Tuesday, September 25, 2012

7 Point Plot System


In case you haven't seen these yet, Dan Wells, author of "I Am Not a Serial Killer," has a great Youtube series on his 7 Point Plot System. If you're planning your NaNoWriMo novel now, or if you've pantsed a novel and need to refine the structure, this series can help a lot.

Wells reminds us that this plot system is only a skeleton, and that we also need the following to flesh it out: round characters, rich environments, try/fail cycles, and subplots. Some books start with an "Ice Monster Prologue," which is discussed in Part 4 of the series.

I'll summarize Wells' points here, and then link to all five videos below. Here is his seven point plot system:

  1. Hook--Or story idea. Under #7, Resolution, it's mentioned that if we know our story ending ahead of time we can then work backward to determine our opening. 
  2. Plot Turn 1--This can be described as the call to adventure, or the first doorway of no return. This plot turn introduces conflict, and changes our character's world.
  3. Pinch 1--A pinch is designed to apply pressure to our character. It forces the character to act, and sometimes introduces the villain.
  4. Mid Point--This is when our character moves from reaction to action.
  5. Pinch 2--Applies more pressure, and makes our character's situation seem even worse. Their plans fail, and everything goes wrong. At this point, it seems the bad guys have won.
  6. Plot Turn 2--This carries our story from the mid point to the end. Wells calls this a "The Power is in You!" moment, or "grasping victory from the jaws of defeat." Our character gets the last piece they need to solve their problem.
  7. Resolution--This is how our story will end, and everything leads to this moment. Once we know our resolution, we can then start our story in the opposite state. This defines our character arc.
It's cool how Wells applies the same structure to fantasy, romance, tragedy, and horror.

Do you recognize these plot points in your own work, or in your favorite books or movies? Does this help you define what should happen, and when? Do you have any plotting tips you'd like to share?


28 comments:

  1. Great post, Julie! I love how simple Dan Wells makes this. It's essentially the same as a Three Act structure (hero's journey) but he boils it down to the essential elements and provides great explanations. Thanks so much for sharing this!

    Have a great week.

    Martina

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    1. Thanks, Martina. It really is the same type of system, isn't it? It's a good reminder for me to see what should happen when and where :)

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  2. Niiiice, and good timing with NaNo coming up. I will definitely be taking a look at this 7-point plot thingy for my NaNo project. I could use a bit of structure ;)

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    1. 7-point plot thingy!!! I think that's the perfect way to describe it. Good luck plotting your NaNo novel!

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  3. I like this so much because of it's simplicity. Thanks, Julie.
    Karen

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    1. Karen, me too. It reminds me where in the novel I need to add pressure to the mc.

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  4. This is awesome! Thanks so much for sharing! I'm going through a rough patch with my WIP and will try to apply this to see if I can get back on track :)

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    1. Jess, I hope it helps you out! I really like the way he dissected familiar books, and showed us what's what. It made me see things differently, for sure. Good luck to you!

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  5. Similar to the fifteen beats except shorter.
    And I think I have about a dozen pinch moments in my latest manuscript.

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    1. Alex, I haven't read about the fifteen beats. I'll have to check that out!

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  6. I like that! It's like most plot structure techniques but this is so succinct. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks, Larua! I really liked it, too. Especially when applied to some of my favorite stories.

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  7. Great summary! I used the Save the Cat method which has 15 points, but the gist of it all is very similar. :)

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    1. You know, I'm getting the feeling I need to read Save the Cat! It sounds like there's some great lessons in there. Thank you :)

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  8. This is very similar to Story Engineering. It's great to start with, or even just check what you've already done!

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    1. Oooh, Story Engineering! Nice to know this method is similar. I know you found Story Engineering really helpful.

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  9. That's awesome! As a pantster, it's nice to see my story pretty much fits that! :)

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    1. Jemi, that's cool that your pantsed story lines up pretty good with these plot points. Nice going!

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  10. So I had a problem plotting. I had great concepts, a strong voice, and realistic characters--non of which mattered w/ no plot! I started breaking my favorite books down to these plot points, and the next time I was ready to query I broke my story into the same plot points. That became my first published piece.

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  11. I watched these videos a while back and found them really helpful! I enjoy plotting and I like his technique.

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  12. I love Dan Wells. :) And not just because of these awesome videos. I've met him several times (he lives near me--or did, before moving to Germany--so we tend to go to all the same writing conferences), and he was even my critique group instructor at one of the conferences. His books show just how awesome his grasp of plotting is. I use this basic structure of plotting all the time now!

    Also, he's part of the Writing Excuses podcast, and I've learned SO much about writing from it!

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  13. Seems like a good system, I will have to try it and see if it fits into my writing efforts. I always love learning new things. Thanks for this!

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  14. Nice to know I got it right the first time around. I just hope I can repeat it. Funny though, I have all these great books on craft yet I rely on my intuition to guide me through plotting a story. But when it's done, I like to use these types of guides as check-off lists. Thanks for sharing, Julie!

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  15. I love this. I wish the Bourne Legacy producers had read this. The movie was a "we might have a problem so we must shut down the program."

    Then they killed all the agents involved with ease. But two survived, and they are tracked while searching for drugs to survive. A 15 minute chase scene. Someone helps them and the float off into the sunset.

    I love to learn from books and movies, but this was one to learn what not to do. I never realized how important these points are. But after watching the movie, I tried to figure out why is was ... flat. And this was it.

    Yes writers... follow these points.

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  16. Great post, Julie! :) Thank you for sharing!

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  17. What a wonderful way to think about structure! I love it, and will definitely need to see those videos. I'm always looking for new info on plotting.

    Now, if you had anything to help with the revision part of the process, I'd be into that! :-D

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  18. My plot roughly follows this, except with a 14 point structure. I like to take my time to make sure the ending falls neatly into place.

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