Setting up your story structure means creating an outline for you to follow—a map of sorts for getting from the beginning of your story to the end. Just like in the world of cartography, which has many different kinds of maps, there are many types of outlines in the writing process.
There’s the three-act structure, snowflake, hero’s journey…and then, there’s the seven-point structure. The 7 point plot structure is a nearly fail-safe way to outline so that you can create a story that includes plot points that get you from start to finish in a way that makes sense and entertains the reader.
What Are Plot Points?
Plot points are the major events that influence what will happen next in the story. Each plot point drives the story in a new direction. It also helps introduce character development throughout the plot. Sometimes, it also leaves the characters with no other choice but to move forward. If the events do not impact or influence the story, they cannot be considered plot points.
Through plot points, the individual parts of the entire plot become connected. Plot points also sustain the reader’s interest by moving the story along and by maximizing the use of exciting events. When it comes to the seven-point story structure, these plot points will be discussed in detail throughout this article.
What is a Seven-Point Structure?
A seven-point plot structure is a way to map each plot point, and plot turn in an outline form to make your writing clear. With the 7 point plot structure, it’s nearly impossible to leave essential plot points out. A seven-point structure works if you’re a planner and like to have a detailed outline. It also works for writers who want to be led by the story and the characters.
Similar to the three-act structure in that the story leads the author in a direction that must hit specific points to make it flow well, this structure or outline type involves seven points that should be present. The character moves in ways that follow the seven-point system, from each plot turn, until the resolution, and that’s how character development occurs.
Every writer does an outline of some sort. Some do it before they begin writing, and some do it as they write. And others map plot points after they write, in the revising stage. The seven-point story structure includes everything you need when it comes to story structure so that you don’t miss an important plot point.
What Does the Seven-Point Story Structure Look Like?
There are seven points in a seven-point plot structure, as you might have guessed. But what are they? You can’t just write seven random things that happen to your character in your book and call it a seven-point structure. The following are the exact plot points you need to have in this point structure outline.
- Plot Turn 1
- Pinch Point 1
- Pinch Point 2
- Plot Turn 2
Now let’s take a closer look at each part of the seven-point structure.
The Parts of Seven-Point Structure
Each plot turn and progression follows the seven points, regardless of genre, story type, or story length. You may think that following this type of story will result in a predictable and boring story that lacks originality. Still, you can literally grab any book from your bookshelf, read through it, and write an outline so that each plot point and plot turn is precisely where it is supposed to be. To fully understand the use of this outline to create a complete story, we will now go over each part of the structure.
The hook is where you begin your story and introduce your character. In your own story, you would decide what sort of character you want to end up with and make him the opposite of that in the hook.
For example, let’s look at Star Wars. Luke Skywalker leads a quiet, unassuming life on a planet where very little occurs. He’s shy, and he’s not concerned with justice or political moves made to conquer entire galaxies. He’s just doing the best he can to help out his Aunt and Uncle. He’s no one special, in other words.
Skywalker begins the story this way because he will be completely different after his character arcs. The opposite of how he starts out. In Star Wars, Luke becomes a hero and Jedi master, even saving Princess Leia from the Death Star.
Another excellent example of a hook is Harry Potter. He starts out as a character that is hated and picked on by his family. He is mistreated, feels weak and out of control of his own life and fate. He is written like this because he will change entirely throughout the story and end up the wizard who saves the world.
The Ice Monster Prologue
When you’re writing a tragedy, all you have to do is reverse the hook process. The ice monster prologue is named for Game of Thrones, which has its share of tragedy. It follows the same idea as the hook in a regular story, where you start the character out in the opposite state they will end up in.
Write the hook as the opposite of the ending in a story that will end sadly or in tragedy. For example, if your main character ends up imprisoned or heartbroken at the end of the story, start your story with a hook that presents this main character as happy, carefree, hopeful, and living a great life. Flip the fate. That’s all you’ve got to do.
Plot Turn 1
These seven plot points may have different names than what you’re used to seeing, but “plot turn 1” is just another way of stating “inciting incident.” After you’ve introduced the main characters and setting, this is where you push your protagonist along the narrative arc. Your character sets out on his or her journey, in other words.
For example, in Harry Potter, this is where Harry Potter finds out that his parents didn’t die in a car accident. He’s the son of a witch and a wizard, and he is very well known in the world in which his parents lived. He has to make the decision to accompany Hagrid to Hogwarts to begin his adventure learning to be a wizard, or he can choose to continue living under the thumb of his cruel Aunt and Uncle. Obviously, he goes to Hogwarts.
