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1A. The Hook draws readers into the story. This first ACT ONE OPENING: Establish the world of
1. Resolution
 eighth of your story is SET-UP, where readers learn the story, but something is unresolved in this
2. Stasis
 about your characters, their goals, and the story's world.

3. Shift
DILEMMA: The core struggle around which
4. Trigger
 every character in the story revolves. Some
5. Quest
1B. This section is about BUILD-UP.
people call this the theme or the dramatic
6. Power

7. Bolt
FIRST PLOT POINT: This is the doorway between INCITING INCIDENT: Something happens that
8. Defeat
the end of the First Act and the beginning of the sets our story in motion. Our hero responds or
Second Act.


 antagonist respond to the hero?

2A. This section is all about REACTION.

1. Stasis: the character isn’t living to their END OF ACT ONE: The hero makes a decision
FIRST PINCH POINT: This is a reminder of the
that he can’t go back on. Reluctance often
antagonist's power, which provides new clues about
potential - opposite state to Resolution.
precedes this decision.

the nature of the conflict.

2B. This section is all about REALIZATION.

2. Trigger: an internal or external impulse (or ACT TWO FALSE VICTORY: The hero
both) forces the character to take the first MIDPOINT: This is the Moment of Truth when the
protagonist realizes the central truth about the glimpses the possibility of achieving his goal,
step towards their Resolution state.
often a moment of false hope.

 nature of the conflict.

2C. This section is all about ACTION.

MIDPOINT OF ACT TWO: There is no going
3. Quest: the character enters the new back. This moment often occurs as the result
world of adventure, meets mentors or allies SECOND PINCH POINT: Foreshadows the Third
Plot Point and serves to remind the protagonist what of an event or some new information that
and makes a (bad) plan to solve the forces the hero to respond. It often involves a
problem the Trigger created.
is at stake if he fails to reach his main story goal.

2D. This section is all about a RENEWED PUSH.

moment of temptation as our hero measures
his desire against the potential cost of
4. Bolt: the (bad) Quest plan inevitably goes achieving his goal.

THIRD PLOT POINT: This is a dark moment for the
character. After the victory at the end of the Second HERO SUFFERS: Our hero begins to
Act, he experiences a profound reversal and defeat.
understand the difficulty of what he has signed
5. Shift: the character makes the paradigm up for.

shift necessary for them to inhabit their END OF ACT TWO: This is the moment that
Resolution state.
3A. This section is all about RECOVERY.
Protagonist reels as he questions his choices, his the hero may become conscious, for the first

 time, of the nature of his dilemma. It is the
6. Defeat: the character makes the ultimate commitment to his goal, and his own worth and
death of his old identity.


CLIMAX: The character enters a duel to the death

(literally or figuratively) with the antagonistic force in ACT THREE HERO ACCEPTS REALITY OF
7. Power: the character finds a hidden SITUATION: Although he has surrendered his
power within themselves that allows them to their final CONFRONTATION.

want, this does not mean he gives it up.

seize the prize.

CLIMACTIC MOMENT: This is the moment the
protagonist's goal is definitively met or thwarted. It ACTION: As a result of reframing his
becomes a physical impossibility for the conflict to relationship to his goal, the hero takes action
8. Resolution: the character is living up to toward giving himself what he needs.

their full potential in their Resolution state.


RESOLUTION: Ease readers out of the tension of BATTLE SCENE: A battle between the want
the Climax and into the final emotion with which you and the need. The battle is internal though it
want to leave them. often manifests itself externally.

NEW EQUILIBRIUM: Our hero is returned

home. The dilemma is resolved.

SHOCK: The main character is thrown off



DENIAL: The MC doesn’t face the facts.

ANGER: The MC lashes out, forced to react

to the truth of a life event.

BARGAINING: MC tries other methods of

dealing with the problem, none of which


DEPRESSION: MC discovers there’s no

easy solution to the predicament, bottoms
out, understands he can’t turn back. [ALL

DELIBERATION: MC finally sees the crisis

for what it is, is faced with best bad choice JAMES SCOTT BELL’S DISTURBANCE + TWO DOORS JAMES N. FREY’S
or irreconcilable goods.
DISTURBANCE: Early in Act 1, something has to disturb the status DAMN GOOD THRILLER”
quo. Not a major threat. The opponent + Lead not yet locked in an

unavoidable battle.
I. The gripping opening.

CHOICE: the climactic moment when the FIRST DOOR: Something kicks the Lead through a doorway, out of II. The evil plot gets under
MC actively does something that finally the ordinary. Confrontation takes place in Act 2.
way and the hero, in
metabolizes the Inciting Incident.
SECOND DOOR: Something has to happen that sets up the final terrible trouble, fights a
confrontation; usually it’s a piece of information, or a huge setback defensive battle.

INTEGRATION: dramatizes the resolution. or crisis.

