Structure Series #3: To Begin… a Story Engineering overview

To begin, we’ll take a broad look at the Story Engineering model Larry Brooks puts forth. Four parts, brilliantly named (wait for it…) Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four (you may applaud now), will form the main chunks of our story framework, The Four-Part Story Structure (yes, I’ll wait…).

Once we’re seated again after that ovation, we find that behind their fancy names, these parts are filled with purpose – unrealized potential, just waiting for us to flesh out and spit shine. Larry Brooks imagines them as boxes that we deposit our story elements into. Each box has a specific purpose, and each and every story element has to find its way into the proper box. Moreover, each box has specific things that must happen within its walls in order for it to be a whole, completed, fulfilled story part.

Each part, or box, also comprises a set percentage of our story. Shockingly, it all breaks down evenly, with each part getting its fair share of the pie (that’s 25% for you math nerds out there). They are punctuated with specific points that shift the context of the story. The First Plot Point (more stubbornly original names) comes 25% into our novel, delivering us safely from Part One into Part Two; the Midpoint (stand back) sits at the 50% mark, dividing Two from Three; and the Second Plot Point (did you see it coming?) stands guard 75% of the way through, ushering us from Part Three into Part Four. They are essential turning points that help our readers navigate our story world without getting lost, milestones that we need to hit in order to keep their bearings, and ours. For today, we’ll just peek inside briefly:

  • Part One is our setup. Our hero is thought of here as an orphan waiting to be adopted by our readers. Lots happens here, but the real story is yet to get underway.
    • The First Plot Point is where the initial explosion occurs, rocketing us into the story problem.
  • Part Two is where the real story really begins. Our Hero is now responding to the explosion, and is wandering (probably aimlessly), reeling from the shock of it all.
    • At the Midpoint our hero receives some major revelation and begins to attack the story problem in earnest.
  • Part Three finds out hero a warrior, slashing his way through the story problem.
    • At the Second Plot Point our hero receives what he needs to resolve the story; it is the beginning of the resolution.
  • Part Four shows our hero to be the martyr, willing to do everything that is needed to resolve his story problem.

Clearly, this is a simplified model, and we’ll get into details as we go, but this is it in a nutshell. The very scaffolding that holds up great stories through the ages.

Next time we’ll dive into Part One!


To view a chronological listing of the posts in this series, continue below:

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