Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Story Structure and Plot (links to helpful sites)

Tip of the Day: outlining can be your friend in the long run!

If you were to check out one of my notebooks or randomly scan my desk, you'd find out that I'm a huge fan of lists. So it's no wonder that when I'm writing or outlining a new book that I like to find a variety of lists to help in the process: from how to structure a novel to important character attributes to include.

Example of Three-Act Structure from www.elementsofcinema.com
Story structure and plot lists, however, are some of my favorite lists to find. Because using one can help you tremendously with outlining your novel. But wading through them can be difficult because there's many different types of suggestions out there: from the three-act structure to the four-act structure and everything in between. So I thought I would make a list (of course, how could I have a blog post about making lists without making a list!) of a few places on the internet to find various story structure or plot lists.

  1. Three-Act Structure: a good summary of this can be found on the Elements of Cinema page here. Basically when used to structure a novel (or screenplay--as it's most well known for) you'd have three-acts: set-up, confrontation, and resolution. If you want the three-act structure outlined in relation to novels, here is a good link.
  2. Blake Snyder's "Save the Cat" Beat sheet: here's an excellent summary of the beat sheet that basically breaks the three-act structure up into bite-sized sections, from having an opening image, stating the theme, the b story, and a ton more.
  3. Four-Act Structure: Diana Peterfreund did a nice summary awhile ago on why she likes the four-act structure. She outlined the four acts as:
    Act One: Ordinary world and inciting incident
    Act Two: Complications leading to a crisis.
    Act Three: Consequences of that crisis leading to a climax.
    Act Four: Climax and resolution.  
  4. Five-Act Structure: here's a good description on bubblecow.net of the five-act structure. Basically the five acts are exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and then the resolution.
    Example of Five-Act structure (or the Freytag Pyramid) from bubblecow.net
  5. The Snowflake Method: here is an article about that on advancedfictionwriting.com. This is more of a process than how to structure a novel. But you go through 10 steps starting with creating a one-sentence summary of your novel and then ending with writing the first draft.
And if you just want a summary of different ways to plot a novel Darcy Pattison lists 9 ways to plot a novel on her website.

Any other lists or plot/structure outlines that you use? I'd love to hear about them!

--Emily, Miss Querylicious


G.M. said...

Very interesting to see the sequence of the chapters in graphs. My novel follow the first graph, where the climax (your call it crisis) in the third act. But I had a discussion with a friend editor who read my manuscript. She said that the climax should come near the end and then you can have one chapter to close the story. In my novel after the climax there are 4 more chapters to wind the story slowly. So, I wonder which approach is better. I came to your blog via the MiG Writers and it's a great blog.

Kate Fall said...

Hi Giora! I think it depends. Four chapters seems like a long time to wrap things up, but if that's what it takes, it does. I've never heard of a hard and fast rule, and personally I don't mind a longer wrap-up to find out what happened to the secondary characters. The climax itself can spread over a few chapters, too. Unfortunately, the time-tested method is to write it both ways (short ending or longer ending) and see which one you and your beta readers like better. I always wish there was a way around that!