The Quickest Plot Structuring Tool There Is

Fastest Structure

I used to be an over plotter. A plotter who annoyed herself because she couldn’t do anything until she had planned ten ways to Sunday. Thank god I came to my senses and pulled the rod out of my arse!

Even though I am now edging towards free writing. There is one thing I can’t live without – a basic novel structure. I need to know what happens at A, what happens at Z and a couple of the key turning points at roughly F and P or maybe H and S…!

One of the things that helped me untwist my knickers was Dan Wells and his Seven Point Plot Structure. If you haven’t come across it, then this will be a treat.

I struggled for a long time to find the right sort of structure tool that would give me enough detail to create an effective plot but not so much detail it was overwhelming and prevented me from actually writing. I used this method to give me the basics, the simple A, F, P and Z, and then I expand up and out into my synopsis. The brilliance of this method is its simplicity. You can start with just 7 sentences, and those 7 expand to become paragraphs and eventually pages.

His method is to establish the following:

  • Hook
  • Plot Turn 1
  • Pinch 1
  • Midpoint
  • Pinch 2
  • Plot Turn 2
  • Resolution

The interesting bit of Dan’s structure is not the plots points above – they seem pretty obvious and logical to me, but the order in which he suggests you complete them.

Dan starts at the end…! The order in which he writes the plot points is:

  1. Resolution – This is where your entire book, all 100,000 words of it is leading to, so make sure you know what your ending is. Write your ending down first.
  1. Hook – Once the end is written down, go back to the beginning. If you know your end point, then generally speaking your beginning will be the opposite state. For example, Rodney and Delboy end up as millionaires at the end of the TV show, but at the beginning of their story they start as paupers.
  1. Midpoint – This is the point in the story where your characters move from reaction, to action. This doesn’t always have to be the ‘physical’ middle of your book, it could be a quarter of the way in, or much closer to the end. But it’s the point where the story stops happening to them, and they start driving it towards the end.
  1. Plot Turn 1 –This is the first twist in the story. What conflict are you introducing? What pressure are you putting on your character to push them from the hook at the beginning to the midpoint where they need to take action?
  1. Plot Turn 2 – This is where your protagonist gets the final piece of the puzzle in order to get to the end. For example, in the Matrix, this would be when Neo realizes he is The One.
  1. Pinch 1 – After the first plot turn, you need to apply pressure to force the characters into action and towards the midpoint. Often this is the point the villain is introduced.
  1. Pinch 2 – this is where you add even more pressure, make the situation look completely hopeless, ‘how will they ever be able to get out of this mess??’ Using the Matrix as an example again, this is when Mr. Smith shoots Neo, and it looks like he dies.

To watch the whole lecture series where Dan has much better explanations and examples, you can see the first video below which will take you through to YouTube where the others are.

For visual people, check out the diagram below:

Seven Point Plot Structure for visual people

Seven Point Plot Structure for visual people

 

32 comments

  1. I rather care for James Scott Bell’s approach, as set out in his book “Write your novel from the middle: A new approach for plotters, pantsers and everyone in between”. Of course, I haven’t implemented any of it yet, but I am trying to get my head around the concept and may well try it when preparing for NaNo.

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      1. Very very basic… lots of balloons on a page with where characters are and what they are doing at that point. Top of page is beginning of story, bottom is end. Could do a page for each character but that would get far too organised and complicated. I like the adventure of the journey and not quite knowing how things are gonna work out. My characters are very good at shaking things up and writing their own stories. I’m just a conduit! 😀

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      2. I did but been too knackered to reply… sick husband this weekend means no sleep and I have had to do all the kids running around by myself. Plus mother in law is arriving tomorrow so house is having a spring clean… but I will try and get to it tonight… you are top of the heap lol!

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  2. I tend to be a “pantser” – writing intuitively – and read all sorts of books on plot lines, characters, etc etc etc. It wasn’t until I found Martha Aldridge’s book The Plot Whisperer that the ideas became accessible. She writes both for the intuitive writer and the structure writer, which I found helpful. So now I have a plot line, three poster-sized Post-It pages, on my wall with a plot line! and rows of small Post below, each row a chapter so I can remember what went where. It works. But then, I’m writing a memoir not a novel. But I still needed to find the structure. I’ll watch the video and see what else I learn. Thanks for linking it.

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    1. That sounds fantastic, I am going to have to have a look for her book. Will pop over to amazon. thank you 🙂 I am still trying to figure out what my writing process is, I am only writing my first novel, so I imagine it will keep changing and refining itself over the next few books! 🙂

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    1. Your welcome, thanks for commenting :). Ha, well I have to say, I am becoming more and more of a pantser! it just seems to suit me better, but then I am still learning what my writing process is, so it could still change! thanks again for stopping by

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      1. When I first started writing, I got drummed into me that I needed to plot, plot, plot. So I tried it and all I got was an anxiety attack and writer’s block. Each writer has to develop his/her own style and then do what’s comfortable. That’s what I do and it works well so far. Good luck with it. 🙂 You’re most welcome and have a great evening!

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      2. yeah I wrote a post about that recently – in a conversation about their writing, they gave me permission to do it my way, and it was so liberating. It was exactly what I needed to hear – it was like an epiphany you know… wait a minute, you actually can do it any darn way you want. I so wish I hadn’t taken so long to realise it. Have a great writing week 😀

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  3. Whew, I am glad I read the comments, because for a minute I thought perhaps I was the only one who just sat and wrote. Though I did notice the ones who describe themselves as “pantsers” also have some sort of outline or something that helps them to stay on track. Am I hurting myself by just sitting down and writing what comes out of my head? I think I write much like an observer (except I use first person a LOT) I write what comes to my head all the time.

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    1. Nah course not Storm, I wrote a post the other day – possibly last week – about doing everything your own way, and giving your self permission to do so. Its so important that you just do what works for you. I spent a long time thinking I ought to be doing something I thought I should be doing, and all I actually did was waste time stressing myself out worrying about whether my writing process was the best, what I should have been worrying about was whether my writing was the best! sigh.

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