III. The turning point (often
MC has recovered from the initial SHOCK.
(Door 1 at about 1/5 mark of a novel; Door 2 at 3/4 or later.)
a kind of symbolic
death and rebirth). The
hero goes on the

IV. The hero confronts the

villain, who almost wins
but is finally defeated in
a slam-bang climax.

V. Resolution. Tells what

happens to the major
characters as a result of
the hero’s victory or


1. Hook

a. Hero in opposite state to their end state.

2. Plot Turn 1

a. Introduce the conflict.

b. The hero’s world changes; call to


c. New ideas

d. New people

e. New secrets

3. Pinch 1

a. Apply pressure:

i. Something goes wrong.

ii. Bad guys attack.

iii. Peace is destroyed.

b. Forces the hero into action.

c. Introduce villain.

4. Midpoint

a. Movement from one state to the other.

b. Shift from reaction to action

5. Pinch 2

a. Apply more pressure until situation



i. A plan fails.

1. Opening Image (1) - set tone, mood & style; give “before” snapshot of hero.
ii. A mentor dies.

2. Theme Stated (5)- declaration of theme, argument or story purpose (by minor to main character).
iii. The bad guy seems to win.

3. Set-up (1-10) - introduce hero’s quirks; how & why they need to change
b. The jaws of defeat.

4. Catalyst (12) - bad news that knocks down set-up, but ultimately leads the hero to happiness.
6. Plot Turn 2

5. Debate (12-25) - hero questions their ability to proceed.

a. Move the story from midpoint to end.


b. Hero obtains final piece to move from

6. Break into Two (25) - hero (through their own decision) moves into the antithetical world.
midpoint to resolution.

7. B Story (30) - break from main story; often a “love” story; meet new characters antithetical to earlier ones.
c. “The power is in you!”

8. Fun and Games (30-55) - provides the promise of the premise; movie trailer moments; whatever’s cool.
d. Hero snatches victory from the jaws of

9. Midpoint (55) - fun and games over; hero reaches false peak or false collapse; changes dynamic; raises defeat.

7. Resolution

10. Bad Guys Close In (55-75) - bad guys regroup; internal dissent in hero’s team; hero isolated and headed for a. Hero follows through on their decision

from the midpoint.

11. All Is Lost (75) - false defeat (that feels real); “whiff of death” (often of mentor); end of old way.
b. Hero becomes the opposite of their

12. Dark Night of the Soul (75-85) - darkness before the dawn; hero feels they’re beaten and forsaken.
Hook state.

13. Break into Three (85) - internal B story provides solution to A story.


PLOTTING ORDER: 1. Resolution, 2. Hook, 3.
14. Finale (85-110) - triumph for hero; bad guys dispatched (in ascending order); hero changes world.
Midpoint, 4. Plot Turn 1, 5. Plot Turn 2, 6.
15. Final Image (110) - opposite of opening image; proof of real change. Pinch 1, 7. Pinch 2


GARY PROVOST PARAGRAPH 1. 1-sentence summary (1 hour)
a. 15 words or fewer
from How to Tell a Story by Peter Rubie and Gary Provost b. No character names
c. Tie big picture to “personal picture” - what does the
Once upon a time, something happened to someone, and he decided that he would pursue a goal. character have to lose and what do they want to win?
So he devised a plan of action, and even though there were forces trying to stop him, he moved d. Read NYT bestseller blurbs for inspiration
forward because there was a lot at stake. And just as things seemed as bad as they could get, he 2. Expand sentence to full paragraph summary (1 hour)
a. Approx. 5 sentences
learned an important lesson, and when offered the prize he had sought so strenuously, he had to
b. Story setup
decide whether or not to take it, and in making that decision he satisfied a need that had been c. (Three) Major disasters
created by something in his past. d. Ending
3. One page summary for each character (1 hour each):
STRUCTURE b. 1 sentence storyline
c. Motivation (what do they want abstractly?)
d. Goal (what do they want concretely?)
The table, shown here, shows the

e. Conflict (what prevents them from reaching goal?)

twenty-two steps broken down into

f. Epiphany (what they learn, how they change)

