Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The "W" Graph

Here it is, another new week, and Fated still isn't completely finished, but we're close.

Right now we are waiting to hear from our editor and then it will be on the way to her today! Very Excited!

I hope she likes the book, but I'm sure there will still be edits we'll need to fix. Hopefully not to many so we can get the show on the road. We still have to write our acknowledgements and all the other little stuff to get it looking as professional as possible without being a traditionally published book. Thanks to our new publishing friend, Spring Lea, we know how the book should be set up.

So, keep your fingers crossed for us that we can get it out to the public before Christmas.

In the mean time, I had another wonderful class last Sunday. After going over some logistical information, Janet Baltz, my critique partner, talked about the structure of story.

She did an excellent job explaining the basic story structure using the "W" format. 

As you can see the basic story follows this chart. Yes, there can be inserted places with sub-plots to add to the tension, but this is the way a story is basically formulated. 

There are other type graphs that some genres tend to follow, such as a maze for mystery/thriller novels, but most will fall into this model of explanation. And, even though writers, and readers know this is the way a story tends to flow, it doesn't stop or take away from the joy of a book.

Since the beginning of stories, this has been the way they are told. A beginning problem. What to do. Starting to fix the problem and think you have the answer. Oh no, another issue. Sliding down to the dark moment. A climatic turning point. Then resolve.

If you are writing fiction this is a good model to look at the way your structure is set up in your book. You do need to know the basic beginning and ending of your story, and this should help you figure out the middle. One of the differences of writing as a plotter, or a pantser.

I really enjoyed Janet's presentation. I'm looking forward to the next class where Kathy will talk about "Finding your Muse". Until then, I would love to hear your thoughts on the "W" graph and if you ever used anything similar in your writing.

Have a great week all! See you back here on Friday!

Love, Lisa


  1. I'm not sure who wrote about the W-Plot first, but if I recall correctly, it was originally described as a 3-act structure (which is what most writing courses cover for storytelling, be it novel or screenplay). Not that 4-act structure is any less valid than 3. Some stories have well over a dozen acts.

    In traditional 3-act structure, which can very easily follow the W-Plot sequence, the acts are as follows: the setup, then the confrontation, and then the resolution. The main plot point, the inciting incident, occurs during the first act (setup). The setup is a place for exposition and establishing the setting. In my NaNoWriMo novel, for example, I'm just finishing up the setup at about 15,000 words, so I know my book will probably be about 60,000-70,000 words as the setup is typically 15-20% of the book.

    Genres such as thrillers, on the other hand, will usually have the inciting incident and first main plot point right at the start within a chapter or two. Much like the 4-act structure, the 3-act structure is a guide that is usually applied after the story is written. It's not necessary to conform to any particular structure to tell a good story (and you can almost always identify both 3-act and 4-act structures post mortem).

    Traditionally, the inciting incident occurs part way through the first act, not necessarily at the end of it. The first plot point or turning point occurs at the end, and leads into act II.

    The confrontation, which is the second act, is the majority of the book. The second major plot point occurs towards the end, following the midpoint (the second triggering point above). This is the rising tension leading up to the final confrontation. Characters are developed, motivations are partly exposed (plus a red herring or two in mystery and thrillers), all leading up to that second major plot point (turning point 2).

    Then comes the resolution. The climax is part of the resolution and occurs towards the end. Depending on what kind of story you're writing, you might end almost right after the climax, or there might be a couple of chapters following it to tie up loose ends and perhaps leave a few threads dangling for a sequel. Oddly, the W-Plot doesn't include the climax in its graph.

    1. yes, exactly. The inciting problem needs to be early, they try to solve it, they think it's getting better then another problem occurs that incites a black moment, and then resolve.

  2. A four-act structure I'm more familiar with originated in the 1930s with pulp fiction writer Lester Dent. It's generally referred to as Lester Dent's Master Plot Formula, and while it was originally intended to be used for writing short stories, it works perfectly well for longer forms and is often used for bestselling novels and blockbuster films.

    The basis of Dent's structure is 4 acts. The first act establishes the problem. That's all there is to it. Establish the locale (setting) and some characters (and often this will include the antagonist) and the problem, be it a murder, an impending natural disaster, or what have you. Then is the turning point. This is described by Dent as a surprise plot twist.

    The second act ratchets up the tension and lands the hero into even more trouble. Again, the act resolves with another surprise plot twist. The third act is where the hero starts making some headway. This is the second turning point (and of course, as per Dent, another surprise plot twist). This is usually where you make it look like the hero is going to win and at the end of the act make it clear that the villain has the upper hand.

    The final act resolves things in whatever manner the author sees fit. Dent would want the hero to be in grave peril at the end of it only to extricate him or herself from the situation using his or her own skill. There would also be the prescribed twist, revealing the villain to be someone unexpected, etc. But the important point is that the mysteries remaining are resolved. That is the key. And of course, the hero comes out of things alive.

    That's the one thing about storytelling. Genres in which there is a prescribed ending (not necessarily happily ever after, but definitely alive after) fare better than those that do not. Science fiction, to the best of my knowledge, is the only broad genre that generally has no prescribed ending. Most fantasies will have a happy ending (unless it's dark fiction/horror) or at least an ending that leaves readers satisfied (i.e., the hero/heroes is/are alive or mostly so).

    1. I believe most Fantasy fiction usually has a trilogy, or series to it so the ending is not always "happy". That's how it is in my books anyway.