The Ugly Duckling Story Structure

Continuing our look at story structure, today I have a structure based on the story of the ugly duckling.

The prompt

Write a story based on the Ugly Duckling structure

The story of the ugly duckling is one when you probably know fairly well: Mother-duck discovers an egg that doesn’t look quite like hers; when the ducklings hatch, one of them is big and gray and weird looking; the duckling siblings are mean to our hero; some wild ducks are mean to him; some other animals are mean to him; then some peasant children are mean to him.

Through it all he struggles to survive. All he wants is to find a place to belong. This duckling will not give up. He would never lay down and die until so many things going wrong for him that he can’t see a way to be happy.

Eventually, when the duckling sees some swans, he is moved emotionally. At this point he decides to go for one moment of happiness. Then, he thinks, he’ll give up and die.

He wanders over to tell the swans beautiful they are, then starts to leave. But one of the swans points out that, uh, he’s also a swan. Life. Changing Moment.

At this point Hans Christian Andersen could have ended the story but he made the decision to balance out all of the terrible things that happened at the beginning of the story, with happy events for her poor little duckling.

  • Where, at the beginning, some peasant children have been mean to him, now we see some children whoa re excited to see him.
  • Where we saw some other animals being mean to him in the beginning, now we see some animals being nice to him;
  • Where his family is mostly rejected him, at the end of the story, now he goes back and sees his mother again.

All of these things give the story a nice balance. It’s like a seesaw. The Life Changing Moment, when he realizes his true identity, comes in the middle of the story.

How To Write An Ugly Duckling Structure Story

Write a story based on the ugly duckling structure, with a life-changing moment or realization or event that comes in the middle.

  • Again you’re going to have to decide what kind of character you want to write about what they wanted life and what obstacles stand in their way.
  • It can be useful to think about these things before you start writing and then you can decide what is the thing that’s going to change everything for your character.
  • If you’re not much of a plotter go ahead and start writing the story now. Put two or three obstacles between your character and their goal and then writes towards the midpoint where the character gets what he wants or completely closes the door on his goal forever…however your story shakes out. Then, take a moment to summarize the obstacles your character is based in the beginning of the story. Think of an equal number of ways that you could balance those at the end.
  • This can be a very satisfying story structure and the fact that is the short story keeps it from being too predictable. The reader doesn’t have time to anticipate all of the moves you’re going to make. They won’t even really be aware of what you’re doing, they’ll just feel satisfied because the story here telling has a balanced shape and structure

Leave a comment telling us how you got on and what you chose to write about today. How’s the challenge going? Have any tips for other writers? Share them here!

17 thoughts on “The Ugly Duckling Story Structure”

  1. Boy, how I tried to make something of this structure, but I ended up being Cinderella (try-fail, try-fail, try-fail…) instead. So I dredged up this l-o-o-o-n-g one, which might be an Ugly Duckling story if you squint and hold it sideways. There’s isolation and wanting to belong, as well as acceptance and redemption. Oh, and secrets, lots of secrets.

    Marjorie & Augie keeping their secrets…Under the Bog Top.

  2. Here’s story #9, which was supposed to be an Ugly Duckling story. This may be one if you squint really hard. Not sufficiently completing the Cinderella Story task yesterday bothered me. So here’s the story of a guy who was a swan/prince, tried and failed a few times and ended up a loser and ugly duckling in his own mind, only to eventually figure out he was supposed to be a different bird, still a prince, all the time. http://wp.me/p1AR9N-2JM

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