Story World Through Structure, John Truby, The Anatomy of Story, p. 191–192
Now that you’ve explored some techniques for making your story world develop over time, you have to connect the world with the hero’s development at every step of the story. The overall arc — such as slavery to freedom — gives you the big picture of how the world of your story will change. But now you have to detail that development through story structure. Structure is what allows you to express your theme without sermonizing. It is also the way you show the audience a highly textured story world without losing narrative drive.
How do you do this? In a nutshell, you create a visual seven steps. Each of the seven key story structure steps tends to have a story world all its own. Each of these is a unique visual world within the overall story arena. Notice what a huge advantage this is: the story world has texture but also changes along with the change in the hero. To the seven structure steps you attach the other physical elements of the world, like natural settings, man-made spaces, technology, and time. This is how you create a total orchestration of the story and world.
These are structure steps that tend to have their own unique subworld (“apparent defeat or temporary freedom” and “visit to death” are not among the seven key structure steps):
i. Weakness and need
iv. Apparent defeat or temporary freedom
v. Visit to death
vii. Freedom or slavery
Weakness and Need: At the beginning of the story, you show a subworld that is a physical manifestation of the hero’s weakness or fear.
Desire: This is a subworld in which the hero expresses his goal.
Opponent: The opponent (or opponents) lives or works in a unique place that expresses his power and ability to attack the hero’s great weakness. This world of the opponent should also be an extreme version of the hero’s world of slavery.
Apparent Defeat or Temporary Freedom: Apparent defeat is the moment when the hero wrongly believes he has lost to the opponent (we’ll discuss it in more detail in Chapter 8 on plot). The world of the hero’s apparent defeat is typically the narrowest space in the story up to that point. All of the forces defeating and enslaving the hero are literally pressing in on him. In those rare stories where the hero ends enslaved or dead, he often experiences a moment of temporary freedom at the same point when most heroes experience apparent defeat. This usually occurs in some kind of utopia that is the perfect place for the hero if he will only realize in time.
Visit to Death: In the visit to death (another step we’ll discuss in Chapter 8), the hero travels to the underworld, or, in more modern stories, he has a sudden sense that he will die. He should encounter his mortality in a place that represents the elements of decline, aging, and death.
Battle: The battle should occur in the most confined place of the entire story. The physical compression creates a kind of pressure-cooker effect, in which the final conflict builds to its hottest point and explodes.
Freedom or Slavery: The world completes its detailed development by ending as a place of freedom or greater slavery and death. Again, the specific place should represent in physical terms the final maturation or decline of the character.