Story Structure

2014-4-6 Tahoe A - Copy

This is a compilation of a few websites, but most of the content came from Writers Write, I recommend following them on Facebook.  Here is a basic outline of a positive change arc to help you map out your story.

  1. The Hook (1%)
    1. The hook is essentially a question, it is the thing that is going to get the reader to keep going, make it good enough that they just can’t put your story down until they find out the answer.
  2. The First Act (1-25%)
    1. Goals & Stakes (1-12%)
      1. What is your character’s goal (see Character Flaw Worksheet) What can’t they live without?
      2. What’s at stake if he/she doesn’t reach this goal?
    2. Inciting Event (@ 12%)
      1. This is your character’s first brush with conflict, not much, just a little trip up, but it is still a turning point.
    3. Build-up (12-25%)
      1. Start moving the pieces of your plot into place for the Key Event & First Plot Point-build up the tension.
    4. Key Event (@ 25% directly followed by the 1st Plot Point)
      1. This is the moment your character can no longer escape involvement, he/she has to face what they tripped over earlier.  This is the moment they look back over their shoulder, take in a deep breath, then take that first step forward.
    5. 1st Plot Point (@ 25%)
      1. This is the moment that follows that step.  Once your character’s foot touches the ground, they can no longer turn back.  The point of no return when your character gets locked into the conflict.
        1. Maybe a chance to intensity and amp up the stakes
        2. Examples
          1. trapped
          2. new obligation (new force), why is this difficult?
          3. ultimatum:  if this, then that (comes from someone in power)
          4. character becomes pursued
  3. The Second Act (25-75%)
    1. Reaction (25-37%)
      1. Now that your character has taken that step into the unknown, they must scramble to understand the obstacles thrown their way.  They are only reacting at this point as they venture into uncharted waters.  They need time and space to react and their eyes are open to the fact that they might have been living a lie, but they aren’t sure yet.
    2. 1st Pinch Point (@ 37%)
      1. Here we get a reminder of the antagonists power (maybe learn something new about the antagonistic force or what the character can lose), but we get new clues about the conflict.  Raise the tension.
    3. Realization (37-50%)
      1. Our character’s realization about the lie grows and his/her reactions become more informed.  Key-he/she is still reacting not acting.
    4. Midpoint (@ 50%)
      1. This is the moment of truth, when your character finally accepts they have been living a lie.  Your entire story hinges on this moment, this is what keeps your reader interested.  It takes what the reader and/or character already knows and adds an element.  What shadows, clues, seeds have been planted to reach this point?
    5. Action (50-62%)
      1. Now that your character has accepted the truth, he/she can begin to act or change their situation.  This is that moment when they go from reacting to acting and they begin to make headway against the antagonist-no longer avoiding the antagonist.
    6. 2nd Pinch Point (@ 62%)
      1. Here we get a bit of a foreshadow into the 3rd Plot Point.  We are reminded of what’s at stake or what the character has to lose.  Remind us of the power of the antagonistic force.
    7. Renewed Push (62-75%)
      1. The protagonist has renewed his/her attack, he/she is acting and reaches a seeming victory, but…
  4. The Third Act (75-100%) OPENS WITH A BANG AND NEVER LETS UP!!!
    1. 3rd Plot Point (@ 75%)
      1. We are crushed, your protagonist is crushed, this is a dark moment upon the heals of victory.  Your character feels like they are going backwards.
    2. Recovery (75-88%)
      1. Your protagonist is reeling as he/she questions, choices, goal, worth and ability.  They can’t turn away, they are on a runaway train…it is time to confront the lie-like it or not.
    3. Climax Begins (@ 88%)
      1. This is what the journey has been all about, why this experience has been worth the difficulty.  AKA-The Turning Point.  Your readers should be on the edge of their seats as the protagonist and antagonist come face to face.  They should have an idea of what is to come but they should also be suffering the torture of a few shades of doubt.  This is where they get that final clue/vital information, no new info is needed after this point.
    4. Confrontation (88-98%)
      1. The Duel to the Death-what happens here changes the future.  Neither the protagonist nor the antagonist can walk away until…  There needs to be trial her that the character faces where he/she can use the tools gained throughout the story, connect your readers back to your novel.
    5. Climactic Moment (@ 98%)
      1. This is where the Duel comes to and end.  The protagonist’s goal will be met and it will be physically impossible for the conflict to continue.
    6. Resolution (98-100%)
      1. You’ve done it!  Your readers have made it this far, but now they are a hot mess, so you’ve got to talk ’em down of that ledge.  Ease them out of the excitement and lead them to a final decided upon emotion.  Bookend the opening scene as you establish a new norm where the protagonist begins life with the truth.  Don’t forget to tie up any loose ends, readers hate that.
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4 thoughts on “Story Structure

  1. Pingback: Character Flaw Worksheet | Nicole L Ochoa

  2. Pingback: Story Structure by the Numbers | Nicole L Ochoa

  3. Pingback: Self Editing | Nicole L Ochoa

  4. Pingback: Pardon the Interruption #PW16RevClub | Nicole L Ochoa

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