis clearly in your introduction to establish your position and give your reader a sense of direction. To write a thesis:

  • Be Specific: Your thesis statement should be as clear and specific as possible.

    • Before: CMSs have made some progress in recent years.

    • After: CMS tools for content editors have advanced in functionality and ease of use in the past five years.

  • Define boundaries: Your thesis should be limited to what can be accomplished in the planned length of the article.

  • Take a nuanced position: Beyond announcing the article’s topic, your thesis should give a clear perspective on the matter. State your opinion (even a strong one) without making universal claims or pro/con judgments that oversimplify complex issues.

    • Before: Open source CMSs are better than proprietary CMSs.

    • After: Both open source and proprietary CMSs have advantages, but open source CMSs can continually deliver significant new features because they are not subject to proprietary constraints.

Tip: Your thesis will likely change as you revise and develop your ideas. Start with a tentative thesis and revise it as your article develops.

Common Structures

We’ll consider an article as an example—though most principles are universal across various types of written assets. All sections should include the following:

  • Specificity: Specific scenarios or problem spaces that your readers are familiar with are far more compelling than vague or general claims. Strive to be as specific as possible.

  • Audience: Have you identified your audience? (developers, business people, CTO’s, etc.)? Is this article relevant to the intended reader? If not, revisit your basic premise. While you might not refer to them explicitly, tailor your language, technical depth, and focus to as specific an audience as possible.

Opening Section

Your introduction is crucial to the success of your article. It should provide a roadmap for the rest of your piece and give context to your readers, telling them what they can take away if they read it. Here, you also help your audience determine whether your piece is for them, and worth their time.

  • Introduction: Are you providing a compelling entryway into your subject? Are you guiding your reader towards the thesis?

  • Thesis: What is your main point or idea? State it explicitly in your introductory paragraph.

  • Purpose: Your introduction needs to give readers a clue about the value of the article for them. Proactively answer questions like: Why should I care? What’s in it for me?

Middle Sections

In these sections, you’re making points that support your original thesis. Each point should build on the prior one and have supporting evidence.

  • Ordering: Are the sections and paragraphs in a logical order?

  • Smooth Transitions: Do the paragraphs follow each other smoothly? Do they all connect back to the main idea?

    • Think about your continuity and transition between paragraphs.

    • Refer back to what you stated earlier to show the progression of thought.

    • Series and lists can be helpful to the reader.

  • Evidence & Support:

    • Does each paragraph contribute to the main idea?

    • Is each point in each paragraph factual, relevant, and unique (non-repetitive)?

    • Is evidence used to prove points? Evidence might include:

      • Examples

      • Testimonials or direct quotes

      • Statistics or other research.

Concluding Section

Your conclusion should restate the main idea, and leave your reader with an idea of what to do next.

  • Restate your thesis: Restate the thesis (main idea), though not verbatim.

  • Summary: Summarize your ideas, the evidence, and why it matters—to the reader.

  • Call to Action: Include a clear call to action that guides your reader to the next step you’d like them to take:

    • Follow me on Twitter!

    • Read more about advanced configuration options.

    • Subscribe to my podcast.

    • Join us at the next event/board meeting/webinar.

    • Book a demo today!

Logical Rigor

So long as you’re using evidence-based claims to support your main argument, you’re employing logical rigor. Reference Purdue’s list of common Logical Fallacies to make sure you’re not falling into common traps, like overgeneralizations (e.g., open-source CMSs always make more sense than proprietary ones) or lazy straw man arguments.