Nailing Your Narrative: Using Story Structure To Tell Irresistible Stories | Justin Fike | Skillshare

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Nailing Your Narrative: Using Story Structure To Tell Irresistible Stories

teacher avatar Justin Fike, Author and Writing Nerd

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Class Intro


    • 2.



    • 3.

      Opening Hook


    • 4.

      Inciting Incident


    • 5.



    • 6.

      First Effort


    • 7.



    • 8.

      Act One


    • 9.



    • 10.

      Counting the Cost


    • 11.

      Second Effort


    • 12.

      False Success


    • 13.

      The Fall


    • 14.

      Act Two


    • 15.

      Low Point


    • 16.



    • 17.

      Ultimate Effort


    • 18.



    • 19.



    • 20.

      Class Wrap Up


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About This Class

What do Jaws, Pride and Prejudice, The Hunger Games, and Les Miserables all have in common? Surprisingly, a lot more than you might think.

That's because once you dig down beneath the surface of their plot and setting, great stories share a common core of narrative structure that taps into the way our brains are hardwired by organizing the critical moments of their stories in irresistible ways. Once you learn the fundamentals of great narrative structure your stories can have the exact same impact on your audience every single time.

Working in story beats means so much more than simply outlining the events of your plot. It will ensure that you hit the key emotional and developmental milestones at exactly the right time throughout your story to create an unforgettable journey for your readers while freeing your creativity and imagination rather than forcing you to follow a rigid set of rules that don't always make sense for the story you're trying to tell. Most importantly, it takes the guesswork out of outlining your story, which lets you concentrate on the process of actually having fun writing and sharing it with the world.

This Class Includes:

  • A big-picture overview of what lies at the heart of every great story regardless of its genre or style
  • A detailed breakdown of each of the key story beats of a complete narrative arc with practical tips for how you can incorporate them into your own writing
  • Specific examples to demonstrate how each story beat has been used for maximum effect in great stories
  • A detailed class project workbook to help you create and flesh out a complete narrative arc of your own

I'm Justin Fike, author of ten novels and counting, mostly in the adventure fantasy series The Farshore Chronicles, as well as numerous short stories published in various anthologies and literary magazines. I've spent the past fifteen years learning and practicing all of the different tools and techniques that need to come together to create a great story. I did that first through some of the best academic creative writing programs in the world at Brown University and the Masters Degree program at Oxford University, and then I took all the things I had learned in the classroom and applied them in the writing and publishing my own books.

Why this class:
I created this class because in the years that I spent writing and publishing after completing the Masters in Creative Writing program at Oxford University I had to learn through trial and more than a bit of error how to practically apply the fundamental writing skills I learned there to the daunting, rewarding, and sometimes maddening process of planning, writing, and publishing a complete and compelling story.

It wasn't until I spent several years teaching English and Creative Writing to fourth and fifth graders that I really discovered the simple, essential core components of a captivating narrative structure that consistently works across genres and styles, but once I did my writing went to a whole new level, and I'm excited to share that with you now to help your own writing do the same.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Justin Fike

Author and Writing Nerd


And as a story nerd, I love to talk about writing, too!

I’ve loved stories for as long as I can remember. As a boy, my grandma told me tales of her adventures growing up on the South Dakota prairie as I drifted off to sleep, or filled my head with faerie queens, questing knights, and everything in between. Those stories shaped the way I saw the world and helped me understand my place in it. Eventually, I realized that I wanted to spin stories that would be just as important for someone else someday.

Chasing that dream led me into a lifelong pursuit of the writer’s craft, both on my own and by learning from some of the most well-regarded professionals in their ... See full profile

