Start Dissecting Plots
Dan Wells used to have a series of videos up on YouTube where he talked about plots and story arcs. He said honestly that he got it from the Star Trek RPG Narrator’s Guide. You can find that book on Scribd.com as a PDF. Somebody scanned pages wholesale, so it’s a 150 Meg download.
The data he borrowed starts about page 51, and explains the 7 points that are needed to write a story.
Your ask the what-if question. That assumes a protagonist and it assumes an antagonist or the villain. There is always a conflict of some type.
From there the RPG Narrator’s Guide says to go to the end and lay out the outcome of this whole thing. Then you go to the beginning and your hero will be in the opposite situation. Dan Wells, on his video, used Harry Potter as an example: he winds up as a boy wizard at the end, but he starts off living under the stairs in some Muggle’s home, about as low as you can get.
So you have your ending and have your beginning. Then you go to the middle and ask yourself, “What’s the change that has to happen?” The change is usually where the hero gets enough trials and lessons to become proactive. He’s gotten enough solutions and resources where he can start taking the chase to the villain instead of being chased by the villain the whole time.
Between the beginning and the middle is a plot turn. And this plot turn is where they decide to take the challenge, they decide to go on the journey.
The second plot turn is halfway between the midpoint and the end, or somewhere in there, where the hero is really in a very bad situation, around where your final confrontation happens and he beats the living snot out of the villain (as opposed to the villain beating the snot out of him, as he has been for the rest of the story to this point.)
In between the midpoint and the two plot turns are pinch points. These points are where concentrated effort happens in order to move the plot forward. These usually involve a lot of the characters all going into the same location in one episode and all reacting as some sort of action. The result usually puts the protagonist into another bad situation, but it moves the plot forward.
Because the general theory to the three-act structure is Start-Middle-End. The second act is twice as long as other two parts, so it can really be split in two and then you have your Four Act structure.
And that’s what you see on TV in between the commercials.
A guy who’s worked out the basics this is Dan Harmon and his Story Circle.
The 7-point system aligns to the Story Circle, which aligns to the Hero’s Journey, and aligns to Save The Cat beat system, and so on.
They all follow the same cycles. The Story Circle is one which starts making sense out of everything. In all my research, I haven’t seen any description of how to plot which doesn’t follow the same basic storyline, just different in their ways of doing it. Find the one which works best for you, then use it.
Another effective way is to actually watch movies, especially TV shows. I recommend you get DVD sets where the series has been on TV for several years and kept going and going and going. This will give you the longer story arcs which hold the whole story together.
And that’s what you’re ideally writing. Because writing in series and serials is the way you can enable your readers to find your other works and stay tuned into them.
You can take apart these stories and split them into their four parts. Put them into their Story Cycle and work out all the characters in them. Grid these out and take notes. Then you’ll have a working story that you can then rework and use as a base to develop your own story with different characters, different settings, and so on. You don’t just copy. You recombine and reinvent the plot enough to keep it interesting. Romeo and Juliet has been redone dozens of times. The most successful was West Side Story.
The main thing is to start studying these shows as stories. Learn to expect what’s going to happen because you know where the story is going to go. You know where the plot turns have to be, and all the parts.
Now you can write all the fiction stories you want.
Next: Lesson 5 – Learn to Speak Your Book to Life