by John Peragine
Last month, I shared seven plot strategies, and received many responses that people had not heard of a number of them. With the beginning of the year fast approaching, many of you will be ready to start your new book for 2021. Here are seven more structures to choose from. There are many more out there, but these seven are a good place to start.
Dan Harmon the creator of the television show Community. He has developed a method that is sometimes known as ‘The Embryo,’ ‘The Dan Harmon Story Circle,’ or just ‘The Story Circle.’ For more information check out this link. It is a variation of the hero’s journey.
This is a great structure for romance novels. If you want a head start, here is a link to a free template for Scrivener that is detailed.
Manga is very popular these days and here is a formula to help you write most any plot within this genre. Here is a link to explanations and variations to the Shonen Battle plot.
This is a great method when you are started with a kernel of an idea and want to build a plot from it. It works with most genres. Here is a good explanation of the Snowflake method.
This can be found in Libby’s book of the same name. It begins with a character flaw and adds to it to make the core of your story. Here is a great outline you can use to begin.
Victor Piñeiro uses a three-act structure to create screenplays. Here is a Slideshare that explains the structure and elements of his structure.
This is another three-act structure that is made up of five points. When plotted on a graph, they look like the letter ‘W’. Check it out here.
The great thing about these plot structures is that they are tried and true but, at the same, flexible. You can use these structures to get your story started and then add your own twists and turns as your narrative calls for. These structures are supposed to be supportive rather than confining, so use them any way they make sense to you.
What is your favorite plot structure? Which ones, of the seven that I mentioned, have you tried?
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John Peragine has published 14 books and ghostwritten more than 100 others. He is a contributor for HuffPost, Reuters, and The Today Show. He covered the John Edwards trial exclusively for Bloomberg News and The New York Times. He has written for Wine Enthusiast, Grapevine Magazine, Realtor.com, WineMaker magazine, and Writer's Digest.
John began writing professionally in 2007, after working 13 years in social work and as the piccolo player for the Western Piedmont Symphony for over 25 years. Peragine is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. You can learn more about his books at JohnPeragineBooks.com.
His newest book, Max and the Spice Thieves, will be released on April 20, 2021. Click here for a free first chapter. (The new cover is below!)
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As an inveterate pantser, Appreciate all these, John. Thanks!
I like taking stories I have already written and try to see if they plot out- sort of reverse engineering.
I just hit 'the end' of my draft. I'll go back over it on my editing pass and see if I hit any of these structures. I kind of follow the 'throw bad stuff at the characters' system, and then resolve it all by the end.
Terry- I get that--- in my mind I am just watching the action and then transcribing it- it's like a movie and I get excited by the twists and turns as they happen.
These are great, John!
Of the seven listed, I've used a slight variation of the Circle, for a Hero's Journey.
I tend to lean toward Hero's Journey- it is the embedded LOTR reading as a kid I guess. I read them over and over. It's sometimes hard to watch movies with others because I am predicting what is going to happen next based on that structure. It is used A LOT in epic cinema over many different genres. This holiday season I have seen commercials actually playing on the Romance Plot structure- https://www.facebook.com/LumeDeodorant/videos/291301642146699/ It is worth a watch- it is brilliant.
Love these pithy little summaries, John--so helpful! And I really love how they illustrate that there's no one "right answer"; I don't believe in writing "rules" or dogma, and this illustrates how many roads can lead us to where we're going in story. I shared your last post in my editorial newsletter and will share this one too.
Thank you so much Tiffany. I hope in the new year to share other resources and tools for writers that are practical and easy to use.
Wow! Love some of these story structures. I write romance and see that I basically follow Gwen Hayes structure for romance beats, interweaving those through the Hero's Journey for my fantasy romance. Hayes structure is similar to Jami Gold's Romance Beat Sheets. She has an excellent chart that shows where approx in the story the beats should hit. You can enter your own word count and see where you stand. Here's her link https://jamigold.com/for-writers/worksheets-for-writers/
I hadn't seen that part of the tool, Barb. That's awesome! I always wonder if I'm "hitting my marks" correctly. 🙂
Thanks for sharing that Barb- I did mention Jami Gold's Romance beats in last months post- but this tool is brilliant. Thank you for sharing!!
I probably run closest to the W method. I can't write a story in a linear fashion so I've learned to just write all the scenes I know and then apply a combination of 3-act structure and the W model to smooth everything out. If I had to tick all these beats out beginning to end on the first run, I'd never finish anything!
Wow! John, they're all interesting. Thanks for sharing!
The Gwen Hayes Structure is along the lines of what I do. I also have some craft books which have similar structures.
Does it work well for you?
It does. It's pretty straightforward for what's needed in the romance genre.
Working backwards, the novel I'm currently querying falls in the W plot strategy, the one I'm currently editing would fall in the Dan Harmon strategy. As a pantser it's super interesting that there was somewhat of a methodology behind both --Thank you!