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1. Class Intro: What do jaws, Pride and Prejudice, The Hunger Games and Les Miserables all have in common. Surprisingly, a lot more than you might think. That's because once you dig down beneath the surface of their plot setting, great stories all share a common core of narrative structure that organizes the important moments of the story in irresistible and compelling ways that tap right into the way that our brains are hardwired to think and see and understand the world. Once you learn to tap into those fundamentals of narrative structure, your stories can have the exact same impact on your audience every single time. Working in story beats means so much more than simply outlining the events of your plot. It will ensure that you hit the key emotional and developmental milestones of your story at exactly the right time frame you up to focus on having fun writing the story rather than stressing about trying to know whether you're including the right elements or putting them in the right order. Most importantly, working in story beats will free you up to create an unforgettable journey for your readers by allowing you to leverage your creativity and your imagination, working within a useful structure without constraining you to a rigid set of rules that you feel like you to follow even when it doesn't seem to make sense for the kind of story you are trying to tell. I'm Justin 5k, author of ten novels and counting mostly in the adventure fantasy series, the far shore Chronicles, but also a numerous short stories that had been published, literary magazines and anthologies. I spent the past 15 years learning and then practicing all the various tools, concepts and components and approaches that need to come together in order to create a great story. I did that first through some of the best creative writing academic programs in the world. First at Brown University, and then through completing the creative writing master's program at Oxford University. Finally, I took all of those different elements that I learned in the classroom. I have been working at applying those things in real time through writing and publishing my own books in my indie publishing career over the past half a dozen years, I created this class because as helpful and valuable as the classroom instruction that I received over the years was. Once I finish that process and began to really commit myself to writing and finishing books, I realized how difficult it can be to take these individual abstract concepts and theories of writing and consistently apply them and bring them all to bear at the right time to tell a complete story. I wrestled with that process through a lot of trial and error over the years. And I want to try and shortcut that for you so that you can more quickly and more comfortably begin writing the stories that you feel proud of and that your readers are excited to not just read, but to share with others and remember and talk about long after they've finished reading them. I know from my own writing that once I discovered this simple and essential core of using story beats to create a compelling narrative structure at the heart of my storytelling that works across different genres and different styles. My writing went to a completely different level, and that is what I am so excited to share with you in this class. 2. Overview: So let's start off with this first section on narrative structure by talking a little bit about why we're using the term narrative structure instead of just the broader term of plot. And why it's helpful to think in terms of narrative structure when you're planning your story and approaching the writing process of your story in the first place. In terms of definitions, plot is essentially everything that happens in your story. So it's a very broad umbrella that touches on and catches a lot of different moments and events and interactions and dynamics playing out on the page. Structure, on the other hand, is a way of understanding all of the moments of meaningful change or progression in the story. So your narrative structure is not necessarily going to encompass everything that happens in your story or everything that takes place in your plot. But it is an important way of understanding the tent pole moments where the major movements, progressions of your story are occurring. And thinking about all, all of the important elements of narrative structure is a really helpful way of making sure that you are telling a gripping and compelling story that hits all of the important points along the way, doesn't leave anything out and carries your reader along and sweeps them along from beginning to end. So there are a ton of really helpful books written by great authors about narrative structure and how to understand narrative structure. And one of the things that I have always found a little confusing or maybe frustrating about that discussion is that it seems like every author has a slightly different take or it's slightly different breakdown. Some have fewer points of structural story beats. Some used different language, some have a lot more points of structure. It depends on who you're reading and how they like to talk about it. And initially I found that confusing until eventually I realized that I think the reason that different authors talk about structure differently is because it's more a process of guidelines than actual rules. There's no one correct and universal way to write story structure within different genres, within different styles, within different approaches or interests that you even bring as the writer. You have a lot of flexibility when it comes to narrative structure in terms of what you include, there are some real baselines and essentials which we'll get to in just a moment. But one of the things that was actually really helpful in freeing for me was when I started to understand, oh, narrative structure is more of like a sandbox that gives you some definition and parameters to work in when you're writing your story and gives you some really helpful points of inspiration. It's not a straight jacket or a constraint that says you must write your story this way. But it's a helpful beginning point with a set of clear guidelines and some obvious points where unless you have a really good reason not to, you might want to include moments like these in your story more or less in this order. Because essentially narrative structure reflects the way that we as humans have come to understand stories and our own experience of life. So again, it's not that you have to hit all of the elements of story structure in every single story. And for every element of story structure we're going to talk about in this class, you will be able to think of examples of stories that don't really use that one. And that's okay, that's actually great because it's part of what leads to the amazing variety and diversity in our storytelling. However, in terms of thinking in broad strokes, in terms of thinking in generalities or commonalities are common guidelines. I do think there is a set of elements of story structure. And in this class we're going to talk about 15 of them, which are each pretty simple. But they do a really important thing in terms of developing your characters and developing your story and moving it forward. One of those important elements of change or progression in the story, understanding what they are and what role they can serve for you is just a really helpful set of tools in your toolbox to help you make sure that you're hitting the right notes and making the most of the amazing story that you're trying to tell. Really working with your story structure and the narrative arc of your story structure, I think, helps in two primary ways. The first way is it, it's kinda like guardrails or bumper lanes. If you're bowling, it helps you to keep from really falling off track. If you think in terms of the major elements of story structure, it's a really helpful way to make sure that you don't accidentally miss unimportant beat or dropoff, a plot thread that was being developed. And then it kind of just peters out or lead to some sort of disappointing let downs where you seem like you're building up to something that you never quite get to are quite payoff, which can lead to that sort of subconscious but very real sense of dissatisfaction or frustration for your reader. It's surprisingly easy when you're trying to deal with all of the complexities of telling a large and in multifaceted and interesting story. It's amazingly easy to miss those little things along the way or, or to have them just be weaker or vaguer or less clear and compelling and punchy than they could otherwise be. Having a starting point of a clear narrative structure that you're working your plot thread through is one thing that it helps you do is to make sure that you don't really missed the ball in any of those big ways. The second thing that it helps you do though, is narrative structure is a wonderful tool for helping your own creativity to identify, create, and fill in. Moments or situations or progressions in your story that you might otherwise have missed. As if you think in terms of narrative structure and you're looking at that and you go, Oh, I don't know that I really have a great first effort moment. When I was writing my first plot outline. I didn't really feel that in is there something I could do that would accomplish that. And then that helps you go, Oh, wait a minute, maybe if I did this and then that complicates the story further, It's like, well it, but if I did this, then that would have these implications for these characters and complexes, their motivations and makes them more interesting. It gives them more richness. Oh, and if they did that, then that leads me to over here and I could write this really awesome scene that I hadn't thought of before. So I find that working in terms of narrative structure again, as long as you approach it not as a straight jacket with a set of rules of things you must do, but more as a set of opportunities and possibilities that you should consider and see if thinking in terms of the different beats of your story structure might prompt more ideas or more richness for your initial story concept. So it helps to prevent you from missing the, the beat or falling off track. But it also helps to give you opportunities to go further and to do more with your story, which I find both of those elements of working in story structure really, really helpful. So finally, before we dive into the next series of videos where we will look at each of the different elements of the story structure breakdown in detail. Let's talk for just a moment about big picture. And sort of broadly speaking, what is a story, what is a story structure and what is it doing? Because obviously even from very early age and my oldest daughter is currently five and with very little to no real training or instruction, she is able to tell a story because in its simplest terms, a story is something happened, then things happen because of that something. And eventually it ended in this way, like beginning, middle end is the simplest form of a story structure, but that is so broad as to be not that useful in terms of figuring out how to tell your story fully and well. So my definition of a story is watching a motivated character strive to resolve interesting problems or compelling changes that have occurred in their life. The problem that is introduced or the change that happens is the thing that initiates the story, then their own meaningful motivation that we become attached to and that we empathize with and connect to as other fellow humans are sentience creatures. If your characters aren't human, which is fine. That process of us getting invested in their reason for trying to resolve that problem or that change. The way that they go about doing it, is really what makes the heartbeat of the story that makes it compelling and interesting and invests us into it in broad terms. It really does break down that simply it's watching a compelling character that's motivated and has skin in the game, pursue a series of actions in response to a change that has occurred. And then that gets complicated further by repeated obstacles or conflicts and rising stakes like the, what's at stake in the story, ideally is increasing and rising more and more and more. And the tempo or the crescendo of the story is growing and growing and growing. And as we get more and more invested, the potential kept catastrophe for this character that we care about or this world at large seems to be increasing and the odds against them seem to be increasing. That fundamental structure really plays out regardless of genre. I mean, that is true in a fantasy or sci-fi epic, but it's also true in a great romance where the love or the relationship that is at stake, our investment in seeing it paid off or work for these characters that we now have become more and more attached to, increases and increases and the obstacles that are put in the path of that outcome seem larger and larger and larger as we go along. All of that serves to require greater and greater change on the part of the characters. And that change is the electric current. It's the fundamental bedrock of all great stories. Essentially, great stories are a record of how and why we, as people change. And that is something that we all, all of us, all humans are just intrinsically interested in because we have that intuitive sense that we have grown and changed, that life is confusing and complicated and beautiful and hard and weird and amazing. And it's all these different things all mixed together. It's hard to make sense of. We want to make sense of it. Other people do things that don't make sense to us. We do things that don't make sense to ourselves. And we are constantly trying, our brains, are always trying to solve that equation, so to speak. Stories are one of the most effective and meaningful and entertaining ways that we get a chance to work at understanding not just the world but ourselves and how and why we change. Each story is a specific slice showing one particular way in which people change in response to certain kinds of experiences and events and what then happens as a result of that change. I think one of the reasons that we love stories so much Is there a cost-free way of exploring almost an infinity of realities and infinity of possibilities and infinity of outcomes for certain kinds of choices that we can see that played out and vicariously experience and be invested in that outcome without having to pay the sometimes very painful prices that the character is pay. Or that we get inspired or motivated by seeing that good outcomes that the character is received in response to the ways that they choose to grow and change. All of that dynamic at its core is what we keep coming back to stories for over and over and over again. If you can tune into that and harness that fundamental dynamic and your own storytelling primarily through a solid understanding of narrative arc, where that change is set up and structured properly and then paid off through a series of increasing conflicts and rising stakes until it reaches that deeply satisfying conclusion where the change we have been watching results in a resolution to the story that feels earned and meaningful. That's a story that your readers are going to love and remember and want to share and come back to over and over again throughout their life because you've helped them. And us, all of us understand ourselves and our own experience of life in a, in a, in one slightly better way and one slightly fuller and more nuanced way. And that is just a deeply valuable and meaningful thing. It's one of the exchanges that happens in great storytelling. So that's a lot of what we're gonna be looking at as we now move to talk about this, each of the individual elements of a narrative arc. 3. Opening Hook: So let's begin this exploration of