The Seven Point System:
Dan Wells on Story Structure
One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked.
“Where do you want to go?” was his response.
“I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.”
I have been reviewing Dan Wells lecture on Story Structure. We found this extremely useful when we finally figured out that we really couldn’t write a good book without knowing what we wanted to happen in it. Dan explains the Seven Point System. While I consider these “guidelines”, they serve as a good inspiration for what should happen in the book.
Hook – This isn’t what most people consider a hook. This is the starting state for your MC (and possibly other characters).
Plot Turn 1 – The “hook” by most writer’s account. This is where something happens that irrevocably sets the story in motion. Take the characters from their starting state and begins the movement to the end state.
Pinch 1 – Apply pressure, force the characters to action, maybe introduce the villain.
Midpoint – The point where the character moves from reaction to action.
Pinch 2 – Apply more pressure until the situation seems hopeless. Plans fail, people die, it looks like the bad guys are going to win. This is the jaws of defeat from which your hero will be snatching victory. Make sure the teeth are sharp.
Plot Turn 2 – The characters find/learn/make the choice that gives them what they need to move to the resolution. Grasp victory from the jaws of defeat. “Use the force, Luke”
Resolution – The climax. Not the falling action (last chapters), but the peak. This is the ending state for your MC (and possibly other characters).
The important thing here is that there should be rising and falling action. You need to build tension (a bit of a problem for us in some sections of Dig). Ideally, characters should grow.
Then he takes this same system and starts applying it to sub-plots, character arcs, etc. They don’t need all seven points, but they do need starting and ending states and rising and falling action as we move through them.