7 point story system

Today’s post deals with another way to structure a story and it’s called 7 Point Story System. According to writer Dan Wells, who made a presentation of it a while back, this particular structure system can be applied to almost any story. He doesn’t take credit for it (nor do I), instead he said he found this structure from the Star Trek RPG (trekkie fans, rejoice!). Without any further ado, here it is:

Plot Turn 1
Pinch 1
Pinch 2
Plot Turn 2

The interesting thing about the above structure is that it works backwards (you’ll see that when you watch the video). For this structure to work, it is essential to know how your story or character arc ends, in other words you need to have a Resolution first. I should stress here that the Resolution isn’t the end of your book but rather the tidying up of your arcs (character and story) and in the case of a novel it may well span more than one chapters.

Once you have that, you then move to the Hook of the story. Mr Wells says that what the Hook and the Resolution show in terms of the story or the character are usually directly opposite to one another. For this example he uses the first Harry Potter book and compares Harry’s initial state (Hook) with what Harry has become (Resolution).

Once these two points are established, the writer then identifies the Midpoint. In my mind, the Midpoint acts as a transition between the character of a story being reactive (from Hook up to Midpoint), then changing to active (from Midpoint to Resolution). When I first saw that, I thought the Midpoint and the inciting moment are related but once I started working with this system a bit, I realised I was wrong. The Midpoint doesn’t also need to be in the middle of the story. The Midpoint is that one thing that connects to your Resolution and gives meaning to the story. It is the one thing your protagonist finds out about something and propels him/her into doing something about it, using everything he/she has picked up along the way (from Hook to Midpoint).

Once that’s done, Plot Turn 1 needs to be addressed. This is a another transition, one that exists between the beginning to Midpoint. This is the part where you have to introduce the conflict. It’s also the part where something happens that changes things around your main character. In the two short stories I’m writing at the moment, this is where my protagonist realises how important a waitress is for him (for the first story) and for second one it’s where the main character gets debriefed by his superiors and thus telling us what has happened.

Following that, Plot Turn 2 needs your attention. This is the point where everything leads to the Resolution. If your story is about your character having to do something, then this is the point where he/she will decide to do it. It’s what launches things towards the Resolution. In Poe’s short story Tell-Tale Heart I recently read, this is the point where the main character still hears his victim’s heart beating. That will propel him to the Resolution. If your Resolution is tragic and negative for the protagonist (as is the case with one of my short stories), this is the point that enables that tragic ending.

You then have to deal with the two Pinches. Pinch 1 is something that forces the character or the situation into action. It’s what leads to the Midpoint. Sometimes a villain is introduced or a problem inflicts the character that will push him/her forward. In the first Harry Potter book, that something is the appearance of the troll and that there’s no one around to deal with it, so the kids have to gain enough confidence in their abilities to deal with it.

Pinch 2 is all about applying even more pressure to the character. Either the problem will look impossible to solve or a supporting character will die or the character will realise he/she is left completely alone. Whatever you make it to be, it has to up the stakes significantly in order for your Resolution to have the maximum impact on the reader. It doesn’t matter if your story is going to be a sad one or a happy one (I prefer the first), as long as the stakes have gone so high that the Resolution is satisfying.

Naturally, there’s a lot more to a story than just this outline, things like well-developed characters, good environment set up, using all the senses for the reader to be fully immersed in your story and of course subplots (if you apply the system to longer works).

I have only used it twice so far, both times for short stories, one of which I’m in the process of writing and appears very difficult even with this system. But I’ll make it work one way or another. For my longer works I prefer to work with the snowflake method BUT the 7 point system can help tremendously in identifying the key elements of a story and space them properly before using a more detailed structure system. I find it very handy and very helpful in arranging my thoughts in the right order and I like having a guideline when I write.

Next week I’ll either start giving writing prompts or, if I’m still stuck with my second short story, beg for your help. I’m really stuck 🙁