narrative structure by taking a look at the first story beat, which is the opening hook. The opening hook is pretty much what it sounds like on the tin. It's the first unique or interesting thing that happens in your story. But there's a lot of nuance underneath that apparently simple definition that is I think helpful to explore. One of the interesting dynamics at the opening hook is that it is one of the most important of all of the story beats. But it also tends to be one of the shortest or most easily overlooked because it happens first in the story. If you think about the reader journey the reader experience when you crack open a story or you begin watching something on the screen for the first time, you're interested enough or invested enough to begin. But the jury is always out, even if it's an author you've read before, even if it's someone you know, you left, no matter what, there's always this open question in your mind of like, what is this story going to be an, am I going to like it? So you're exploring, are investigating the story and looking for those first clues that basically help you decide if this is worth your time and energy, because time and energy are a finite resource and we want to spend them well. So as you are beginning a story as a reader, you're kind of, you're looking to have that question answered. And the opening hook is one of the best and most effective ways to answer it quickly. There's a few different ways you can do this as the author. But essentially, you want to give some conscious thought to how and where in your story, you are essentially promising the reader that this story will be worth their time by doing something that pays, that initially sets up and begins to establish the value of this story and its relevance or interests to them. The opening hook can be the first major element of your plot. Like it can be the moment that more or less the same moment as our next story beat, which is the inciting incident. And they happen close to simultaneously. But even there, it's helpful to think about the opening hook as a separate element. It doesn't necessarily have to be a major moment of story relevance. Like it doesn't have to be the point where the heroes family is murdered and he sets off on his quest of revenge or the point where the person meets their love interests for the story or the point where the war kicks off, that is going to change the course of the historical drama that we're reading that can come later. The opening hook just needs to be the moment where your reader goes. Oh, that's interesting. Or, Oh wait what? So there's two really good ways I think to, to kick off your opening hook or to structure your opening hook. The first is some element of surprise or reversal of expectations. This can come through some really, really well turned phrase that catches your reader's attention and makes them go home, like the opening of Pride and Prejudice works this way. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a gentlemen and in possession of a fortune must be in want of a wife. That's just very, it's very clever. It establishes the tone of the book in the very first sentence, but it all, it gives you that you have to stop and think about it for a second. And then when you do, you're like, oh, that's actually really, that's a really witty and, and kind of sarcastic and interesting take on a thing. Okay, I'm in like now I'm in, That's I want it. What are you saying here and where are you going to take that or that little idea that you just planted or that way that you are looking at the world. You've got my attention. So a lot, a lot of golden war like Raymond Chandler books start off this way where there's just like a great phrase or a really kind of a punchy or interesting or unexpected thing. You just can also be situational. Like sometimes the opening hook can be seeing the main character or a secondary character in a really surprising or unexpected moment. Like if you open with your main character hanging by their fingertips from the edge of a cliff. Well, there were invested for at least a moment. That's interesting to me and I want to know more. It's important to really think about this because you don't want to have lots of what I think of just as dead time, even if it's story irrelevant dead time where you think you're showing things that your reader needs to know or that the audience needs to understand about things. You can put setup stuff which has a lot of what happens in the beginning of a story. Setup stuff should come after your opening hook because if you begin by just showing things that you think the audience needs to know, but the audience is not actually invested in your story yet. It's very, very easy for people to lose interests because they may need to know it, but they may not want to know it because they're not actually in the story yet. So the opening hook can be an element of surprise or reversal of expectations or an interesting situation. Or it can be you doing a good job of raising interesting questions for your reader. A lot of times that comes through presenting something that they want to know more about in some way. It can be like I said, an event or situation that your character is in where you allude to something and you don't give the full picture and the pieces that you aren't necessarily given, you. You're, you're saying, Oh, this character is off to do this thing and you're like, wait, why, why are they doing this thing? Where did they come from? How did they get there? If those are interesting questions that the reader actually is like, Oh, that's actually, I kinda, I want to know more about what's going on. The first Harry Potter book opens this way. The opening hook is actually this moment where these two other characters are dropping a baby on somebody's porch and having a conversation about why they're doing it. And the unknowns of that situation are a lot more interesting than the knowns. The interesting questions that it raises about who are these characters? Who is this baby? Why are they doing this? They say some things that give me some orientation to what's going on, but there's a lot more unsaid and I'm interested to find out more about what is happening here and why it's happening. And those interesting questions have now taken my attention and I am now invested in the story. I basically the opening hook is the thing that buys you the time to tell more story until you're able to establish a better foundation for your story, which comes through the inciting incident and getting your character like now they're on the hook for the story, things are gonna happen. Now you're invested in sort of the core plot problem, which we'll talk about, all that stuff. It's really hard to do good stories, structurally relevant openings right from the beginning. It can be done, but it is not easy and not all stories will work that way. You can always have an opening hawk. And so giving yourself some time to really think about what is that opening hook? What is the best and most compelling way that I can kick this story off in such a way that my reader will be captured. And I'm sort of promising them that this story will be worth their time. And they will therefore give me more time to begin to set up the rest of the real story that's going to happen. If you think about the opening hook in that way, it's a very helpful way to make sure that you kick your story off on the strongest possible foot as you then proceed through the next few elements of story beats in your story structure. 4. Inciting Incident: So if the opening hook is the point that connects your readers interests to the story, really engages them. It gets them invested in, ensures that they're along for the ride. Then our next story beat, which is the inciting incident, is the thing that really kicks off your story and introduces it to your reader. The inciting incident is a term you've probably heard before because it's really, really important concept to understanding effective storytelling and story structure. You need to be clear about where your story begins so that you can make it clear to your reader, not only where your story begins, but also what your story is going to be about. The inciting incident doesn't just begin your story. It also frames your story and essentially it sets up the progression of everything that is going to come after that all the way up until the story has ended in the climax with the pay off of the thing that was initiated in the inciting incident. It's the moment where something significant changes or comes, a threat comes into the protagonist's life, threatens what they love or what they value, or put something in front of them, or it opens up an opportunity for them to have something they wanted that they weren't able to get. In some way. It's the thing that disrupts their normal life sufficiently enough that now our story has begun. I have found for myself that the most effective way of thinking about the inciting incident is to recognize that it is the moment in the story when the story question is posed for the first time. Story question is something we're going to talk a lot about throughout this class because I think it's a really helpful way of understanding what the story is truly about. But if you look at all great stories, you can reduce them to a pretty simple and clear question at its essence, the story question of Star Wars and New Hope is, can this ragtag band of good guys overcome and defeat this impossible evil? The story question of Pride and Prejudice is can these two extreme and contrasting personalities grow sufficiently so that they can become what each other needs to create a mutually supporting relationship. The story question of Indiana Jones is Ken Indiana Jones recover the lost art. Like very often the story question is something that when you boil it down, it's relatively simple. It's easy to understand. And you also, if you think about it, it's the, once the question has been asked, now there's a story on the line, everything that comes before and usually in your story, there will be at least some stuff that happens before the inciting incident. There is some flexibility on exactly how that plays out, which we'll get to in just a moment. But there's usually some stuff that's happened or at the very least there's things that have been happening before the story starts, even if it's not right on the page, like there's pre-history, there's pre activity going on. The story question is the thing that makes you go? Oh, now, we are so tuned to this as readers that we recognize it intuitively, even if we're not super clear conscious of what it is. But it's the moment when the story initiates because it's an open, an unresolved question that I care about the answer too. Well, will he be able to recover the lost starkly? Will they be able to overcome their differences? Usually, the story question. In most forms, most genre forms, we know already that the answer in some way is going to be some version of yes, probably like, Yeah, we think they probably will. Otherwise this would be a tragedy and kinda depressing. And I don't think it's that kind of story. But the implication of the story question is that I'm going to show you an, a really unexpected and entertaining and engaging way where that question is answered, that question, the answer to the question, even if you kinda know what it's going to be in broad terms. The specific way that I answered this question is what is going to make this story so great? And now you're into it. You're invested, you're engaged. Because I've presented you a story question like, here's the situation that just happened. What will it mean? How will it be resolved? Can they even possibly survive this? How will they survive this? How will they, will they grow sufficiently? It poses all of these interesting questions. And the questions or the thing again, that invest your reader in the story. I think thinking in terms of story question is another one of those helpful guardrails that helps ensure that you stay on track with your story and don't wander off too far once you've posted your story question like That's the store. The question you need to explore and complicate and engage in interesting ways throughout the events or the increasing obstacles and increasing stakes of your story. Like you add new elements to it, you present new takes on it, you think it's answered. And then up, now this new thing has happened and now it's gonna be harder than we thought it was gonna be. But all the way along you're still pursuing or exploring that fundamental question like, can this person do this thing or will this Thing be resolved in this way or not is usually more or less structure of a good story question. We might sound simple, but having that at the core of your story is so helpful for yourself as an author as you're planning out the progression of your story structure. But it's really essential for your reader. Your reader is going to be looking for it, whether or not they even realize that's what they're doing. When people, I've read books which like the book was interesting, the world was interesting, like the carrot, but I just couldn't figure out what the story was really about. Usually that's either a vague or poorly presented inciting incident that doesn't do a great job of asking are posing the story question in clear terms? Or it's the case of the other issue that you need to think about when it comes to your inciting incident, which is delaying it for too long, where should your inciting incident happen? As with all elements of story structure, there's a degree of flexibility here. You have some room, but there are some limits like your inciting incident should not happen 50% of the way through your story. And everything that came before is just pretty window-dressing because then you don't really have a story. You just have pros and prose on its own is not compelling enough to sustain most readers interests to get to the point where you have now brought in your story questions. So I think for me, good rule of thumb is somewhere around 10%, like somewhere within the first, roughly 10% of the story or early enough on that, your reader is still in that open and kind of seeking phase. The opening hook grabs their attention as quickly as possible and promises them that the story will be worth their time and energy, which invest them long enough for you, for you to build some things along. Because usually with the inciting incident, it's not you, sometimes you can have it right on the first page. And there's some great stories that have opened right from the beginning with like bam, here's your inciting incident. That can work if you can do it. Cool. But in many cases, you need a little bit of setup. You need a little bit of context for the inciting incident to even make sense. Like you need to show us who the character is and enough about their existing life that we then understand why this thing that just happened is so disruptive. Why they're motivated to care about it at all and what they might be likely to begin trying to do about it. Most of the time, the inciting incident is not the very first thing in the story. It comes, but it needs to come early enough that your reader doesn't start wondering if your story has a point like or what that point might be. So I think of it somewhere within, if you want to think of it as within the first couple of chapters or within if you think in word count or page count, like within roughly the first ten per cent, so that it's early enough that before your reader begins to question they are, they get that moment and you get that scene or that situation that goes, Aha, see the setup that I've been paying that I've been showing you. Here we go. I just like knocked over there a little house of cards that their life was up until that point, I introduced this crazy curve ball. Or I threaten them in this way, like here's this thing, this problem. And now a story question has been posed. The question is, can this character that you have met, that you have begun to get a little interested in. Can they do this in time or can they, or will they are like? So, think about the way you, you would structure the story question for your story that you're telling. And then think about what kind of scene or moment would do the best job of presenting that challenge as clearly and compellingly as possible so that your reader can go, Oh, okay, I get it. Like this is what the story is going to be about. We're going to be on this train watching these characters wrestle with that problem and try to solve it. And I'll know that we're still in the story until I see a clear and definitive answer to that question, whatever, that, that's how I know that now we'd reached the end because the will they won't, they are the love story or that can he or can she of the adventure story or the, will they be able to figure out who done it in time of the murder mystery or what the central story question has now been answered. Therefore, the story is over. So as you're planning out your inciting incident, zeroing in on structuring and spotlighting your story question and the beginning of what your story is really about to your reader in as clear and as interesting away as possible is a great way to think about presenting the inciting incident within your store. 