The Importance of the Last Act in Story Structure

Seven days remaining in November means NaNoWriMo participants are nearing the end of their commitment to write 50,000 words this month. For some, that means their work-in-progress (WIP) is nearing the end of the story arc. Other writers may have many more words to scribble or ponder. Regardless of where you are, the importance of the last act in story structure, the last act of your WIP, is as big as the first act. The Beginning of the End People will disagree where the beginning of the end of a story is. But if you get the last point of Act IIB wrong, your story will end with a reader’s whimper instead of the reader’s satisfied sigh. The last plot point of Act II, often called the dark night of the soul, is when it appears all is lost. The antagonist has delivered a shocking blow, and the protagonist can’t see a way to go forward. She looks back at herself for a moment. She must face her flaw or fear—the lie she believes about herself or the world. Facing what she’s become, what she’s done, she’ll like or dislike. And in that mirror of self-reflection, she will see a […]

A Strong Midpoint Powers Your Novel

If you are doing Nanowrimo, you have reached the half-way point in the event. And perhaps the midpoint—or center of your story. Until now the antagonist has been making the moves, making the protagonist react. At the midpoint, things change and the story kicks into a higher gear. A strong midpoint powers your novel. The First Half of the Story Everything that happens in the first half of the story builds to the midpoint. You’ve shown your protagonist in her normal world. The reader gets to know her, know what she likes, what she doesn’t like, who she loves or doesn’t love. Most importantly, you’ve introduced the story problem and the antagonist. The antagonist drives the first half of the story. At about the 12.5% mark in the story, something the antagonist did or did not do pushed the protagonist to react. Her reaction led to the antagonist’s next step. And finally, the protagonist started trying to figure out what was happening, why it was happening, and how she could return to her normal life. She resists and reacts until the midpoint. Every step in the main plot of the first half of the story builds to the midpoint. Yes, I’ve […]

How to Use Goals & Obstacles to Fascinate Your Readers

Whether you write by the seat of your pants (a pantser) or you have a detailed outline (a plotter), or anywhere anywhere on the line in between, you’ve likely gotten stuck in your story. That’s disconcerting at the best and devastating at the worst. The story comes to a screeching halt and you beat yourself up. Yes, this happens to plotters sometimes. Unfortunately, it happens to panthers more often than not. But don’t worry. There’s a way to solve or prevent most stuck-in-the-middle events. Use goals & obstacles to fascinate your readers. Goals In story writing, a goal is what your main character wants. It might be the blue ribbon in the county fair or to save the world from a weapon of mass destruction. But you knew that, didn’t you? So why am I harping on it? And it isn’t just a want. It’s a need. To fascinate your reader, the main character’s want must mean something. It doesn’t have to be a theme-heavy, my-soul-will-be-destroyed type of meaning. But if your character does not achieve their goal, they lose something valuable. This irrevocable loss changes the principal character’s life for the worse (at least in the character’s estimation). A […]