The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 11: The Resolution

The resolution is always a bittersweet moment. You’ve reached the end of the story. You’ve climbed the mountain, and now you can plant your flag of completion at its peak. But as the finale of all your work, this is also the finale of all the fun you’ve experienced in your wonderful world of made-up people and places. The […]

The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 10: The Climax

And, now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for! The climax is the pièce de résistance of our gourmet meal of a novel. When we wheel out the climax and lift the serving dish’s gleaming silver lid, this is the bit that gets all the “oohs” and “aahs.” The climax of a story should have readers on the edges […]

The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 9: The Third Act

The third act is the moment we’ve all been waiting for—readers, writers, and characters alike. This final section of the story is the point. It’s what we’ve been building up to all this time. If the first and second acts were engaging and aesthetic labyrinths, the third act is where X marks the spot. We’ve found the treasure. […]

The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 8: The Second Half of the Second Act

Now that we’ve passed the midpoint, things are starting to heat up in our story. The second half of the second act is where your plot really starts popping. Your main character caps the dramatic event at the midpoint with his decision to stop reacting and start acting. Almost always, this is born of a personal revelation, even […]

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 […]