5. Resistance: Now let's take a look at the third beat in our story structure overview, which is resistance. Out of the 15 points of story structure, resistance is the first of three of what I call soft beats. What I mean by that is there are three of these throughout the arc of your narrative arc that don't always work for all stories. All stories benefit from a great opening hook. All stories benefit and have room for no matter what genre you're in, you can, you should have an inciting incident or else you really, it's hard to have an actual story That is easy for your readers to even see and get connected to. The resistance point is the first of three soft beats in. It's not going to work for every type of story. So the story you're telling, You may not even need to worry about it, but it's good to think about it and ask yourself whether you can incorporate it into your story. So let's talk a little bit about what the resistance beat looks like. Essentially, the resistance moment is a point in the story. After the inciting incident has come along and made your character's life bad or harder or miserable or raised a big old story question, resistance is a moment where the character, the protagonist usually hesitates to engage. They try to go back. They tried to something you might be like refusing the call is how it's sometimes talked about if you're looking at like a hero's journey, almost in any format, regardless of whether it's like a heroic story. But if you can see this in a lot of love stories where in the romance, the characters meet and one or both of them is like nano. Thank you. I'd like I don't like them. They're not great. It's a moment that primarily serves to make your story feel more grounded and realistic and to provide some early conflict in early tension because we just got the inciting incident, which kicked off the story question. So we know there's a lot more to come. So if one of the next main beats that we are presented within the story is a moment where the character is kinda say, yeah, no, thanks, I'm not interested. You're not paying me enough or that's too dangerous or uncomfortable at home. Thank you very much. I don't really want to launch off into this crazy adventure or go risk these steaks or whatever. I'd rather keep my life the way it is. That makes sense Like that is how most of us would respond and do respond to significant disruption or change. Like we as people prefer, stasis and comfort. Oftentimes, even if it's not ideal for us, like even if the devil, you know, paradox where sometimes we're a lot more comfortable sticking with something that isn't our preference, but at least we're familiar with it and we understand it rather than striking off into something unknown or risky or challenging. Now like I said, this does not work for all forms of story. So don't force yourself to try to shoehorn it in. If you're telling a story where the inciting incident is that your protagonist is framed for murder and is now being chased by the police, like it, you probably can't, may not figure out a great way to have them hesitate or resist that sort of story problem, dilemma, because they're too busy just running and survive. Depending on the dynamic of your story, this may or may not work out. But again, like I said, this is one of those areas were story structure and thinking about story structure can open up opportunities to make your story better. Because even if you don't initially think there's an obvious way for introducing that beat of story resistance. Sometimes resistance can be as simple as the character just being upset about being forced to do the thing. Like maybe they don't have a lot of choice, so they're not actively resisting, but their heart's not in it. They're not fully committed. They're trying to look for the easy out, or they're even just like morning, what has been lost or grieving, what has been lost, and looking backwards more than looking forwards. Even that can make your characters more relatable and will make your story feel more real and grounded because those are real emotions and real experiences that we go through as people. So when you've just thrown your characters this big curve ball and you've appended their life, and they are now on rails, so to speak, of a urinal presented with a story problem that you have little to no, you have to engage this because the cost of not engaging it, it would be so high in some way or another, like the stakes that are on the table connected to their drive and motivation is so clear, give them a moment to resist that or be sad about it, or to look back and think about what has been lost and to kind of like put the brakes on a little bit. Because that's a complicated and interesting and more real and more nuanced way for your characters to respond to the change that they have just been thrust into. 6. First Effort: So with your opening hook inciting incident and maybe a little bit of resistance or hesitation in place that kind of gives you the opening framework of your story. A problem has been presented, something has come along, we've been introduced to the character and who they are, what their world is like, and why we should care about it. And also how it has now been threatened or disrupted and more or less at least an initial sense of what they might need to do in response, how they might proceed. Once all that has been in place and now the story is set. The next major beat that you want to hit is the first effort. The first effort is the attempt that your protagonist makes to solve the story problem with the story question that they'd been presented with in as simple and as cost-free away as possible. And that dynamic again is important because that is normal. That is what we as people would do. You're presented with this thing. Nobody changes for fun or pays a high price, just because usually that's something we have to be pushed into. And certainly for your characters, it's something that they need to be built up to or pushed into, especially for the climax. And you need to actually develop and complicate the change they're going to go through and the set of experiences. One of the ways that you get there is by having them try first, like try something. Again, depending on the genre you're in and the type of story you're telling what they try will be a lot of different types of things. But if it's a heist movie, it's probably the first thing that when they're pulling the crew together or they go and do the thing, or it depends. If it's a romance, maybe they go on the first date. Whatever it is, it's the moment when the character goes, Oh, my life has been disrupted. Here's this problem that needs to be solved. I'll solve it like this. This is the easiest way for me to get this over with. And the way that makes sense to me that will require the least change or push me the least or cost me the least. I think that's a really helpful way of thinking about it because, you know, by default that an effort like that is within, at least within the world of a story, is doomed to fail, which is what you want when we're moving. From here, the next set of story beats that we move through our gonna be what complicate the story and keep it really interesting. Building yourself up to this point where your characters have gotten oriented. They had seen the problem, then they go, here's what I'm gonna do about it. That does want to, debt does two things. The first is it gives your characters agency, which is really important. Once stuff has happened. You don't want characters who just sit, sit around passively hoping for something else to fix it for them. Does that is just not that interesting. Giving your characters, especially your protagonist, some kind of clear agency where they go, Oh, here's a problem. I'll do this. Like this is what I'll go and do to solve this thing. Makes them better characters and it makes for a better story. But by making sure that the first effort is the one that they are inclined to do. Essentially as, as who they already are without having to change that much or become that different. It's a way of giving you the opportunity to kinda slap them a little harder, which just sounds bad, but it's what you wanna do as the author with your characters. You don't want anything to be too easy if their first effort was smart and great and made perfect sense and was sort of like, well set up to succeed, then you almost have to bend over backwards, introducing external reasons why it doesn't work out so that there's more stories to tell. But we kind of intuitively know, especially if you understand your character's flaws. And maybe a lot of times a very effective way of complicating the first effort is by building their flaws into that dynamic. Like well, they're acting out of their arrogance. So they think that's one of their big flaws and they think they know everything. And so they're just going to strike off without working with other people. And this makes sense to them as the way that they're going to address this issue. But it's doomed to fail because they have not sufficiently changed or grown as a person yet, they haven't actually developed in the ways that they're going to need through to throughout the story. So it's kind of like a natural way for you to let them both have agency to be proactive and do stuff in the story. But also have it give you an easy way to have it not work and to not work in interesting ways that then complicate the story further and open things up for even more interesting stuff to happen. So as you're thinking about the first effort beat in your story, think about what would make the most sense for your characters to do in response to the story problem. If they were trying to essentially just get it over with or resolve it in the most efficient, most direct, most cost-free, EN most pain-free way possible. That gives you some really great story material to work with. Watching them try to do that thing based off of their old habits or their old methods, or their current sense of themselves with their current sense of the world, gives a perfect setup to show who they are, what they're like, and also how they, who they are is not sufficient to resolve the story satisfactorily. Which then sets up the more interesting and more complex growth if they're going to have to go through in the latter parts of the story as the first effort fails them and they're left to proceed from there. 7. Setback: Once your characters have launched into their first effort to address the story question, the next major beat in your narrative structure that follows after it is the setback that follows when things do not go as planned. So essentially, the setback is the moment in the story where the character is first effort fails. And it can fail for a few different reasons. But regardless of the reason, What's important is the fact that the characters sort of usually within the first effort, are still more interested in getting back to normal than they are about engaging the adventure or challenge, or risk or problem that is in front of them and engaging the larger dynamic of what it is requiring of them, they'd rather just bail. So the first, first effort in Jurassic Park, e.g. is okay, dinosaurs have gotten loose. Let's just drive out of the park. Like the first thing they tried to do is leave. And if that had worked, it would have been a very short story. But the setback of that is actually the challenge that you're facing is bigger than you even realize. Here's some T-Rex is one of the most memorable scenes in the entire film is when they are attacked by T-Rex is the group gets scattered into two groups. Like it complicates the story and all sorts of interesting ways. People die, people get separated, and now way more is at risk and way more is on the line. A couple of great things about the setback is. One, it's always very conflict laden, and conflict is the lifeblood of storytelling. Great storytelling. It's what keeps us hooked up and engaged. If, if conflict is on the table, we're interested as readers gives you an opportunity to say, well, they tried to do this and then boom, here's what happened now. It doesn't have to be as big and life threatening as a Tyrannosaurus. Sometimes the setback is a conversation that doesn't go the way your characters were hoping, or a realization or a discovery. Sometimes the reason their first effort failed is because they did not understand the full scope of the challenge that we're facing. And the setback is when they get slapped a little bit because there's more going on in the story world, or maybe they didn't even realize there was an antagonist. Oftentimes the setback is when the antagonist gets really revealed because they come in and go, actually, It's not that easy because I'm involved in I have my own needs and priorities and I'm stronger than you at this point usually in the story, so it's not going to happen. Buddy. And your characters then have to respond to the larger context of what they didn't even know what's happening in the story. Other times, the setback happens because your characters methods or approach was flawed, usually because of their own flaws as a character like the way they tried to solve the problem was insufficient or limited or constrained in different ways. And we see the way that, oh, like Pride and Prejudice, well, Darcy's too proud. Elizabeth to prejudiced. They both. Their first effort is they go to the, to the ball and they tried to play nice with their heart's not really in it. And their worst elements of their nature both get the better of them and they butt heads and had a big argument because the way that the flaws in their character or the shortcomings in their character, or the source of the setback. The reason it doesn't work is because of who they are in such clear ways that now we're at, now we get it like, oh, they're going to need to actually grow and change. If this is ever going to be resolved differently, something's going to have to happen for this character. And they're going to have to realize through overcoming the obstacles and adversities that they're going to keep being presented with. The other thing that a good setback will do is give you more story material and new story threads and plot threads to follow up on. So in the dressing park example that I gave before, It's not only that their effort to just escape the park is thwarted by giant dinosaurs. There also then separate it and now we have two groups who are both needing to try and survive and escape in different ways through a different set of obstacles. That if without the setback, really like knocking over the Lego blocks, that wouldn't have happened. So your setback gives you an opportunity to complicate your story, to inject a lot of conflict, and also to sort of really clarify the stakes and sort of how hard this overall thing is going to be, which gives us as readers a lot more interests. Again, it continues to raise and engage our interests because we go, oh, this is not going to be simple. This is actually gonna be really hard. Like the challenges arrayed against these characters are more overwhelming than maybe we realized, or they certainly that they realized in these interesting ways. How are they going to respond to this? What comes next? How do they, how do they bounce back from this awful experience? They just went through her this rough thing that just happened or this disappointment that just that they've just experienced. What are they going to do in response to what comes next? And again, those kinds of questions are essential to high levels of reader engagement. So as you're thinking through your progression of your narrative arc, you can use your first effort and your setback are two sides of the same coin, what they tried to do and the way that it doesn't work out for them. You think about them as a whole, as the way that you sort of move through the first major gate of your story, where we've now been introduced to all the characters. We've been introduced to the world. We've been introduced to the story question that is at stake what the story is really about. And we've seen a first attempt to resolve it that then fails and fails in interesting ways that make the story more engaging and that opened up a lot more territory. A new questions that we are now going to pursue as the story progresses further. 