Of all of the plotting structures I researched, Dan Wells’s 7 Point Plot Structure is the closest to what I actually use.
I’m a non-linear writer. I rarely ever start a story without knowing the ending and I often write the last chapter before I write the first. It just makes it easier to know where I’m going. Wells’s 7 Point Plot Structure is based on that concept. Start at the end, with the resolution and then double back to write the hook.
If you’re familiar with the 7 Point Plot Structure, you’ll recognize a lot of this vocabulary, but I’m going to provide descriptions of each for new writers. And of course, this will be tweaked for romance authors.
Plot points and definitions:
Hook: the opening of a story that "hooks" the reader's attention so that he or she will keep on reading. The "opening" may consist of several paragraphs for a short story or several pages for a novel, but ideally, it is the opening sentence.
Plot turn 1: The “Call to action.” Also known as the “inciting incident.” This is when the Hero and Heroine meet and the attraction is either foreshadowed or revealed.
Pinch 1: “Put pressure on characters; force action.” This is the point when you build the pressure and make it clear that the attraction isn’t going to go away on its own and the Hero/Heroine must do something about it.
Midpoint: “Move from reaction to action.” This is a key moment in the story – and despite the name, it does not necessarily need to occur in the exact middle of your book. This is the point when your hero stops stalling or overcomes what’s blocking them from acting.
Pinch 2: “Really lay on the pressure; hero on his/her own.” Applies pressure to the story and the hero, usually through a great loss. Also known as the Dark Night of the Soul or the Jaws of Defeat.
Plot turn 2: “Get the last piece of puzzle.” This is where the hero finally learns they have the power to solve the problem at hand.
Resolution: “Winning!” Obviously, the end of your story. For romance authors, this is the HEA and erotica authors might have a HFN or promise of one for their main character.
Now that you have the plot points and definitions, let’s apply the Wells approach to them.
To start, you begin at the end. The reasoning behind that is 1) to have a final destination and 2) make sure you pace your book properly by presenting a reverse image of an earlier plot point.
I promise this is gonna make sense...
7. Write the resolution. Where do you want your story to end and more importantly, where do you want your characters to be at the end of this story? Obviously for the romance or erotica author, we either arrive at a HEA/HFN ending. How did we get here? What did your characters have to overcome?
1. Now swing the opposite extreme and write your Hook. To get to the outcome you wrote in Plot Point 7, your character must change. Even flat characters, the ones who don’t develop as a character must at least have their beliefs shaken or changed by the end. How would the character in the resolution present in the Hook? Who are they at the beginning of the story? What barrier is between them and the HEA/HFN resolution that they feel is insurmountable? What emotional wound prevents them from establishing real intimacy with their love interest?
3. Write the Midpoint. Here is where your character will move from reaction to action. This is a very important point in the progression of the plot. It’s the exact point between the Hook and the Resolution the propels your character towards the end that you’ve already written. What happens in this moment? At this point in the story, your Hero and Heroine have shared some sort of emotional intimacy and this is when they need to acknowledge the connection. This is probably the sex.
2. Write Plot Turn 1. This is when the Hero and Heroine meet and the attraction is either foreshadowed or revealed. If the midpoint propels your character towards the resolution, Plot Turn 1 propels your character towards the midpoint. This plot point rocks your Hero/Heroine’s world. Attraction is there but so is a resistance fueled by an emotional or physical barrier that creates conflict.
6. Now write Plot Turn 2. Similar to the first Plot Turn, Plot Turn 2 propels your character from the midpoint to the resolution. This is where your Hero/Heroine realizes that they are in love and will do anything to make sure that the other person knows it.
Now let’s talk about those pinch points.
3. Write Pinch Point 1. Remember, a pinch point is the place in your narrative where you apply pressure to your character. Your Hero and Heroine are definitely feeling the attraction between them and they might even be falling in love. This is the pivotal moment that gets us to the sexy times at the midpoint. Heyyy!
5. Write Pinch Point 2. Even more pressure is applied at this Pinch Point. turning the situation into one that seems hopeless. This is the “big misunderstanding.” The event or conversation that breeds mistrust and makes one or both of them retreat with their hands up. It feels like the break up might be real, but it has to feel that way to make Plot Turn 2 believable.
I really like Wells’s 7 Point Story Structure because it makes it easy for me to pace my novel and gives me signposts along the way. Also, those signposts make it easy for me to bounce around in my story and write the bits I’m excited about and fill in the boring bits later.
It also seems like it could be easily adapted for any subgenre or trope!
What do you think of the Wells 7 Point Plot Structure? Is it something you would use or have used before? Tell me about it in the comments!