Recently, I created a story structure diagram to help me visualize and plan as I work on a novel. There are plenty of story structure diagrams on the web, but I wanted graphic of my own so that I could use layers to overlay my own elements (character arcs, major events, and what-not).
LEGEND: Acts, Periods, Events, Points
- ACT I – The Beginning
- Hook – Grab the reader, provoke interest,and cause questions to be asked.
- Inciting Event – The event that sets the story in motion, and will lead to the Key Event.
- Key Event – The event that causes the protagonist to be caught up in the story.
- Plot Point 1 – A change of surroundings. A personal turning point. The point of no return for the protagonist.
- ACT II – The Middle
- Strong Reaction – The protagonist has a strong response to the 1st Plot Point.
- Pinch 1 – The antagonist’s presence and power are displayed.
- Plot Point 2 – The midpoint. The turning point of the novel. A change of direction for the characters. A push from reaction to action. A personal catalyst for the protagonist. A move to dramatic, new, fresh, different circumstances. The true midpoint is not a scene. It’s a moment within a scene. It’s like the earth’s core. The true center. Find it in your novel, and everything will radiate from it.
- Strong Action – The protagonist takes a strong action after the Turning Point.
- Pinch 2 – The antagonist’s presence and power are reaffirmed.
- Plot Point 3 – We are setup on our inexorable course towards the Climax. A low point for the protagonist. Perhaps a meeting between protagonist and antagonist? A decision? An upheaval? An unexpected event?
- ACT III – The End
- Increased Pace – The pacing will naturally increase (and chapter length will decrease) as we approach the Climax.
- Climax – The final 10% of the novel, where the core conflict between the protagonist and antagonist is brought to a conclusion.
- Climactic Moment – The critical moment that fulfills the dramatic promise of the story.
- Resolution – A brief hint (a scene or two) of how the story continues beyond the novel’s scope. A period of emotional recovery. A chance to spend another brief moment with the protagonist.
Although this is pretty standard for story structure, I’ve based it primarily on my study of the book, Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story, by K.M. Weiland. She also has an excellent blog called Helping Writers Become Better Authors where you can find a treasure trove of tips on writing.
I also got some inspiration from Matt Gemmell’s own study on Weiland’s structure, which he documented in the article, Structuring Your Article.