8. Act One: So with the first five story beats of our narrative arc now under our belts, let's stop for just a moment and talk about the first act in general. So as a quick review of the first acts, story beats or the opening hook, the inciting incident resistance than the first effort and your setback. And you can kind of think about those first five beats as like a mini story within the larger story, there's a beginning, the opening hook that grabs our attention, pulls us in. It's further complicated as the story question is introduced in the inciting incident, there's a middle where that initial rush of events, the characters kinda have a chance to absorb that, respond to it, to like resisted initially and then finally make their decision to commit. And then there's the end where they take, they take off on the first effort, they pursue their attempt to resolve the story problem as quickly and easily as possible and the setback of BAM. Now that hits and it didn't go as planned. Now that ideally in almost all cases, the end of your first arc should be a negative ending. Now, your ending on the setback, because you want to give yourself somewhere to go. If the first effort succeeded and was a positive ending. It's really hard at a pasting level to even figure out like, where do you go from there. But if you think about that as a good solid first arc like pieces are set in place, stuff happens, the stuff doesn't go well. That's a little mini arc that almost like you could think about it as ending your first mini arc, your first act structure on the cliffhanger of wait a minute, that didn't go well. Now what now there's even more questions than we had when we started with what's going to happen next. That cliffhanger, in an intuitive sense as the audience we feel it and lean into it. Now, we're primed, were invested, were fully engaged in the story and we're ready to see what's going to happen as a result of that sort of negative ending of where that resolved. A few other quick principles about this first act. One is, this is your space where you set up all of the pieces that you're going to use in your story by enlarge by the time you're done with this first act. Everything that you're going to use in your story, your primary characters, ideally your primary settings, definitely your theme. Then the main elements that are going to make up your story should be at least introduced in not fully realized, not fully explored, but introduced sort of checkups. Old rule that if someone's going to get shot with a gun in the third act, you should show us the gun in the first act, because if you just pull it out at the very end, and it's this pivotal piece that is a key element of the story. But we've already sort of close the file in our brains as the readers on what those elements are. It's very jarring and it's unsatisfying because it's sort of like cheating from the author to just throw some stuff, something in at the end. Oh, by the way. Also the protagonist is a world-class pilot. So the fact that he can jump in the plane and escape the volcano right at the very end. Even though I never said anything about it for the whole story, that's not satisfying. But if an act, one that's an established element of his character for, in various ways that you can show that or do that, then it's not cheating at the end when suddenly that thing becomes irrelevant payoff. So think about your primary characters, your primary elements, your primary character attributes, and make sure that you've had some moments like there's plenty of real estate here in act one to show us those things so that you have all your pieces set up on the board and you've also complicated them. And you left that process of setup on a cliffhanger note. As we then are excited and ready to dive into the content of the second act, which is the next five beats in our narrative arc. 9. Regroup: So with the first five beats of the beginning part of our story now behind us, you're ready to move into the next five beats, which compose the middle part of your story. And the first of those is the regroup. The regroup is the moment in the story when your protagonist and any other supporting characters take stock of what just happened through the kind of rush of the opening and beginning of the story, and especially in the aftermath of the setback that they just experienced. It's the moment in the story when they take stock and catch a breath and go, Oh, wait a minute, like where are we? What just happened? Why did it happen and what does it mean and what comes next? That's really important for two reasons. The first reason is a pacing issue as you are going through your story and the beats of your story. Even if every single scene you wrote was the most intense and most engaging in, most conflict written in was done perfectly well. The pace of conflict after conflict, after conflict and intensity after intensity after intensity is just too much to sustain that level of energy. Well, throughout the course of the whole story, you need ebbs and flows. So the regroup is a moment for not just your characters to catch their breath, but also the reader to catch their breath and assimilate what just happened, what they just rushed through. And take a moment to go, Oh wow. Like, what does that mean for these characters? What does that mean for the story? For your characters? It's their chance to also ask those same questions and engage with that a little bit more typically for your protagonist, it's the first point in the story where they start to realize that they're probably going to have to do more than they wanted to, or change more than they wanted to, or push harder or pay a higher price than they were hoping to in order to successfully resolve the story question that has now been posed. Like they're going to have to train harder or learn more or go further from home. Like again, the, the, the nature of that thing will depend a lot on the genre you're in and the type of story you're telling. But fundamentally that idea of, well, we just came through, we tried something, it definitely didn't work. We're not dead. Like the story is not over. There is possibility here to come, but that typically that hurt, like if you're setback was done well, it should be something that rattles their cages enough to make them go wait a minute, like we're really in it now. I'm in it. This is, this is going to be, this is harder than I thought it was going to be. Usually the regroup hinges really heavily on your characters primary drive and their motivation. It's a chance to reconnect back to that. Because if it weren't for their motivation, if it weren't for what they wanted or needed and the stakes for them in the story. Then after the events of the setback, they could just go home. And this is one of those things that you can see this in some story structures that get a little bit buzzy words. The characters proceed mostly because they're characters, but you can kinda have that sense as the reader light bulb. But why, why didn't they just bail? So making sure that your characters drive and motivation is well-connected to the story question will ensure that when you get to this moment and it's like, well, they just went through the setback. But the obvious, they can't just go home because they don't have a home to go back to or because the cost of doing that would be too high to them in terms of their identity or in terms of their larger world are important relationships or there's obvious stakes now. And their own drive is compelling enough that instead of giving up in the face of the setback they just experienced, they're going to try harder. They're going to try something new. They're going to be open to new ideas or new possibilities and new suggestions. They're going to chase things off in a new direction that they wouldn't have considered back at the beginning of the story. But already, you're beginning to create that element where who they were at the beginning, they're not that person anymore because of what they went through so far, because of their initial efforts and because of the shock of the setback, they've changed enough. Now. They're going to engage the story problem it probably in some, at least some level of a new way than they would have chosen to do way back at the beginning of the story. So this regroup moment gives you an opportunity to complicate and further develop your characters. It gives you a minute to slow the pace just a bit for both for your story and for the sake of the readers and your readers chance to kinda take on what they just read and what they just experienced in the story and incorporate it for themselves and be ready for what comes next. And it also gives you a nice opportunity. This is a good place, one of the last good places to introduce any new information or new characters that you need to bring into the story. From here forward. It gets harder and harder to drop in genuinely new stuff without it feeling cheap. So if your kit protagonist has a skill, let's say, or an ability or a talent that is gonna be important for them throughout the course of the story. If they haven't already demonstrated it, this is a good place to make sure they do. Because if it comes too much later, it's going to feel like just get out of jail free card when they suddenly have this thing they can do that we didn't know they could do before. If there's an important secondary character, that's gonna be an important part of the rest of the plot. Bring them in here if they haven't come in already. Because again, if it gets too much further along, we've kind of already locked in the cast and sort of the, the pieces on the chessboard of the story, so to speak, as the readers by about now, we're no longer in open questioning story bit assembling mode. And now we're sort of more engaged in trying to interpret and maybe preemptively guess how the story is going to play out based on what we already know. The regroup gives you that little window and you see this in some stories where it's like, Oh, this character by the way, also can do this thing. Like it's not quite too late for me to show this to you. Or here's this new character I'm bringing in or this big new location, anything of real significance to your story, especially anything that is going to have a heavy influence on the climax and the way the story ends. Try to make sure that if you haven't brought it in by now, you incorporate it into your regroup moment. Because we still have a little bit of runway to do that, but not much after this, because too much further and it starts to feel like a cheat. So as you're planning out your regroup moment or your series of scenes for the regroup. Just get, spend some time thinking about in terms of where your characters are at now in the story, how would they be most likely to respond to the setback that just happened? And how can you push their own development as a character forward by showing how they're beginning to change, how they're beginning to be open to new possibilities. Bringing any final pieces that they're going to need to do that well and to kind of go through the rest of the story that you kinda, by the end of the regroup, you pretty much have everything now laid out. Your characters and your readers have a better sense of both what's at stake, but also the path forward, what we thought we could do it this way. Then we learned this and the antagonist did this and this happened in, well, that's definitely not going to work. So based on that, this is our new path forward and we all have a sense of like this is now where we're not where we think we're heading based on how we've begun to change as characters within response to what we began experiencing in the story. 10. Counting the Cost: So this brings us to our second of these soft story beats for our overall narrative arc, which is counting the cost. But the soft beats more than all the others are not always going to suit your story. However, I think they're really important to name because most of the time they give you an opportunity to deepen your story and deepen our experience, especially of your characters in really valuable ways. So even if you can't figure out how to fit it in, It's still helpful to think about how you might fit it in because you might surprise yourself. Counting the cost. Oftentimes goes hand in hand with the regroup a little bit. But specifically, it is a scene or a moment where your protagonist really take stock of not just what has happened, but begins to kind of get a sense of what is on the table for them as a character. What's it going to really take? Which usually involves some level of external observation, but especially of introspection and observation where they start to realize some of maybe some of the ways where their own flaws led to the problems that they have experienced so far. And they have that moment where they kinda go, Oh, wait a minute. That may not cut it. I might need to change in that way or I might need to risk more, or I might need to sacrifice more than nature of what kind of costs they're counting is going to depend entirely on who they are as a character. But if you can create a moment, usually this falls right around the middle of the story after the events of the setup and the high point action of the setback and the conflict that went into that and now regroup has been happening and they're kinda like looking forward. Usually the count, the cost moment. It doesn't take up a lot of time, but it's a really, really compelling way to present that situation or that experience where your protagonist just says, okay, I'm starting to see what this is going to require of me and maybe I haven't fully committed to pay that price, but I'm beginning to think that change might be worth it. And change in this way might be worth it. Sometimes that counting the cost is more of a personal thing like your character is able to do that for themselves. A lot of times this is prompted by one of the secondary characters in the story, like a mentor or a friend, saying something that needs to be said or providing a perspective where they kinda go, hey, like, I don't know why you can't get your head out of your own *** and figure this out for yourself. But like, have you noticed this thing that you're doing? Or they point