How Perfect Does Your Story’s Structural Timing Have to Be?

Structural timing is one of most prominent features of story structure. This positioning of a story’s important turning points is one of the keys for creating a story that feels right to audiences. As often as not, when something seems off about a story, the problem can be narrowed down to wonky structural timing. This […]

The Nanowrimo Guide to Outlining (How to Put Your Story Pieces Together)

3 Tips for Weaving Together Your Story’s Pieces (How to Outline for NaNoWriMo, Pt. 6)

Figuring out how to outline a novel is not a linear process. Particularly in the early brainstorming stages, outlining is not a simple progression from Step A to Step B. Your brain is going to be bouncing all over the place: Step A makes you realize something about Step Z, which makes you realize something about […]

Why Weak Plot Points Are Like the Bush-Gore Vote-Counting Debacle

Why Weak Plot Points Are Like the Bush-Gore Vote-Counting Debacle

This week’s video talks about the chief cause of weak plot points—and how you can make sure your story nails its crucial structural moments every time. Video Transcript: I want you to remember way back into ancient history. The year 2000. The 54th quadrennial United States presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. […]

are your plot points too weak

Are Your Plot Points Too Weak?

If you know anything at all about story structure, you know your book’s plot points are the tent poles holding up the entire circus of your story. Without them: yawn. But here’s the good news! Almost all stories end up with plot points—whether or not their authors even know what plot points are. People just […]

A Matter of Timing: Positioning Your Major Plot Points Within Your Story

When writers start talking about story structure, one of our biggest brow wrinklers is timing. Even after we’ve identified the major plot points in our stories (more on that in a sec), our work still isn’t finished. Where do we position these plot points within the plot? And how precisely do these moments have to […]

What Are Plot Points?

Today, I’m guest posting on Writing Forward, with a post called “What Are Plot Points?” Here’s an excerpt: Take moment to think of some of the most significant scenes in your favorite stories. More than likely, the scenes that pop to mind are those in which major events occur: Jane meets Mr. Rochester, the Titanic hits the iceberg, […]

if you keep in mind these five elements of story structure, you’re more likely to succeed than you’d be if you ignored them.

5 Elements of Story Structure

A few years ago, on the West Side of Manhattan, a rusting hulk of elevated railroad tracks metamorphosed into a promenade called High Line Park. Its transformation soon turned the Meatpacking District, through which it passes, into one of the hottest neighborhoods in New York. If you go visit the park, you’ll see a relatively new hotel called The Standard, […]

What’s the Most Important Moment in Your Character Arc?

Character and change. This is what story is all about. You take a handful of people and you force them onto a journey that will change them forever, usually for the better. This is character arc. If your characters are following a Positive Change Arc, they will start out less-than-fulfilled, perhaps even personally stunted. They […]

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. 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 […]