You’ve got a great story idea you’re confident can become a page turner. This is the one that won’t leave you alone. Every time you think or speak of it, you embellish it. Now what? Plan your story like you’d plan a vacation — you… [Continue reading below]
You’ve got a great story idea you’re confident can become a page turner.
This is the one that won’t leave you alone.
Every time you think or speak of it, you embellish it.
Plan your story like you’d plan a vacation — you wouldn’t leave home without an idea of where you’re headed, what you’ll do when you get there, and how things will end (even we Pantsers need an idea where we’re headed).
So first map out your story arc — a blueprint to guide you as you write.
It is to your novel what the skeleton is to the body.
This framework is designed to help grab readers from the start and hold them till the end.
The good news is that there are many story structures to choose from.
Here are 7 that have worked for many bestselling authors, beginning with the one that revolutionized my career and has informed every novel I’ve written since the 1980s.
(Click on any structure for more info.)
You’ll find that these all have a lot in common, with certain elements labeled slightly differently.
So regardless which you decide to use, it will contain some version of this Classic Story Structure:
1. The Opener
Your singular goal here is to invest your reader in your main character as soon as possible and keep him turning the pages.
*I use the masculine pronoun inclusively to mean male or female characters and readers.
2. An Inciting Incident that Changes Everything
His dilemma must force him to act or suffer dire consequences.
I’m talking way more than frustration, embarrassment, regret, or even shame. Imagine the worst possible result so your lead character spends the rest of the story battling to prevent it.
3. A Series of Crises that Build Tension
These should be logical, not the result of chance or coincidence, and they should grow progressively worse.
Trying to fix things, your protagonist will build new muscles and gain skills that will serve to make him heroic in the end.
4. The Climax
Don’t mistake the climax for the end of your story.
Rather, this is the point at which your lead character must appear to have fatally failed and everything appears hopeless.
Some refer to this as the bleakest moment.
5. The End
Everything must be resolved to satisfyingly conclude your story.
Your main character must succeed — or fail, based on what he’s learned from the crises throughout.
Tie all loose ends.
Your reader must be left both satisfied and wanting more.
When you’re unsure how to develop your plot, try creating a story arc that can guide you as you create a novel that’ll have readers coming back for more.