out something. So sometimes it can come from another character, sometimes it comes from themselves. A lot of times, I think one of the classic examples of how account the cost, it's moment tends to happen in most sports action movies that has a training montage. Almost every time if you've watched, if you go and look the moment right before the training montage is the count, the cost moment, because the person has been trying to kinda shortcut it and get the easy results. And this is when their coaches like if you want to succeed, if you want to be the champ, you're going to have to dig deep and they go, I am going to have to dig deep. Okay, I'm ready to do that now. There you go to training montage like this happens in Rocky. This happens at a lot of team sports movies where it's like guys, we just lost the game. That was our big setback. And we lost because of all these ways that we haven't all been giving it are all like, are we going to do it or not? Yeah, We're gonna do it. Here's what it's going to take. And then they kick into gear of the next thing that's going to happen. So that's one example of how it can play out. Again, it looks very different across the different genres, but gifts give some thought to whether or not you can create a count, the cost moment for your protagonist because it develops them really well as a character, but it also signals to the reader. A lot of, it does that great thing of, Hey, here's more to come. This is what's about to happen next. Like, Oh, wait, if they, if they are starting to change in this way, like what's the domino effect down the line going to be of that little moment I just saw them going. Okay. This hurts or this is scary or I don't know if it's going to work, but I care enough. My motivation is clear enough. Not only am I not going to quit, but I've counted the cost and I'm ready to go further than I even thought I could before. That's just really engaging to us in storytelling. We, when we see those moments were drawn to them. So if you can create those in your own story, it's a great centerpiece in the middle of your story that sort of sets up the next progression of everything that you're about to go and do. 11. Second Effort: Now that your characters have regrouped and done whatever level of counting the cost you're going to have them do, they're ready to move forward into the next major story beat, which is the second effort. I like to think of the second effort as the plan that should work. It's not going to, because of some of the complications that are gonna get introduced in the run-up to the climax and the final thrust of your story. But the first effort is the plan that we kinda know as readers like this shouldn't work. Like it's not going to work. It's too simple. It's to direct. Its too much focused on like getting out of trouble rather than solving the story problem. But the second effort is where your characters have now grown and developed enough. They are committed enough to the story question in front of them that they make a plan that really should work like it makes sense to us and it gives us that moment of like, oh, okay, here we go. We're going to now this is what we're gonna do to the end of the story. And that's important because if everything we experience is set back and vagueness, it's by about now, like almost always, the second effort is a good bit past the middle of the story. Like we have now read more than half of the story and we're starting to as readers again, our psychology is we're, we're tuning into the end of the story. And if the signals we're getting back as we're doing that are confusing or disorienting or unclear or uninspiring. It can lead to a bit of a letdown feeling of just losing interests, losing momentum. So at this point, I think again, re-engaging your characters with their own agency, making sure that they're not just sitting back, being sad about what just happened, but they regroup and they focus on what they're gonna do about it. And the thing they plan to do about it is something where you go oh, actually, yeah, like that. That makes sense to me that that could work. That's going to be fun to watch. So that we get that kind of second wind as readers that we're in this again, like I want to see how this plays out. This second effort, story beat is one area where foreshadowing can be especially effective and especially punchy because right in the moment where it seems like everything is good, it seems like it's going to work. If you can have that just those little moments where you're also hinting to the reader that there's more going on. Like if you're going to have one of the characters is going to betray the others towards the end. You know, have them have a little scowl when someone says something to them that gives that sense that maybe they're not as happy as they seem, or essentially whatever the curve ball or the floor falling out from under them, that's going to happen in the final fall. That leads up to the climax of the story a little bit later. If there's any ways you can foreshadow that now when things feel the sunniest and it's like, okay, like that didn't work. But here we go, This is going to work. And you kinda set that little hook in there can be really, really punchy for your reader because we get that kind of thrill of knowing more than the characters know and having that sense of like, Oh jeez, like that feels like tension, like it's that discordant note that just got hit where like, I don t know that that's actually going to play out as well as you think it will, but I hope it does, but we'll see what happens. So you look for opportunities to use foreshadowing to kinda complicate them forming the second effort. But essentially again, the cross genres, this looks differently in a heist movie. This is the moment when they roll out the map of the, or the blueprint at the bank vault and they say, here's the plan. We're gonna do this, this, this, this, and here's how it's all going to play out. Or if it's a romance, this is the point when the two primary love interests have gotten over enough stuff and they've gotten through their initial reasons that they don't immediately just work out and be a great couple. And maybe they're now having they set off on a good next date or they figure out enough to be able to start to get to know each other better or again, genre dependent. But having that moment that says, here's what we went through. Here's how we've decided enough to change. And then here's where we're headed next. This is what we're gonna do, just like the first effort, but in a way that actually feels like, yeah, that feels reasonable, that could work. Sets up the whole progression of the rest of your story. Both the crash and fall of the, that it kicks off the rush to the climax and then the payoff of the climax when they go further and further and higher than the even intended to at this moment when they're just sort of setting their sights on a better resolution in the process of deciding on their second effort. 12. False Success: So with the second effort established and your character is now in motion towards it, we're ready to move into our next story beat, which is the false success. So the false success is the point in the story when the reasonable part of the second effort is playing out. It's the part that goes the way we think it ought to go based on what has happened so far in the story and where they all are before the, what comes later where things crash and burn even harder, actually kicks in. Again, it's very, it's a really important moment because we want to see that moment of like, oh, this could work. In almost every romance. You have the part where things are happy and seem to be going well before something gets even worse. Yeah, using the example from before in the heist movie, this is the part where the plan is playing out according to plan and it seems like they're gonna get away with it in an action movie, it's the part where the hero seems to have a grip on the situation. And we're probably going to be okay and they've solved the problem before it gets out of hand. Again, to cross genres, this will look a little different, but we want to see that moment where things seem to be working because it's a little bit like a roller coaster. We know it's not gonna be that easy. We know that this is not going to be where the story ends. So the fact that it's going well, almost like the better it goes. But contrasted with our expectation that this isn't the end of the movie or the end of the story. It's that delicious anticipation of hovering just on the end of when it goes down. We know it's coming. We're anticipating that it's coming, but it hasn't come yet. It's a really effective moment of kind of suspended tension to keep your readers in. And it makes the pay off the, the, the impact of everything that's about to happen when you rushed through and get into your climax. Even more punchy and compelling. So make sure you take a beat before you just dive right into problems and setbacks. They have the second effort they begin to do, what they plan to do. Show it working, show it working in a fun way. This is a great opportunity for fun and games and other cool elements in your story. Moments of character interactions like if a relationship dynamic plays a heavy role, this is a great opportunity to just see the relationship working between two characters in some fun way. Like if it's a buddy cop movie, this is probably the part where they have seemed to have sorted out all their issues and now they're getting along and going after the bad guy. If it's a thriller, this is probably the point where your lead investigator or the person who's chasing after the bad guy seems to have solved the crime or they've gotten their big break or whatever. Like it seems to be going well. And that moment of suspended animation, it is both. It's satisfying to see a little bit of reward for all the hard work and stuff that the character has gone through to that point. But it's also tension building because we know it's not the end. So give yourself a little bit of a window after the second effort has been planned and initiated for your characters to experience a bit of false success. And that will make the impact of your crash. And then the build-up to the climax even more significant for the reader. 13. The Fall: Fresh off the happy heights of the false success, we are now ready to take our audience on the roller coaster plummet, which is the next of our story beats, which I call the fall. The fall is the moment in the story when the floor drops out from under your protagonist and the other characters in the story. And when everything that could go wrong does go wrong and things you didn't even think could go wrong also goes wrong. I think the key element for me with in the fall, the question I ask myself when I'm planning out that sequence of the plot is, how much worse could it get? Then how much worse could it get? You don't stop at your first idea that the more you complicate the story, the more problems you throw at your protagonist. And the deeper into the hole you drive them in, the process of the fall that plummet down into why we thought things were working. And now here we go. Wow. And the further and further and further down you can that by pushing them to their limit, then the more satisfying their eventual rise back out and further in the process of building to the climax and the eventual resolution of the story will be. So if you think about it as sort of like you're incentivized as the author to push the limits a little bit. As you build the biggest fall you can and the most compelling fall that you can, so that you have the most room to then tell the story backup again and build the story backup again. A couple of things to think about when you're doing this. The first one is definitely don't be nice. Like I said, don't pull your punches. This of all the time by now in the story, you have earned the space to really throw it all at your protagonist. There's a couple of sources this can come from. One is your antagonist of all. If you've done a good job of building a strong antagonist, then this is the moment when Ze, swing for the fences. You can almost think of the fall as the climax of the antagonist story like it, it is the furthest that they are going to win overall, like the most successful that they will be. And if you've done a good job of building up that antagonist, then when they put all their cards out there and there's twists that they've things that they can do or ways that they approach things or resources that they bring to bear or how far they go. That's one really good way to push the fall even further. The second way that you can kinda complicate or compound that fall is by continuing to ask yourself, what has your protagonist been relying on the most throughout the story to feel either safe or effective or what is the thing that they're most dependent on in the second effort that is like the way they're going to win the thing. What is their approach, or the thing that makes them feel confident? How can you take that away from them? So if there's a mentor character in the story, this is probably when the mentor character either disappoints or dies. Most of the times when the mentor dies, it happens here. If there is a best friend or a relationship that's really important, this is the time for them to fight it out. If there's a certain skill or ability or particular approach that has been consistently working for your protagonist. This is the time for it to not work and to not work spectacularly. The more you can add on multiple ways, not just one, but multiple ways, that the fall can be compounded to make it bigger and even more sharp of a drop and more intensive a fall. Then again, the more you're setting yourself up to build past that. I personally like to think about it as I'm trying in the fall in whatever story I'm telling, I tried to create a scenario where they are driven. They were there. My protagonist is driven to such an extent that who they are cannot recover. What I mean by that is like the last remnants of who they began the story as the last like pets, like flaws they're still holding onto or ways that they're still holding back. We're still don't fully believe in themselves like ways that they still haven't fully embraced the core theme of the story. The last remnants of who they were at the beginning of the story. Those things, if that's all they remain than the than resolving the depth of the fall will be impossible for them. They must change, they must grow, they must risk more. They must excel past the limit that they have been comfortable with or that they believed that they were capable of in order to push into what I'm thinking of as like the actual climax or resolution, put the solution to the fall like on the other side of that final effort of growth. Again, that's the, oh, there's something so satisfying and compelling in that dynamic in a story. And again, this works across genres. It looked different within different genres, but it works in all of them. If you think about how can I keep saying? And also this, like I remember, I can't even remember the name of the movie. There was a great romance that I watched, that the fall was a combination of like, this is a moment, things have been going well. And now not only is he has his X comes back to town and she get, but also she gets offered her dream job in another city. And this is when they both find out about the lie that they told each other at the beginning of the story. Like all of those elements, compounds, compound and hit at the same time. To make it seem, ideally, you want your audience to have that moment of like, oh my gosh, this is briefly pad. Yet how bad this is, because the sharper the fall is, the more room you have to build up for the climb back out again. And that climb back out again is what creates the kind of climax that your audience will cheer for as they're reading or cry over, or just celebrate. And remember after the story has gone, a lot of that payoff is baked into starting with a really sharp fall in a big one so that you have some room to go to tell your story the rest of the way to get to the ending. 