Golden Mean in Story/Visionary Approach to Story Structure

I’ve been fascinated with the archetypal patterns behind stories for a long time, but it was only after I delved deeper into the mysticism of Numerology and Sacred Geometry that I began to notice some fascinating correlations between those mystical teachings and the classical tools of story telling.

This brought about the idea of a visionary approach to story structure based on these sacred teachings. I’ve been doing elaborate research since; however, its essence could be summed up in the mystery of the Golden Mean.

Mystery of the Golden Mean

Golden Mean in StoryThe Golden Mean, also known as the Golden Ratio, has been well known to the ancient cultures in Egypt and Greece due to its frequent appearance in nature and its wide use in art, philosophy and science. The principle was later encapsulated in the famous 15th century text The Divine Proportion written by Luka Pacioli and illustrated by Leonardo Da Vinci.

The Golden Mean embodies the process of division and expansion of oneness or the initial center. The best way to introduce this enigma would be by sharing Plato’s legendary riddle. The Greek philosopher once asked his students to divide a line segment into two unequal parts and ponder about its meaning.

Had he asked them to divide the line into two identical parts, the ratios would be the same and would hold no possibility of further separation. By dividing the line into unequal parts where the larger one encompasses the two smaller ones, they found a basis for further division. This made them realize that if a ratio of two quantities is the same as the ratio of their sum, the quantities can further repeat into infinity.

The Golden Mean can be found in the essence and growth patterns of minerals, plants, trees, animal and human bodies and solar systems. It’s also a key element to aesthetic qualities and therefore has been widely used in fine arts, music and architecture.

The Golden Mean in Story

The question remains, how does the Golden Ratio relate to the creation of stories?

The Golden Mean forms asymmetry, difference and therefore a tension that proceeds in further expansion and growth. Without this tension it wouldn’t unfold, just like a story would not develop without a crisis that needs to be resolved.

The main essence of story, the center represented by the central character would have no reason to grow had he not been a subject to some inner conflict. And if the central character solved the conflict instantly, there would be no need for him to set off on a journey. That’s why he is confronted with antagonistic forces and tense situations to eventually learn that these are the keys to the conflict’s solution. The more he struggles the further the story develops and divides into more subplots, characters and themes. And while all these elements are important on a whole, the central character strives to return back to the center.

This forms the basic trinity of the story structure. The protagonist struggles against the antagonist to reach a solution during the beginning, middle and end.

These three basic elements are divided by the Golden Mean not just philosophically but in the actual story design itself. The beginning and the end parts are commonly shorter than the middle part, which is more complex, yet prevails the essence of the story. This system can be also found in dramatic screenplay structures where the first and third acts are shorter than the action packed middle.

Contradictory to this would be the middle of the second act, the midpoint during which the protagonist goes through some important inner realization or rebirth. However, the midpoint refers back to the ubiquitous core and source present before, during and after the story, the center.

There are many correlations between Numerology, Sacred Geometry and the key principles of storytelling. The Golden Mean is really just a base to a very precise and fascinating design that unveils how stories, just like any form of life and art, derive and repeat the same primordial pattern of creation.

I believe that most authors use this pattern without necessarily being aware of it and this is perhaps the most fascinating thing about the subject. This visionary approach to writing is not a discovery of something new but rather a memory of an already inherent principle.


Golden Mean in StoryIva Kenaz was born in Prague, the Czech Republic. Writing has been her greatest passion since childhood and her novels are significantly influenced by esotericism and spirituality. She studied Screenwriting at the Film Academy in Prague and Creative Writing at London South Bank University. She published two novels, The Witch Within and My Melancholic Diary, and is currently working on her third novel as well a non-fiction book, Alchemy of Storytelling.

For more information please visit her website: www.ivakenaz.com

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29 Responses to Golden Mean in Story/Visionary Approach to Story Structure

  1. I've heard of the Golden Ratio or Golden Mean as exemplified in nature–the flower petals of a daisy, seed heads, pine cones, shells, spiral galaxies, hurricanes, the human face and fingers, and DNA molecules, but have never heard of it applied to story–"divide and repeat the same primordial pattern of creation." It's always good to have my eyes opened to something new, especially when it applies to writing. Thank you Iva.

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  2. libredux says:

    What an intriguing post! A most fascinating view of story structure, and it gives us much to explore further. Thanks very much Iva.

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  3. lyndielou says:

    I also love the way the Golden Ratio was used in the architecture of churches which was then repeated in the format of religious music.

