Plotting the Standard Story Structure

Posted November 7, 2012 by Julie in writing / 0 Comments

Standard Story Structure
Standard Story Structure – you can find this explained in detail in The Plot Whisperer or Story Engineering.

I haven’t blogged in a few days, but I have been writing.  I’m not making 2500 words a day, but close.  I write in scenes and sometimes a scene is just over and I’m not in the mood to start a whole new one just to make word count.  Besides, I have to have the scene mapped out before I can write it.  I never just make shit up as I go.

I’m also more than 50,000 words into this book, 53,588 to be exact, and that means that I’m past the critical mid-point of the novel.  And I won’t be sharing any more scenes.  Everything after this point is a deliberate action that will lead to the end.  This is how the standard story structure works.  And although I haven’t done one for this book in more than a month, I typically make between five and twenty plot planners as I move through the book to make sure I get all the proper points of the story plotted correctly.

Stories have an anatomy – they have a beginning, a middle, and an end and each of these things have specific characteristics.

The beginning must show our MC in their normal world. Whatever they’re doing in the beginning should not be what they’re doing in the end.  This is where you can add fluff and make lots of points and wax poetically about all kinds of shit.

But once you get to the 25% point in the novel, which is 25,000 words in a 100,000 word novel, your MC must move into a new world.  Something unfamiliar and new.  It might be a real world, it might be a change of opinion, it might be something very subtle – but it must happen.  This is the first plot point.  Something changes.

In Clutch we find Junco in the RR, standing on a dirt road, making a decision. The first 25% of the novel she’s pulled back and forth between Aren and Tier, but finally, at almost exactly the 25% point, she makes a conscious decision. This is where the journey starts.

The middle, where I am in Range, is a time to totally embrace the decision made earlier.  Most of the time there is a lot more information available at the middle, things that might make your MC want to quit or whatever. But at the 50% mark, they must commit to see things through.  One way or another.

In Clutch, 50% comes just as Tier and Junco leave the underground tunnels and go to the cabin. Everything changes in this moment.  Junco reassert her control over her own life.

In Range, the 50% marks a few things, but mostly she is put on the spot.  Forced to either submit or rebel. And this is Junco, so which do you think she does?

After the major plot point in the middle, the rest of the book should rise in tension until you reach the climax at the end – but before the climax comes the crisis.  At the crisis something overtakes our heroine.

At least that’s how it normally works in a standalone novel.  In Clutch, this is how it worked.  Something overpowering jolts Junco from her stupor at the 75% mark and then every word leads to the end.

But Range is the fourth book in a five book series.  There are fewer rules here because really, this book is like a crisis in and of itself.  The entire book is the peak of rising action that turns Junco on her head and eventually lead to the final end in the last book.

Think of the entire five book series as one long plot – Clutch is Junco’s old world, Fledge is the crossover into the new world, Flight is the middle – the re-commitment to the goal, and Range is the crisis. This whole book is Junco’s existential crisis.  It challenges everything she thought was true.

This is what Range is about.  And the titles all fit – Clutch is the baby bird in the nest, Fledge is learning to fly, Flight is leaving the nest, and Range is spreading your wings and entering the world on your own.  How far do you range? How far away from home can you go before you get lost?

The last book is called Return because our baby bird comes full circle. She’s completed her transformation and something is coming home all right. Something that makes Inanna and Lucan look like sweet little babies.

I won’t be adding scenes to the blog anymore, not until the book is published, but I’ll give you my favorite snippet from the last 5,000 words or so.  Junco is fantastic – she’s cunning and ruthless from this point on, and this snippet sums it all up nicely.

I think I love Irin, even though she’s a total bitch.  I think I love her.

Lili, on the other hand, is standing there, her hands on her hips, her mouth in a contorted scowl, and her eyes blazing. “Lucan is not happy with you.  At all.”

I flip her off.  “You can tell Lucan I said that. OK?”

Junco’s favorite word summed up in a single gesture.

I think I love her.

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