14. Act Two: So we've just come through the next set of five beats that make up the middle or second act of our story. So let's take just a minute to talk about that second act in big picture terms. To talk a little bit about what's going on and what some of the key elements of a successful second act look like. So we've worked through the five story beats of the second act which are regroup, counting the cost. The second effort, a moment of false success, and then the fall. And you'll notice that those five beats kind of lay out a similar dynamic to act one. They're a little bit of a mini story. The beginning is how the character picks themself back up from the experience of the first act as we come out of that cliffhanger moment of wow, That didn't go well. Now here we are. We're catching our breadth and we're almost in a news story world a lot. You'll notice that in many, many, many stories, right about here is when we introduce maybe a new location or a new sequence of events. Because the events of the setback are often significant enough to shift the story into some new locations or moments, or types of efforts or activities that your characters have now are now going on in response to what's just happened that picks up there and then it moves through a process into the middle of like wow, were regrouping. And not only have we regrouped, we figured some things out, we've counted the cost, we fully committed to the effort of the story we're pursuing solving the story question in some new and more effective ways. It seems like it's working. And then the end is, oh, wait a minute. Not only is it not working, but it's not working even worse than we thought it would. This fall is that intense plummet down to a new low point in the story. That sequence. Notice again, it builds and then end crashes, and it leaves us now in an even higher level of a cliffhanger of but we were here at the low point and then it seemed like we were doing okay in a boom. Now we're down here. What's going to happen next? And you re-integrate your audience into that investment. The progression of your story, partly because we've seen the characters take some actions and make some progress and grow along the way. And a lot of times a Good Fall can feel a little unfair. Usually the setback, we kinda have that sense of like not not always that they had it coming necessarily, but that it was inevitable because it was partly the result of the characters own limitations or, or, or just lack of understanding or lack of awareness of the world. But the fall usually it's like it feels like almost that unfair. And then we were on their side even more. The empathy dynamic gets clicked on even higher. And now we really want to see them win because we'd been with them all the way along. They were doing well and they were trying and they were giving it. And then boom, like they got blind-sided with some extra things, some life events things, stuff happens. Again depending on your genre, what those things are will look different. But the end result for the reader is that sense of, hey, wait a minute. Like if you ended the story here, I'd be really frustrated. I must see how this plays out. I'm really in it here. You can get to that point by the end of the second act, then you have set yourself up for a banger of a third act and that kind of white knuckled intensity. And again, I don't necessarily mean it just in an action movie since it doesn't have to actually be intensely great character drama does this. Because in a great character drama, right about now is the point where everything is on the line and the characters own foibles and lack of certainty or, or inability to face into their, fully face into their flaws or their doubts or their myths beliefs are, have suddenly exploded and everything is now some interpreters. And the question of where to from here and how is extremely pertinent. And we are energetically invested in the progression of that story, even if no one's pointing a gun at anybody else. The genre trappings aside, that storytelling energy is endlessly engaging and captivating for our audiences. So that kind of progression is what we're looking to accomplish through the course of the second act. 15. Low Point: So having ended the second act with the intense plummet of the fall, we now need to pick ourselves back up and carry on with the story I in our next story beat, which is the low point. Just like the regroup story beat, is the introspective mirror to the events of the setback. The low point functions very similarly with the fall, it, you need some time, you need an opportunity after the plummet, the rush of events of the fall than all of the ways that the story now seems to be completely helpless or that it seems history question can't possibly be answered in a satisfying way. You need a moment or some moments of space for your characters to grapple with how badly things have gone and where they find themselves now and how impossible the odds now seem. One of the challenges of the low point is that in most cases, just because of the nature of the events of the fall, you usually don't have the kind of real time available that you do in the regroup. Like in the regroup, it can be like there might be a day, a couple of days or weeks, or like there's a bit more space because the events of the setback are usually not quite as dire. So you don't have quite as much pressure or obvious limitation of that space, but even with the fall being as severe as we hope it was, there's usually still a moment, even if it's a moment while you're running from something where your characters are running from something or towards something. Or, you know, if it's in the middle of the boxing ring, or if it's in the just after a huge argument or even if the events themselves are chaotic and the pace of those events doesn't leave a lot of breathing room. You want to make sure you create a moment of opportunity for both your characters and your readers to really take stock of just how low they have fallen and how impossible the scale of success now seems, at least along the track that they had been going on before. Even if it's a small moment, that moment is really important because it's partly how you validate the then process of building back out again after some change of perspective occurs. Final, finding a way where ideally you want to get your reader to have at least a window of time where they feel like it might actually be impossible, even though we know as the audience that in almost all this isn't the end of the story. Something is going to turn, something is going to change. Having that moment where it's in the back of your head, you're thinking how on earth are they going to get out of this? How on earth are they ever going to solve this? It seems to dire. You can get it to that point through taking a breath and taking a beat. Sometimes this can work through having one or more characters literally name how impossible things are, like talking about it and what they're gonna do. And having somebody say, there's nothing to be done, This can't be solved. Or having them, if realize internally or think internally. Oftentimes, part of what you're even naming in that low point of despair is a final, a final grieving and wrestling with the difficulty of change, the cost of change, having your character get that moment where they realize that they can't succeed as they are now. And you don't, you haven't necessarily gotten yet to the point where you're showing how they might change to come up with, to bring in a new solution or a new trajectory. But at that moment of realizing who I am now, me, the limited eye and the ways that I'm still holding on to some of those constraints and limitations that are holding me back as a character. I can't do it. I genuinely can't do it. It's too big, it's too much. Because I'm not I'm not yet brave enough to take the extreme step that is going to be required to solve the climax does seem like the end of the road, if you can, if you can create that moment, it's a powerful opportunity to have your theme resonate harder later because then you're showing how the discovery of the truth or it's the discovery of the growth that the character finally does achieve shortly after this moment of low point. It is earned in a way that makes it feel more worthwhile. Where if you just go like, oh no, a bunch of setbacks quick, let's fix it. And you don't have any space for the reader and the characters to linger on how bad it just got. Sometimes that you're short cutting that process and you unintentionally make your payoff feel less earned. But having that moment of introspective despair or doubt, or just, or fear, or just whatever that, whatever version of it makes sense for your story. That the moment of where it does really seem like this is the end of the road. It makes the final payoff that much more validating and exciting and feels like your character is really fought to get there and paid a price to get there. So looking for an opportunity to do that even again, if it's a short little window of time, sometimes it may be as short as I look in the mirror or a couple of lines of dialogue that gets not necessarily lots of time, but it's very important time to spend so that you drive that stay calm of exactly how low we have fallen and exactly how impossible it seems from here. 16. Realization: So with the depths of the low point now firmly established, we're finally ready to begin guiding our characters back out of that depth by building them towards the actual and final climax of the story. And we begin that process with the next story beat in our narrative arc, which is resolution and realization. Resolution and realization is the third of our soft story beats. Because again, it doesn't necessarily always work. There are definitely stories that don't have this exact kind of moment in them. But just like our previous soft story beats, it's absolutely worth spending some time thinking about it and seeing if maybe there is a way to include it in your story. And often there is this moment, the resolution Realization moment is, I think of it as like the penny dropped moment. It's that light switch moment of clarity for the character where they realized the last set of things they need to realize. And in that process of realization, they embrace that change. They become fully become the character they need to be in order to resolve the story successfully. One of the most iconic examples of this in all of storytelling history is the trust, the force moment in the Death Star run within Luke when Obi-Wan tells Luke, trust the force, It's that wait, oh, he's like holding on. He wants to still do it. Not as a Jedi, but just as a person. And he has that moment of like, no, I have to believe I have to fully commit to being this person that I've been kind of trying to be, but hesitating to be all the way through the story. If I don't do it now, I'll never do it. And I'm going to put everything on the line and embrace that last push of change to fully become, I've been becoming throughout the story. If you can create that kind of penny drop moment, again, it doesn't necessarily take up a lot of actual time in the story, but that moment where the character goes, oh my gosh, I get it. I've been holding back. I've been cutting it short. I've been trying to still be this thing. I haven't been too much my old flaw and not enough my new thing. It's the moment when after the big break up, the character just sees the Momento that the love interests that gave them way back when and has that epiphany and realizes that this person is the love of their life. And if they don't do everything and go like crashed the wedding and give it the last final shot. They will never forgive themselves like that. Penny dropped moment. Again doesn't work for every single story, which is why it's a soft beat. But it's worth thinking about if you can do it, it's extraordinarily cathartic and it's a perfect way to kick off the rapid climb to the climax. Because essentially you're now saying, suddenly armed with this new perspective, with this new resolution. Or my protagonist is now ready to tackle the final resolution of the story question, but in a new way, in a way they never would've been able to do at the beginning of the story. One critical thing though about this, you have to set this up earlier in the story, ideally in the first part of the story, the first act. And you have to kind of build it and begin complicating it to get to this moment, like if Obi-Wan force ghost, it just popped up and been like trust the force. And that was not something that had been established as a dominant dynamic and question. We hadn't seen luke wrestling with that issue and kind of trying to do it and then failing to do it and doing it other times and not doing it other times in training to do it like that would have been a total cheetah, total deus ex machina, where the solution sweeps in from out of nowhere and this false resolution is introduced. That doesn't work well. If you know what that resolution and Realization moment is going to be when I think of like boxing movies, like Cinderella Man or some of my other favorite was we'd like the box rates beaten like they are on the ground, on the mat. They're bleeding. They are barely conscious, but somehow they dig deep and they have that moment where they realize like they're gonna go for it, that beyond their own limits and they push themselves back up again. But again, you have to establish it. You have to plant the seeds of that realization earlier in the story so that when it happens, the audience is having that same moment along with the character simultaneously. We're also going, yes, that's it. That's the thing you had to realize. That's the final stage of transformation you had to go through to become the character you needed to be to solve this story problems successfully. Like we kinda sensed it leading up to this. And we've seen you wrestling with this dynamic all the way along and boom, there it is. You just realized it. And now we're on the edge of our seats ready to cheer you on as you put that new realization into practice through how you then approach the final rush of the story. 