This is based on the theory presented in Robert McKee’s Story. It is really written for the film industry but is also very useful for fiction writers. I suggest you read the whole book and then go back and reread Chapter 14. The shape he suggests can be condensed into:
- Growing complexities 1, 2, 3…
- A short story will probably only have three growing complexities. A novel will have more and will also include sub-plots – more about those later.
- Note the climax is the gap between the crisis point and the resolution. This is where the car chase tends to be and in commercial literature one more awful thing will happen just before the resolution.
- The climax usually happens somewhere between 2/3 and 4/5 of the way through the story.
- The resolution often lets a story down – it may be too melodramatic, unbelievable or a bit of a damp squib. This happens if you’ve not really worked out what your story is about before you start.
- Some writers plot in detail, others – ‘pansters’ – just put their characters together and see what happens. Stephen King is a panster but his plots are technically perfect. If you’re a panster you might use the template above for editing your work rather than creating it.
- Reread a story that you like and work out if this plot shape fits the story.
- Use the template to write a brief bullet-pointed outline for your story.