="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" viewBox="0 0 512 512">

Chapter 2: Considering Structure

Common Plot Structures

Melissa Ford Lucken

There are several common plotting methods or techniques that authors use when crafting novels. These methods provide frameworks and guidelines to help organize the story, create tension, and engage readers. Here are a few popular plotting methods for novels:

Three-Act Structure: The three-act structure, commonly used in storytelling across various mediums, divides a novel into three distinct acts: setup, confrontation, and resolution. It follows a linear progression of introducing characters and the setting, developing conflicts and challenges, and concluding with a resolution. This structure helps maintain a balanced narrative arc.

Five-Act Structure: The five-act structure expands on the three-act structure by further dividing the narrative into five acts. It provides more opportunities for rising tension, plot twists, and character development. This structure is often used in epic novels or stories with complex plotlines.

Hero’s Journey: The hero’s journey, as mentioned earlier, is a narrative pattern that outlines the protagonist’s transformative quest. It involves stages such as the call to adventure, tests and challenges, and a final confrontation. This structure is particularly effective for character-driven stories and epic adventures.

Freytag’s Pyramid: Freytag’s Pyramid is a plot structure that resembles a pyramid or triangle. It includes five stages: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement. This structure emphasizes the gradual build-up of tension, leading to a peak at the climax and a resolution in the final stages.

Save the Cat! Beat Sheet: The Save the Cat! Beat Sheet, derived from the Save the Cat! structure used in screenwriting, provides specific beats or story moments that ensure engaging storytelling. It outlines key beats such as the opening image, catalyst, midpoint, all is lost, and finale. This method helps authors create well-defined story beats and maintain reader interest.

Various additional outlining techniques, such as the Snowflake Method or the Eight-Point Story Arc, help authors plan and structure their novels. These methods involve creating a detailed outline that covers major plot points, character arcs, and subplots. Outlining allows for better organization and a clear roadmap for the story.

It’s important to note that these plotting methods are not rigid rules but rather tools that authors can adapt and modify to suit their unique stories and writing styles. Writers often combine or customize these techniques to best serve their narrative goals.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

Common Plot Structures by Melissa Ford Lucken is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book