17. Ultimate Effort: Freshly inspired by that moment of resolution and realization, we're now ready to take our protagonist into our next story beat, which is the ultimate effort. So I'm guessing you've noticed by now that in our kind of three act of breakdown, there's an effort in each act. Our protagonist tries to solve the story of problem in initially unsuccessful ways and then increasingly successful but complicated ways. So we have now reached the point where the story is ending. This is it. There's not, There's no more screen time. There aren't any more pages after this. It's all or nothing win or lose. The kind of critical dynamic of the ultimate effort that is very hard to maintain, but very important and incredibly powerful when you can pull it off is tension. Because it's this kind of ironic dynamic where we know that we are now in the end of the story. And in almost all cases we know that we're headed toward the final and ultimately positive resolution of the story. And yet it hasn't happened yet. We're now, we're watching this take place. So you wanna make sure as, as the author, that you don't give the sense that this is a foregone conclusion that somehow oh, it's already like I'm no longer interested because it's clear to me that there's no real stakes left because they've had their realization and it now it's easy. You don't want the ultimate effort to feel easy. You want it to feel like it's hovering on that knife edge of tension where we are, we know that we're watching something new, but the, also the antagonist or the antagonistic forces of the story should be also at their strongest. Like if you can create that moment where your reinvigorated and finally transformed protagonist is at their strongest at the exact moment that the antagonist is letting loose with everything they've gotten there at their strongest. And we kinda have this sense that like it's the ultimate tension of those two forces at play to extreme drives and dynamics. Ideally within two characters that represent the two poles of your core theme of your story. And those things are smashing together in your ultimate effort moment. That's really powerful stuff, that's amazing and compelling storytelling. And that's why we can get that same kind of charge as an audience regardless of what genre we're watching. Because that moment of tension when we see the reactivated protagonist throw themselves at the story problem with everything they've got, leaving nothing back. And yet, we're still not completely sure if it's going to work or how it's going to work, we just want it to work. That is a moment of delightful suspended tension to exist in that. That's when you lose yourself in the story and you're just, you're just watching with bated breath to see what happens again, regardless of what kind of story it is or the nature of that ultimate effort, what you're looking to do it. But by the time you've reached this point in your story, if you set your story structure up, well, this part is, you are rushed to the finish and you kinda know by now what all your pieces are because you've set those pieces up to begin with to get to this point in the story. So, just like the other story beats here in our third act, this doesn't necessarily take up a lot of time. The other efforts usually get more actual space in your story. Because the momentum dynamic of this build towards the climax is by definition, fast and intense. You can't sustain it for forever. So it may be one final quick dual. It may, it may be that moment where your love interests, heroin busts through the doors and gives debt passionate speech and lays it all, lays there hard on the line. It may be that moment in the Thriller when your hero has been the only one who actually managed to solve the plot. So they go after the serial killer on their own. And our cat and mouse with a serial killer in a warehouse like it's the moment of ultimate tension in your story where you're equipped protagonist and you're fully unleashed antagonist are at complete opposition. And we're hovering in that tension waiting to see how it plays out. 18. Climax: Now that we've built the tension of our story up to a fever pitch. We are ready to start the process of ending our story with the second to last of our story beats in our story structure. And that is the climax. The climax is the moment when the tension that you have been building and building and building through the realization and refocus all the way up through the ultimate effort finally breaks. There's always got to be that moment because you can't sustain that tension indefinitely or it would just be a held note and no resolution to the story. Usually the climax is a moment within a scene because at the turn of it, the final click, it is something that you don't play out over a long period of time. So I gave the example before in the ultimate effort and the realization of loop doing the desktop run, you have like the sequence of events, the ultimate effort, all the final pieces are brought to play. Darth Vader comes in, Han Solo comes back. The final thing happens and then were held in that moment we're watching their torpedoes and then boom, the Death Star explodes. That moment. That is the cathartic tension break. That is the climax of that story. Because essentially the climax is the moment when you finally answer the story question that you posed in your inciting incident, whatever that story question is, all the way up until now, even in the ultimate effort, the beat right before this, we still hadn't actually answered the question. We were pretty clear which way we're headed, but it isn't actually finished. It's not answered yet. The climax is the moment where you finally answer the question no, in Jurassic Park, it's the point when the T-Rex busts in, saves, unintentionally saves the humans from the velocity raptors and they get out. They, they, yes. So the answer to the question, can they survive the re-introduction of all these dinosaurs? The answer is yes, these ones survived in Pride and Prejudice that final, glorious where they think it's never going to work and find you. Then in the ultimate effort, they both fully commit to becoming who they need to be. And they have that wonderful catharsis and the climax of both acknowledging their love for each other, but also acknowledging the way that each day changed each other and who they have now become. And so the answer to the story question, can these two extremely different people successfully grow to become the people they need to be to form this mutually supportive and true love relationship? Well, yes, the answer is yes, we just answered it. We had our climax. So if you think about it in those terms, it becomes much easier to identify what the actual climax of your story is. When you know your story question. You know your story answer to that question. And the moment when that answer clicks in is the climax. Final thing to say about the climax? I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating here. You can't cheat your climax with solutions or resources or outside help that was not earned through the progression of the story. Or I should say you can, but you shouldn't. Because this is the moment when everything is on the line and we, as the readers are fully invested in that dynamic. So if it's like, oh, and then just something swoops in from the outside like that is the ultimate letdown. Because what we want to see is the way that this transformed and fully changed character through the prices they have paid along the way, is now able to answer the story question in a way they never could have at the beginning, we want to see them answer it and the release and the relief of having watched that progression and then getting to that moment and going, Oh, there's my answer. Like some of it is just the resolution of uncertainty is a neurochemical relief. It feels good in your brain to have an unknown resolved to a known. So if you can do that resolution process, right, in the same dynamic of that, the answer, the key that unlocked that resolution was the progression of growth your character went through to get there. Chef's kiss. That is amazing, amazing climax storytelling moments. And those are the climax is across all stories like the really successful ones are the ones that did that thing. And then we remember them and we talk about them and we tell our friends about them and we say You have to go see this, you have to read this. Partly because imperfections aside. If it gets you to that final place of intense catharsis where the release and the relief comes in a well designed and intentional way that now the story question is resolved in this really satisfying payoff where all the pieces that I've been following all the way along, boom, they hit all at the same time and there you have it, folks. That just is awesome. That's what we read stories for. As you aim to build towards that moment in your own storytelling. And hopefully that will give you a little bit better of a framework of thinking about what it is you're even trying to do in your climax. It's not just the biggest explosion in the movie. It's really that moment of where the answer is given. And ideally it's given in a really satisfying, an unexpected way that pays off everything that we've been following throughout the course of the story to get to that point. 19. Resolution: We have one final story beat, our 15th and final story beat to talk about. And you may be saying, wait a minute, we just had the big climax. What is there left to talk about? Well, that's why we need to get into the resolution. So one of the central dynamics that we've seen at play throughout the full scope of our narrative arc is that anytime you build tension and you build speed, you build momentum and intensity. You need to then give a moment where the reader can absorb and take a minute to catch their breath and absorb what just happened. So that is true at key beats within the story arc, but it's especially true at the end of your story. You just had that final real realization which launches your protagonist into their ultimate effort where everything is on the line and the antagonist is doing everything they can and bringing everything they have to bear. And then the final tension of the story question is relieved and released through the answer of the climax. You can't just roll credits. You need a minute and your reader wants a minute to stay in the storyworld and breathe on the other side of that change that has now occurred to kinda go, whoa, okay, Wow, that was a rush. And I want to now see the world as the pay off of all of that change and costs and prices being paid. Those a little bit of attention to maintain here when it comes to the resolution because you definitely don't want to overstay your welcome. You don't want, you can't do like another half act because the climax has answered the story question. So there's really no actual story left to tell because we already know the answer to the story question. And if you try to answer it and then fake us out and re-introduce a new little one. This is not the time to tell more story. The resolution is a little window at the end of the story to show the result of the answer to the story question. So using the Star Wars example that we used before, you don't roll credits after the Death Star blows up, you give us a metal scene, and you can do a few things in your resolution to imply continuation. Like it doesn't all have to be sunshine and roses and happy ending. Sometimes the resolution is very bittersweet and that can be very poignant and powerful. But what you're trying to do is give your reader, your audience, some space to sit in the resolved tension for a moment and take stock of what has happened both in the story but inside of themselves. And again, a lot of this happens very subconsciously for us, but it does happen. We change as we fully vicariously invest ourselves in stories and we go through that process with these characters. It changes us as much as it changes them were in some of the same ways that it changes them. And when you finally get through that Russian, wow, it's over and oh my gosh, maybe I'm crying, maybe I'm laughing, Maybe I'm jittery, whatever it is, but like, I don't want to be left in that moment of tension. Just like a great orchestra doesn't end right on the climax, it needs some wind down, and the resolution is your chance to do that. It's also a chance to, if you do it quickly and efficiently, to close the loop on any lingering small plot loop elements like you can answer questions that were raised but not fully answered. In the climax, you can Show us a window of maybe something that happened with a secondary character that there wasn't space to show on the page during the climax, but we want to see how that played out. Well, they maybe they can tell us what happened to them while the climax was happening. So you can do a little bit of that. But really just remember that the real point of your resolution is to reward your reader for following this journey. And to provide that sort of like I'm clenching energy at the end. And probably it's just, it's fun, it's pure pay off. It's that moment where we get that. We get to see the lovers happy and engaged in the first moments of their new life together, we get to see the detective booking the serial killer in and justice has prevailed. Like we get to see the moment when the theme has been paid off. There's no questions left to answer. And we get to just for a moment, we linger on that shot and we kinda have that sense of like how the world has changed and where we are now as a result of this story that we just followed through the whole process of it all the way along the way and that last little bit of resolution. It's not often the moment that readers remember the most in a story. Like if you ask someone what were the most memorable parts of the story? Very rarely are they going to say, oh, the last ten pages or whatever. But it's a really important element to make sure that the high impact moments resolved fully satisfactorily so that they can linger in the way that they need to end out in the way that you want them to for your reader. So make sure as you're planning out your full story arc and your narrative structure all the way along. That as much as energy as you put into an amazing and powerful pay off in your climax that you think about what would be the most satisfying kinds of payoff moments quickly and efficiently, but also intentionally to reward your readers for following the story all the way to the end. 20. Class Wrap Up: As we reach the end of this class on narrative structure, I wanted to give you two quick encouragements or suggestions on what you can do to move forward from here to really make sure that this class and the concepts we've covered together can be as useful to you as possible. The first is to encourage you to really make sure you set some time aside to do the class project, which will walk you through the process of outlining a narrative structure for a story. It's one thing to hear all of this theory laid out in the abstract. But as I've had to say over and over again, this plays out really differently depending on what genre you're in, what kind of story you're telling. The specifics of the story are everything in terms of what makes your story your story. So don't just listen to all of these as abstract ideas. Take the project and make an outline for your own story, even if it's a brand new one or one you've been working on for awhile and see how the breakdown and the narrative structure elements we've covered help you to organize your story and outline it in a more clear and coherent way for yourself. When you do that, please do come share it. I love talking narrative structure as you can probably tell, because I get running way too fast and the way to animate it. So please do share your project here in the class. I promise I will read it, I will respond to it and it will give us all an opportunity to learn from each other, which I think is always really, really valuable. My second recommendation is to check out my other course that I have here on Skillshare all about writing unforgettable characters. You may have noticed how much I talked about character when we're talking about plot and narrative structure, because the two really are inseparable. As we have said since the very beginning of story, is the process of watching them motivated and interesting character do a whole bunch of stuff in response to things that happen in their life. So really nailing your characters well, all the different characters that make up your story goes hand in hand with outlining a great plot structure. Because so much of what we've covered in this class has to do with how you establish and then build and then complicate a growth journey, a transformation process for a character. So check out the class on writing unforgettable characters because it goes into a lot of detail about those different dynamics. And I think taking the two together in combination will really help you kind of lock in this overall process of outlining and approaching and writing a really compelling and unforgettable story. With all that said, if you've enjoyed this class, if you found some benefit in it, I would really appreciate a review. Reviews are super, super helpful and helping other students decided they want to take the class as well. And I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback. But with that said, thank you so much for joining me and I will see you next time.