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  4. lyndielou says:

    I also love the way the Golden Ratio was used in the architecture of churches, matching the format of much religious music.

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  5. esdragon2 says:

    I studied the Golden Mean at Art College back in the 50's and 60's. We did work based on the Golden Mean, both geometric and naturalistic. I seem to remember it also came into the musical scale, (Platonic). I was always fascinated by all its possibilities. I can't say it ever occurred to me that it might be a basis for story structure. But working with it undoubtedly, albeit unconsciously, must have been there all the time.

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  6. reanolanmartin says:

    lovely insights, iva! thanks for sharing them.

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  7. ellisnelson says:

    The Alchemy of Storytelling will be a fascinating read. Hope you'll share more with us.

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  8. Bob Edward Fahey says:

    A wonderful and insightful application of the sacred math to fictional plotting and structure. Thank you.

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  9. I love this. I've always studied structure because it was my weakness in storytelling. What an excellent way to look at it. And I liked how you described cutting the initial line into unequal parts–introducing tension that needs to be resolved.

    You point out, "And while all these elements are important on a whole, the central character strives to return back to the center. This forms the basic trinity of the story structure." This is a beautiful way to understand story structure.

    I also liked how you point out that the middle is unproportional, longer than the beginning and ending. This fits the Golden Mean, too.

    Thanks for some metaphysical teachings from the capital city of metaphysics, Praha! Love the place. My childhood church came from the rebellion of Jan Hus. I visited Prague in my last novel. Give my best to Charles IV. 🙂

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  10. Iva Kenaz says:

    Thank you all for the wonderful comments. If you'd like to read more of my research, you can visit my blog:
    http://sacredgeometry-story.blogspot.cz

    It's based on my thesis paper and also a base for a book I've been working on ( The Alchemy of Storytelling )

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  11. What a creative, insightful, and profound way to look at story structure. It fits so well with VF! Thank you for your thoughts, they are intriguing, Iva.

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  12. Ok, Iva, you did it! You got my mind to fire back up on the first afternoon in several months where I thought I could sit back and relax. And with deep math, philosophy and aesthetics, no less. which never let me quit with a mere cursory glance. Your reminder of Plato's presentation of the Golden Mean as unbalanced (further and infinitely divisible) rather than balanced (static) can be unsettling (especially on a day when I wanted to kick back and put my feet up), but so true. It's the essence of that In-Between realm we often discuss here. And it is this dis-ease that keeps us somewhat crazy writers pushing the keys on the keyboard. The "center" seems just beyond reach; one more paragraph and I'll have it–yeah, right.

    I won't go too far here, but I will ponder further as I get back to my current book and beyond. Thanks for the (further) incentive, and please keep writing for our blog.

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    • Iva Kenaz says:

      Wow, I'm glad the article inspired you, Victor!
      And thank you for the beautiful thoughts, it got me pondering about the unbalance and balance, disharmony and harmony, symmetry and asymmetry again… The philosophical meaning of these two oppositions.
      These days I'm curious about Sacred Geometry in relation to Numerology, mainly the even and odd numbers and how they relate to that. Curiously, I found out that a globe can be constructed only if both the even and odd number shapes are present (hexagons and pentagons). So our planet is incised with these geometric patterns itself. That must have an effect, eh?
      I'm excited about all this and so very glad to see the positive responses here. It gives me courage and encouragement to go on, explore and write more about it.
      So in all honesty, thank you very much.

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      • esdragon2 says:

        Something just came up on the radio, Book Club. A mention of the Chinese Book of Changes, the I Ching. I always found it amazingly accurate in its answers, and quite unfathomable. I could be way out in feeling this method of divination is in some way related to the same universal harmony/ disharmony, balance/imbalance — but it's just a thought.

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      • In the course of writing my current novel, which touches on Nazi occultism, I ran into the phenomenon of the earth's energy grid, as discussed by authors like Bruce Cathie (The Bridge to Infinity). Too much to include at any depth in my book, but fascinating enough that I started through that wormhole and hope to pick up later (a project that may have to wait for my next lifetime!). The math/science slows me down. Perhaps you'd be interested in following Bruce's trail a bit (can start with Wikipedia) to see where it takes you. Would love to know what you find; you can message me on FB if you want.

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  13. drstephenw says:

    Iva, I love your approach to the Golden Mean, writing structure, and metaphysical math. I'm a structure freak as a composer and writer, and have been inspired for years by artists like Bartok, who have used the idea of a Golden section about two thirds of the way through his compositions. I love thinking and working along these lines, so it's wonderful to meet a kindred brain. Thank you!

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