The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 7: The Midpoint

Halfway through our stories, something marvelous happens. There we are, minding our own business, toiling along in the seemingly endless desert of the second act, when—whap! bang! shazam!—everything changes all over again. Legendary director Sam Peckinpah talked about how he always looked for a “centerpiece” on which to “hang” his story. That centerpiece is your second major plot point, the […]

The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 6: The First Half of the Second Act

Every segment of a story offers its own challenges, but perhaps none leaves writers more bewildered than the second act. Beginnings and endings are tough to get right, but at least we have a checklist of things to accomplish. The middle of the story, on the other hand, is a yawning blank. We feel like we’re entirely on our […]

The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 5: Inciting Event and Key Event

The first quarter of your story hinges upon two important and irreversible moments: the inciting event and the key event. I’ve saved our discussion of inciting and key events until this late into the series because these events can take place at any number of the structure points we’ve already discussed. Now that we’ve got a sense of […]

The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 4: The First Plot Point

Stories are a series of scenes. Some of those scenes are expected, some of them are even purposefully repetitious for the sake of emphasis. But some scenes change everything. These game changers are the plot points. They introduce significant elements and events that alter the subsequent course of the story. Your story can have any […]

The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 3: The First Act

Once you’ve hooked the reader, your next task is to put your early chapters to work introducing your characters, settings, and stakes. The first 20-25% of the book comprises your setup. At first glance, this can seem like a tremendous chunk of story to devote to introductions, but if you expect readers to stick with you throughout the story, […]

The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 2: The Hook

Readers are like fish. Smart fish. Fish who know authors are out to get them, reel them in, and capture them for the rest of their seagoing lives. But, like any self-respecting fish, readers aren’t caught easily. They aren’t about to surrender themselves to the lure of your story unless you’ve presented them with an irresistible hook. Our discussion […]

The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 1: Why Should Authors Care?

What’s the single most overlooked, misunderstood—and yet most important—part of storytelling? If you cheated and looked at the title, you already know the answer is structure. Most uninitiated writers have two different reactions to the idea of story structure. Either they think it’s great, but too mystical and lofty to be understood by common mortals, […]

Action and Reaction in Scene Structure: The Two Pistons Powering Your Story

Your story is a precision machine. If you were to take the shiny cover off this machine, what you would find inside would be an intricate mass of nuts, bolts, gears—and an engineer only knows what else. At the heart of it all, you’d find two huge pistons running the show. One of those pistons […]

Reading With Attention

Reading for Plot Structure Whatever book you’re reading right this very minute, take a quick second to look in the back and see how many pages it has. Rounded, I mean. Find a scrap of paper or a used envelope and jot this down at the bottom: total number of pages. Now divide that into: […]

Why Story Engineering Is a Must-Have Book

I don’t usually run book reviews here, but Larry Brooks’s Story Engineering is a worthy exception. Larry has long been one of the most respected writing instructors on the Web, and I was privileged to share Write to Done’s Top 10 Blogs for Writers Award with his marvelous site Storyfix. Those familiar with his site […]