Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Act 1 - My Formula

So you decided to write a book. Now you can join me as we descend to the center of the earth in a downward spiral of depression and despair.  Just kidding (not really).

The hardest thing for me is the actual structure of the novel. What goes where? There needs to be a beginning, middle and an end but where exactly do those points start and stop. Over the last few years I have taken a few classes, read over a dozen "how to books", surfed about a million blogs and have compiled a list of what has gotten me to where I am at today. 

There are three main sources I used to complete act one. They are......(and in no particular order)

1. The Plot Whisperer  A blog where you can find links to a series of YouTube videos that break down the essentials to a complete plot. The videos are very well done and entertaining. Get your pen and paper handy to take plenty of notes for this is a guide that will take you from the beginning to the end and everything in between. 

2. Story Engineering A book by Larry Brooks. There is to much information in this book for me to tell you about. I will tell you one thing though, every single person I know that has read this book (that would be four people plus myself) found it amazing. 

3. A writers boot camp class I took from author Carolyn J Rose. Carolyn is no longer teaching this class but I have included what she taught us about the hero's journey.

So here it is, the guide line/check list I created for myself to complete act 1...

-Act one should be about 25% of the story. There should be NO back story in act one.

-Open the story at hero low point. We need to get a sense of inner demons.

-Set the first hook in the opening scene within the first 3 or 4 sentences.

-Introduce main character within first 2 scenes (The hero at home or in their normal life)

-The "hook" should be within the first 20 pages or 5000 words. (The hero's call to adventure)

-The mission, set up plot by creating stakes, empathy and foreshadow conflict. (The hero refuses the call then meets mentor)

-Set up, enticing incident (the hero commits to adventure)

-Establish stakes that happen to hero after part 1. Despite tension plot does not begin to roll till the end of act one.

-End of act one hero has turning point and begins new life.

Notes I remind myself of

-Characters must have over all goal. They need to be meaningful and achievable.
-Each scene furthers the plot. (Need an example? Watch True Blood and Sons of Anarchy. Every character and every scene furthers the plot. Nothing happens without a reason.)
-Every character needs a flaw or fear.
-Ground reader as soon as possible (who's involved,where are we, what's going on)
-Invoke feelings.

I am not saying I am an expert or that this is the one and only way to complete your first act. This is just the resources I have used and wanted to pass it along.


  1. Kriston - Thanks for the check list on what we need to get our stories up and running. Great information!


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