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:
- Plot Turn 1
- Pinch 1
- Pinch 2
- Plot Turn 2
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: