Quantifying Story Structure

Philosophers, writers, and scholars have long tried to identify the most basic, quintessential properties of stories. We know that the purpose of stories is to share events and ideas with one another, bringing them to life in the minds of the audience. While stories can be about virtually anything — with different characters, contexts, conflicts, and so on — the underlying social psychological processes that drive a story have never been directly observed using scientific tools. Until now, that is.

Using modern text analysis methods, we find that we can measure the social psychology that underpins how we tell stories. Moreover, we find that all different types of stories — novels, films, short stories, and even amateur writing — trend toward a universal narrative structure. On this website, you will find additional information on the social psychological processes that underpin all narratives. We also make available several examples to explore, information on our methods, and you can even analyze your own texts to visualize and quantify their underlying structures. Enjoy!

The Narrative Explorer

Below, you can see a few selected examples of how the narrative explorer works. Choose a story from the box below to visualize its narrative structure along the 3 primary narrative dimensions: Staging, Plot Progression, and Cognitive Tension.


Plot Progression

Cognitive Tension


Select an example:

Description of This Story's Structure

Please choose a text from the samples above. Once you have chosen a text to explore, we will provide you with some additional information here to help see how the narrative structure can be understood using each of these measures.

Curious to know more? Check out the How it Works page for additional information on this research and the process of measuring narrative structures in text.

Narrative Structure in Other Stories

Want to measure the narrative structure of your own story? Visit the Analyze Texts page to see the narrative structure of your own texts — our system will analyze them and provide you with results. Once you're done on this page, you can explore a much larger database of narratives that we used in our research, including over 15,000 novels, short stories, and movies from all over the world.