Story structure in action

This entry is part 17 of 24 in the series The plot thickens (Mwahahaha)

by C. Michelle Jefferies

We’ve been talking about Story Structure according to Larry Brooks’ formula. There are many single elements that, combined, make a solid structure. These include: concept, theme, the four parts of story (introduction, reactive stage, proactive stage, and the resolution), and the five points in the story that move the plot along (plot point #1, pinch point #1, mid-point, pinch point #2, all is lost moment, and plot point #2).

What I have been asked to do today is illustrate how I have used all of these individual points to make a story with a solid structure in my own work. My next post will deal with how the Hero’s Journey can be used to augment the character arc.

The first thing we need to address is Concept, as in “what is the story about?” In two words, my story concept is about second chances. Theme, on the other hand, is more detailed. My theme is: pursuing their dreams and finding happiness by making up one’s mind and taking action.

Once we have concept and theme we can concentrate on the parts and points in the story. To give you an example that flows well, I will be using both the parts and points in the order they are supposed to be in, rather than addressing them separately.

Part one: Introduction—we see the main character, who is at a fancy restaurant waiting for her date. She is dressed to the nines, expecting this to be the dinner when he proposes. Instead of proposing, he tells her it’s over—that there’s another girl. She goes home devastated and publicly humiliated. We see her life in the after effects of that action. We introduce theme and set things in action by “calling the MC to action”, or reaction on her part. However, that isn’t the first plot point. Although the event is important, it comes too soon, and doesn’t deal directly with the main plotline of the book.

Next, we experience plot point #1the MC is at work and her friend who just happens to be a guy talks her into going out with his brother. This is where the MC can either accept or decline. However, she will accept the “blind date” because the story doesn’t move forward if she chooses not to. Plot point #1 brings us to the second part of the book.

Part two: Reactive stage—this is where the MC is going to be reacting to the first plot point and in my case the introduction of the theme. The MC is feeling confused. She thought for sure that the ex was “the one” and is feeling less than pretty and very imperfect—all reactions to the theme. She has a good time with the brother and that leaves her feeling confused too, wondering if her feelings for the ex weren’t true and whether she knows what she is thinking at all.

Pinch point #1 is where the reader is reminded of the plot and the opposing forces. The MC sees the ex with the new girl. It hurts more then she thought it would. Her first line of defense is her guy friend. He comforts her and makes her feel better.

The Mid-point is when things change. This point is often a place where the writer reveals information to the reader that opens up whole new possibilities. Sometimes the reader knows something that the MC doesn’t even know. My MC finds that she has feelings for both of the brothers. The guy friend finds that he has feelings for the MC too and hates that he has introduced her to his brother. By his “code,” he should back off and let the older brother have his chance with her. This “reaction” of both the MC and the guy leads us to part three.

Part three: Proactive stage—now the MC has moved from reacting to plot point #1 to being proactive and starting to do things to remedy the situation. My MC is watching both guys carefully and assessing her feeling for each of them. She makes opportunities to talk with the friend while still dating the brother.

Pinch point #2—Another crisis point in the story, edging up the pace and arc. The MC sees her friend with another girl and her jealousy flares.

Often times at this point, Brooks suggests that there is a “lull moment” where the characters think all is lost and there is no hope. This would be the MC going home eating a pint of ice cream and crying while watching some sappy love movies.

Plot point #2 comes at about [3/4s or] 4/5s of the way through the book. This is the huge crisis moment, the event that changes everything. After this point in time, no new characters or information may be allowed into the story. The MC is at Thanksgiving with the brother and has had a heated moment with the friend, who she thought wasn’t interested. The spark is still there and it is stronger. The brother proposes and she has to make a decision—to live a relatively happy life with a good guy, or take a chance with the friend and truly love someone. She says no and runs. The friend follows her at the brother’s request, oblivious to the attraction between them.

Part four, resolution—plot point #2 brings us massive change in the MC’s life. Now that everything has changed for my MC, she makes decisions that bring about resolution. She confesses her feelings and they finally kiss. They live happily ever after, or at least until the book ends.

What do you think? Does seeing the points of the story illustrated make the application a little clearer? How would you apply the structure to a romance?

About the author
C. Michelle Jefferies practically grew up in a library. When she was ten, she realized she wanted to write stories like the science fiction books she loved to read. A mother of six, she put her writing on the back burner while she focused on raising her young children. When her children were old enough for her to spend a few hours on the computer, without them burning the house down, she returned to writing and hasn’t stopped since. She blogs at My life in a laptop.

Photo credits: house frame—Robin Frousheger; concrete house—Concrete Forms

Series NavigationOverview of Larry Brooks’s Story StructureThe Hero’s Journey with Story Structure

8 thoughts on “Story structure in action”

  1. Great explanation and application, Michelle. My favorite stories are the ones where the “all is lost” moment reaches out to the reader so much that she can’t figure out how any of the problems could be resolved, but they do become resolved and in a believable way.

  2. Michelle…you are so awesome! All of us aspiring writers can learn so much from you! Thanks for everything!

  3. Thanks guys, I love this formula. I think it can work for any genre. I have tried it with all fo the genres I dabble in.

    Michelle

  4. Michelle!
    Wow! You are so kindly generous in sharing this wonderful insight! Thank you very much–I will have to get back to it on a later time–my 4 year old just woke up and wants me to read him The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss! lol
    take care!
    Elizabeth
    đŸ™‚

  5. Thank you for this post. I have recently started using Larry Brook’s fabulous story structure ideas to plot my sci-fi novel and the result has been nothing short of revolutionary. However, I was having trouble applying it to my romance WIP. Thanks for laying it out.

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