Critique Group

Survey Results and Plotting Stories

In Craft, Natasha Hanova on May 29, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Last week, I wrote about the difference between plotters and pantsers. Quick recap: pantsers tend to let their stories unfold in an organic way. Plotters tend to use outlines and notes when writing. I also did a quick survey to find out how many Novel Clique blog readers are plotters, pantsers, or both.

Well, the results are in:

Plotter = 33.33%
Pantser = 0%
Mix = 67.67%

Sounds like most of you lean toward using both methods. For those of you who like to plot, let’s take a closer look at the three act story structure.


ACT I – The inciting incident which throws your character’s world into chaos. This isn’t literal. It’s more of a metaphorical world. If a character’s job is everything to him, something needs to threaten his job. If the MC most values family, threaten her family. Put in jeopardy the one thing your character wants most. Keep in mind, there’s no sub-plotting in Act I.

Character – the people in your story.
Flaws make characters more interesting, complex. Physical, mental, emotional it doesn’t matter, give your characters something to deal with.

Conflict – the struggle between two forces.
Whether conflict is internal, external or even a mixture of the two, a good story starts with a strong, interesting action which draws a reader in and hooks them. If you begin with something that complicates your main characters life, and then complicate it even more, it’s a great way to accomplish this. It’s taking a simple idea and exaggerating it to the extreme. Just think of the car rental episode of Seinfeld. Classic case of a simple idea, complicated and exaggerated to the extreme.

Crucible – the thing which would make your character do something they usually wouldn’t do.
In other words, the thing which makes them leave safety, and head toward danger. What would your character do to save her family or get that job promotion?

ACT II – This is a time when major events that change everything unfold. Where you move beyond threatening the job or family and start really complicating things for your characters. This is also where you weave subplots.

Complication – the thing(s) which stand in the way of the main character achieving goal.
These compound and push the character away from goal.

Subplot – the supporting side story for the main plot.
Avoid dull linear writing and try to limit subplots to one or two. Subplots must emanate from the main plot and help resolve it.

ACT III – The incidents from ACT I and ACT II are resolved in climax. Don’t carry the subplot past the mark on the “main plot” line (the tiny line above “Conclusion” in the diagram above).

Crisis – the place where all complications meet.
I think of this as the story climax. This is the turning point in the plot after which nothing will be the same for your main character.

Conclusion – the denouement.
This is what happens after the conflict resolution, or in other words the conclusion of the story. All loose ends should be resolved by this point.

Are you already familiar with the three act structure? How do your stories fit within this template?

Happy Reading and Writing!


p.s. If you have a chance, please stop by my blog ( this Thursday (5/30). I’m posting a few details about the Virtual Book Release Party for Edge of Truth! Hope you’ll be able to join the fun.

  1. […] If you participated in the Plotter vs Panster poll (excuse the alliteration) last week, the results are in, and I also posted information story structure. Find it here. […]

  2. […] If you participated in the Plotter vs Panster poll (excuse the alliteration) last week, the results are in, and I also posted information story structure. Find it here. […]

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