Pinch Point 1
Pinch points are conflicts that the protagonist faces along the way in the story. Each of these points is crucial in building a character arc and moving the plot along. Conflict is essential in any type of story structure.
Pinch points are where the protagonist gains experience and confidence and realizes that he or she must keep going on their journey. This will create powerful moments of growth for characters.
The midpoint is the turning point of your story, a major event. As mentioned earlier, you have to force your protagonist to grow. Putting them through the first conflict certainly helps, but getting that protagonist to choose for themselves to stop reacting to conflict and take action instead is the step you need to take next.
Although it’s called a midpoint, it doesn’t have to happen in the middle of the story. It can occur in the same scene as any of the other subplots. Your writing journey will be unique depending upon your main plot. The plot turns you want to include and your own writing style. So your midpoint may not be in the same place or point of your story as someone else’s.
This is where Luke Skywalker decides to help out other planets and learn to use the force because he feels that Darth Vader must be taken down. He’s no longer struggling due to having things thrown at him that he didn’t ask for. He’s now willing to dive headfirst into battle due to his developed beliefs.
It’s the point in which Harry decides that Voldemort shouldn’t get to rise to power and doesn’t get to win, and he’ll willingly put himself in harm’s way to make sure that Voldemort doesn’t prevail.
Put in its simplest terms, it’s when things stop happening to the protagonist, and the protagonist starts making things happen.
Pinch Point 2
This is the point in the story where you add more pressure. Another conflict occurs here after the protagonist has chosen to take some sort of action. Pinch point 2 is where you push the protagonist to the brink. Also known as the “dark night of the soul,” you take something away from your hero so that all seems lost. If it’s a love story, you can kill off his or her lover. If it’s a story about an investigation, you can fire the investigator, or make him or her accuse the wrong guy, or just lose the perp during a foot chase.
Push the protagonist down and make him get up of his own free will, regardless of how hard it is.
Plot Turn 2
Weaving plots can be exhausting and incredibly difficult, especially if you want to create and write a great story. You are tasked with taking a protagonist out of the status quo right after the first scene, then you have to apply pressure, put them up against bad guys, and come up with turning points to push them forward. Sometimes coming up with new ideas seems impossible in these stories.
Don’t lose hope for your stories yet, though. We’re almost to the end of the writing.
This is the part of the writing where you put your protagonist up against the antagonist. This is where Harry Potter comes face to face with Voldemort. This is where Luke Skywalker goes head to head against Darth Vader. This is where the big battle scene gets ready to take place.
The resolution is where the loose ends are tied up, normalcy is restored to a degree, and everything winds down. In your writing, you have, by this point, taken a deep dive into this new world that you have created. You turned an idea into a reality on paper, and you turned the world upside down for your protagonist.
At this point, you just have to figure out how you want to end it all.
Tips for Writing Using 7 Point Plot Structure
There are specific tips that most writers apply to this type of writing structure. Using these tips tends to make the process easier for a writer, especially one who isn’t quite sure what they want to happen in the course of their story.
1. Utilize Plot Backwards
Start with the resolution and work your way backward when writing your outline. How do you want your story to end? What’s the major conflict that you want to have happen in your book? However you want it to end, write the beginning in the exact opposite way.
Once you’ve started at the end and then created the beginning, figure out your midpoint next. Now you’ve got your beginning, middle, and end. All that’s left now is the details and a few conflicts.
2. Use a Writing App that Will Help You
There are many different apps and programs that you can use to write your story. Trying out several and then choosing what works best for you will help you feel more comfortable in your work. A simple internet search will produce a plethora of apps and programs, many of which offer free trials or are free in their entirety.
3. Watch the Youtube Videos by Dan Wells
Dan Wells is often credited with creating, perfecting, and teaching this type of plot structure. Dan Wells is a horror and thriller writer who created a series of videos that were put on the internet in which he explains the seven-point structure, which he uses to write, and also to design and orchestrate the role-playing games that he creates, runs, and plays.
In the game Dungeons and Dragons, a “master” is in charge of creating a unique and exciting storyline for the players to react and play off of. These stories can fall flat pretty quickly, which makes for a boring game, especially since a single game of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) can last from hours to months. Wells started to spin campaigns that followed a structure he started calling the seven-point plot structure to keep things interesting and keep players engaged.
It Works for Any Genre
As stated previously, regardless of what sort of content you want to write, this structure will work for your story, whether it’s romance, horror, thriller, suspense, adventure, fantasy, or science fiction. If you follow the steps laid out in this outline, you will find that you end up with a story that checks all of the boxes for what a novel or short story needs.