Creative Writing | Story Structure
The Humpback Model
Summarizing the five stages of a story
An important phase in the language learning process is the development of creative writing skills. To this end, learners must be trained to compose a well-written piece by following a structure. In the absence of a structure, no story will effectively convey its meaning. Therefore, learners must be well-versed in the 5 stages of a story that will guide their own compositions.
What is the humpback model?
The humpback model summarizes the 5 stages of a story:
2. Problem (or Build-up)
3. Climax (or Conflict)
The photo at the end of this article illustrates how closely this model resembles a camel’s hump (which is how it got its name). To help you understand the humpback model, a children’s fantasy story, Megan and the Mystery of the Moving Rock, has been used as an example.
Stage 1: Introduction
The opening paragraph(s) gives the reader a glimpse of what to expect as the story unfolds. In Megan and the Mystery of the Moving Rock, the following serves as the introduction:
“It’s not like Frits to stay out for three nights!” Raahi snapped her crayon in two and threw it across the room.
“Not like Frits,” Megan agreed. “Someone must have taken him.” She was helping Raahi look for her cat.
It’s relatively easy to identify the introduction of a story because it always comes at the beginning of the story. Another point to note about this stage is the main character of the story is introduced to the reader. In Megan and the Mystery of the Moving Rock, one of the main characters is Megan and she is introduced to us in the introduction.
Stage 2: Problem or Build-up
For any story to spark the reader’s interest, it must present a problem. Without this crucial element, the story will not hold the reader’s attention long enough (or at all). In Megan and the Mystery of the Moving Rock, the story starts to build up from the second page onward.
“The cats in my street have gone missing too!” Aashna said. “I last saw them playing by The Rock.”
The Rock had arrived at the center of the town three months ago. It had a shoelace tied to its nose. Everyone wondered how it got there. And how the rock moved to a different spot everyday.”
At this stage of the story, the reader realizes the following:
1. The cats in Megan’s town are going missing.
2. A strange creature has arrived and nobody knows where it came from.
Stage 3: Climax or Conflict
According to MasterClass, the climax of a story is “the highest point of tension” in the story, “often depicted by a confrontation between the protagonist and antagonist”. For this reason, it is also known as conflict (which is literally what it is) and is at the highest point in the humpback model (see photo at the end of this article).
Megan froze. Her knees shook. Her body twitched. “Put those cats down!” Megan shrieked.
“Grrrrrrrr!” the rock creature roared, baring its teeth at her. The rock creature huffed and beat its chest with its stony hands.
Stage 4: Resolution
As the name suggests, this is the point in the story where the problem is solved. The reader is relieved to know that Megan succeeds in finding her friend’s cat.
The creature thought for a bit. Then slowly, it returned Frits to Megan. The rock monster’s hand was as smooth as a pebble by the river. “You can come back and visit,” Megan said.
Stage 5: Conclusion
Like the introduction, the conclusion of a story is also easy to identify because it comes at the end of the story. Typically, a story will end on a happy note. The exception is when the story is part of a series. In that case, the story will often conclude with a question, urging readers to read the sequel.
Megan was still afraid, and so was Frits. But something in their hearts told them they would find their way home. Even if it was 999999999999999999 km away.
Want to know how Megan and Frits find their way home? Find out in Megan and the Princess of Death.
The humpback model is a great way to teach story structure to both young and older learners in creative writing classes. Young learners may not be ready to create stories using the humpback model, but they can be trained to identify the 5 stages of a story with the help of this model. Older learners, on the other hand, can practice this skill more often and more easily. They can also be encouraged to critique a story using this model, helping them to build their critical thinking skills in the classroom.