Much is written about story structure. My novels utilize what I call a story timeline, which lays a foundation for all of the plot points and character arc transitions that are required in a great novel.
Listed below are the nineteen unique timeline points I use when designing a story. Two of those listed – Complications and Fall from Grace – are actually multiple actions that get expanded into many specific timeline points.
This blog post will go into the Act I timeline points.
The first point is the Inciting Incident. This is where the initial problem begins, and the story arc begins. It’s the reason the story is being told. It should happen right away as the novel begins.
Next, the protagonist arc begins, as he or she is Called to Action as a result of the Inciting Incident. Something has happened that forces the protagonist to react and do something about it.
When this action is ineffective in solving the problem, the protagonist has a Defining Moment, a crucible where he or she chooses to do something he or she wouldn’t normally do. The protagonist is now out of their comfort zone. Their internal fears and moral problems are now exposed.
The final timeline point in Act I acts as a transition to Act II. In this First Turning Point the protagonist has an awakening, and the plot moves in an entirely different direction, leading to multiple complications and rising action.
All of this should be accomplished in approximately ten percent of the story timeline (not number of words).
By structuring the start of your novel in this fashion, you greatly improve your chances of giving the reader a comfortable and recognized flow.
Next up, Act II.
Steven G. Jackson July 18th, 2016