four major threads, or story sub-

g. 1 paragraph storyline
systems. Keep in mind that each step

4. Expand each sentence in summary (#2) to full paragraphs.

can be an expression of more than

(several hours)
one subsystem. For example, drive,
a. All paragraphs end in disaster, except...
which is the set of actions the hero
b. Final paragraph shows how the book ends.
takes to reach the goal, is primarily
5. 1 page description of each major character (1-2 days)
a plot step. But it is also a step where
a. Tell story from POV of each character.
the hero may take immoral action to
6. Expand each paragraph from #4 into full page synopses. (1
win, which is part of the moral
a. High level logic & strategic decisions
7. Expand character descriptions from #3 into full character
Always remember that these steps
charts. (1 week)
are a powerful tool for writing but are
a. Birthdate
not carved in stone. So be flexible
b. Description
when applying them. Every good
c. History
story works through the steps in a
d. Motivation
slightly different order. You must find
e. Goal
the order that works best for your
f. Epiphany, etc.
unique plot and characters.
8. Turn 4-page summary from #6 into a scene spreadsheet.
a. 1 line per scene
The seven essential steps are:
b. Columns for:
1. Weakness and need
i. POV character
2. Desire
ii. What happens
3. Opponent
iii. Page numbers
4. Plan
9. (optional) Expand each scene from spreadsheet into multi-
5. Battle
paragraph description.
6. Self-revelation
a. Add dialogue
7. New equilibrium
b. General workings of conflict
10.Start writing first draft.
#1 – Setup. Introduce protagonist in her world. Establish her #11 – Introduction of subplot. Set up the situation between
core need. Set the stage, begin building the world, bring key the characters to show the existing tension and attitudes that is 1) Inciting incident
characters on stage. causing conflict. a) Causal (the result of
#12 – Show how the inciting incident affects the subplot. It an active choice)
may trigger it, bring it to the forefront. Have something b) Coincidental
#2 – Turning Point #1 (10%): inciting incident.
initially happen with the subplot to bring in problems and
#3 – Pinch Point #1 (33% roughly): Give a glimpse of the unexpected or random
#13 – New subplot development that mirrors or is opposite
opposition’s power, need, and goal as well as the stakes. of the main plot. In other words, show what key opposition or accidental happens)
your protagonist is facing and how she feels about it (a *mix up your inciting
#4 – Twist #1: Something new happens: a new ally, a friend mirroring pinch point, in essence). incidents. Don’t make them
becomes a foe. New info reveals a serious complication to #14 – Progress with the subplot. Similar to the main plot, all causal or coincidental.
reaching the goal. Protagonist must adjust to change with this the character is trying to deal with the subplot issues, 2) Progressive
setback. complications, and setbacks. Tension builds as things are complications (leads to a
getting more difficult or problematic. turning point: a moment
#5 – The midpoint (50%): No turning back. Important event #15 – Things start coming to a head and creating high when new information
that propels the story forward and solidifies the protagonist’s tension with the subplot. Now that the protagonist is comes to the fore and the
determination to reach her goal. “I’ll never go hungry again!” committed to going all-in after her goal, the subplot adds character has to react)
stress to her load. a) Active turning point
#16 – Developments with the subplot reach critical mass.
#6 – Pinch Point #2 (62% roughly): The opposition comes b) Revelatory turning
Things are falling apart, looking hopeless.
full force. Time to buckle down and fight through it. point
#17 – Subplot feels at a standstill. Protagonist has no time to
deal with it and so this creates more tension. Or something in *mix up your turning points
#7 – Twist 2: An unexpected surprise giving (false?) hope. the subplot could provide the help, insight, clue the as well. Sometimes have
The goal now looks within reach. A mentor gives protagonist needs to push harder to the goal. action spur it; sometimes
encouragement, a secret weapon, an important clue. #18 – Same issues with the subplot. Seems unresolvable. have new information turn it.
Something happens that closes doors. Or the subplot might be 3) Crisis (the time when
#8 – Turning Point #4 (75%): Major setback. All is lost and resolved outwardly, but the desired emotional state is illusive. your protagonist must
hopeless. Time for final push. #19 – The key scene that resolves the subplot in a make a decision)
completely satisfying, full way. The character has achieved a) The best bad choice
#9 –  Turning Point #5 (76-99%): The climax in which the the emotional resolution she’s wanted from the start. b) Irreconcilable goods
goal is either reached or not; the two MDQs* are answered. #20 – A final, parting shot of the happy result of the 4) Climax (acting on the
subplot wrapped up. This could be included in the last crisis decision)
scene (above) as the two plot elements merge together, or they
#10 – The aftermath (90-99%): The wrap-up at the end. 5) Resolution (conveys the
might be separate scenes within the final chapter(s).
Denouement, resolution, tie it all in a pretty knot. character in the new state)
*You don’t need exactly 10 subplot scenes; this is just done to
MDQ = major dramatic query—a yes-or-no question you ask give a simple template or method. Veer as you wish, but make *Every beat, scene, sequence,
at the start of the book. It is also called (by Michael Hague) it work best for the story you are telling. act, supblot, and global story
the “visible goal” or plot goal. The second MDQ is a spiritual have these five elements.
one, question that involves the character’s spirit—her heart.
These resources are not my own. I’m using Eva Deverell’s summations of Dan Wells, Blake Snyder, the Gary Provost paragraph, and the Snowflake Method. The
diagrams of Hauge, Vogler, and Field come from Dramatica, The Hero’s Journey circular diagram is Lisa A. Paltz Spindler’s. All others come directly from the writer
mentioned in the title of the box.