What does the resolution of your story look like? Don’t know? How about your main character, what does he look like at the end? I don’t necessarily mean look, like in terms of appearance, but rather in terms of values, morals, and virtues.
In the Seven Point Story Structure inspired by Dan Wells, we will look at your story and map out what it needs at each point to build its structure. This model differs, though, from most story structure models in the fact that we start at the end before we start planning the beginning. Which brings me back to the first question I asked: “What does your ending look like?”
This post is Part 1 in a series entitled Seven Points to Structure Your Story.
Seven Points of Story Structure
Don’t worry if you don’t know what all those points mean or how they fit within your story structure. We will go over each one and I will give examples from a masterful piece of fiction of what it looks like when applied properly.
Building a Story
I am going to take for granted the fact that you, being the smart intelligent writer that you are, already have the main idea of the story in mind. If not, here is a short list of criteria you need set before you can fully take advantage of the Seven-Point System. Once you know this criteria, start at the end.
- Who are the characters?
- What is the setting?
- What is the major conflict?
Before we dive into looking at the ending (I promise we will get there), let’s talk about why starting from the ending can be beneficial. When we look at the ending of our story, we can see a few things. Obviously the ending but also our character and how he is different. Our character is probably not the same as he was at the beginning of our story before being called to his adventure and that in the writing world is character arc.
Character arc provides the reader momentum while they read. If the character is the same at the end of your novel as he was at the beginning then what was the point of all the stuff in the middle? More than likely, if your character doesn’t provide momentum through changing or developing, your reader might not buy into them or your story and that can have devastating consequences when trying to hook readers.
For example, if we look at the end of Philosopher’s Stone (book one of the Harry Potter series) we see young Harry Potter, the brave wizard, going up against his evil dark arts professor–Professor Quirrel. We also see a Harry Potter that was willing to lay down his life for his friends no matter the cost. When we look at the ending, we see the Harry Potter now, not the Harry Potter when the book began. Now for obvious reasons, Harry could not be those things in the beginning, well because, he was a baby when first introduced. However, fast forward to the Harry Potter who lives under the stairs, mistreated by his aunt and uncle, timid, and shy. Now we can see some character arc, now we can see both sides of the spectrum and that is how it helps to plan our novel.
For example, if we look at our character at the end of our novel, is he brave, courageous, or willing to die for his cause? Now look at the beginning of your novel. How does he look like there? Maybe he is shy, timid, bullied or mistreated like poor Harry Potter. Once you know what your character looks like at both the beginning and end, you can ask, “What needs to happen in the middle of those two points to get him there?”
Can you see the power of just knowing what your character looks like at the beginning and the end of your novel? If your character is shy in the beginning and brave at the end, what kind of conflict can you throw at him in the middle to get him there? Now the brain can start working through some planning and plotting knowing that in order to get to point Z he, your character, has to go from B to Y first.
Characters are not the only thing this works with when it comes to planning the ending first. Maybe your novel is about painting a vivid world or setting in which all these interesting creatures live and interact but at the end of your novel it is destroyed or on the brink of destruction. How does your world look in the beginning? What needs to take place (conflict) in order to get it to the ending you are envisioning?
You don’t need to have the ending completely set in stone but a good understanding of the resolution, characters, and story line will only help when we start planning the beginning.
- Everything in your story leads to this point.
- What is your story about? Where is your story going?
- Make sure you know what kind of resolution you want.
Harry Potter Example:
Harry defeats Voldemort (SPOILER!)
If we zoom out and look at this story structure model from a greater distance, we can see not only the ability to apply character arc by utilizing each point but also story arc since the set points in the structure model move the story along from the beginning to its natural conclusion.
In the Beginning
If we have an idea of the ending, we can start at the beginning and lay some solid groundwork that will take us through the middle and into the big ending you envisioned earlier. The other six points of this seven-point model will aid in fleshing out the structure and development needed in order to reach this climax.
Next Week: The Hook