Behind every good story is a solid structure. Begin by brainstorming, write down your story ideas and then draw lines between each idea to show the relationships.

If there’s one thing that matters to your success as a writer, it’s story structure. This method creates stories that work every single time. Story structure is what allows you to quickly diagnose and remedy plot problems.

The three-act structure is a model used in fiction that divides a story into three parts, often called the Setup, the Confrontation, and the Resolution. This structure can be traced back to Aristotle’s Poetics, in which he defines it as one of the five key elements of tragedy.

According to Aristotle, each act should be bridged by a beat that sends the narrative in a different direction. He believed stories must be a chain of cause-and-effect beats: each scene must lead into what happens next and not be a standalone episode.

Act 1:

1. Opening – A compelling opening scene shows the current situation. Give at least a glimpse of what normal life is like for your main character.

2. Theme – A statement made by a character (normally not the protagonist) hints at the theme of the story.

3. Set-up – The protagonist is introduced in their everyday life, including aspirations and struggles.

4. Catalyst – An inciting incident forces the character into action.

5. Debate – The character questions what has happened and debates their next course of action.

Act 2:

6. 2nd act – The character accepts ‘the call to adventure’, leading them to leave their comfort zone and venture into a new world.

7. B Story –  Introduce new characters who will ultimately help or hinder the main character with the character in their new environment. This section should be entertaining with the character either thriving or floundering in their new situation.

9. Midpoint – The middle of the novel where the stakes are raised and the problem becomes clearer and more serious. our main character decides to stop simply reacting and start acting. The character is now fully engaged in the story.

10. Problems escalate for the main character – The situation is worsening or it falsely appears to be improving.

11. The low point in the main character’s journey – At this point, the story appears to be over as the main character feels that everything they have tried has failed and the situation is worse than ever before.

12. The main character hits rock bottom and feels helpless – The darkest hour, may be accompanied by a ‘whiff of death’. It’s the ‘dark before the dawn’, the moment before the character realizes the solution to their predicament and learns the theme of the story. It’s always darkest before the dawn. A wise writer leads the main character to a black moment, a time when despair wins the day and lies seem true. Formidable obstacles stand in the way of ever obtaining the desired goal, and all hope dies. Defeat seems eminent.

Act 3:

13. 3rd act– The character realizes what they need to do and they choose to try again.

14. Finale – On this attempt the character approaches the challenge bringing with them their new wisdom. They often fail at first and are pushed to their absolute limits, confronting their inner demons and changing their worldviews, before the problem is resolved. It’s at this point that the antagonist is overcome.

15. Final Image – An ‘after’ snapshot of the character’s life confirming their new status quo and how much they have changed since the beginning of the story.

Climax: Your main character experiences a black moment which leads to an epiphany, or personal revelation and a moment of release. The epiphany transforms your main character in a way that enables him to overcome a previously unconquerable obstacle and obtain either his desired or needed outcome which proves the story’s theme.

In literature, the epiphany moment comes after events force the protagonist to call upon previously untapped inner resources to make a crucial decision. The epiphany comes as an internal revelation of  a previously hidden truth about the character.


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“Linda has published sixteen books. She blogs about the publishing world, posts useful tips on the challenges a writer faces, including marketing and promoting your work, how to build your online platform, how to get reviews and how to self-publish. She has mentored many authors and edited their work.” 

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