Posts in Plotting
Anatomy of a Romantic Comedy: Seven Essential Story Beats

They’ve hit the scene in an incredible way, from the slew of Netflix films to the rise in rom-com fiction (sometimes called “chick lit”) in both Adult and YA. But rom-coms never really went away. They simply faded for a time, with new books and films releasing at a slower pace — a great example of what can happen in the ever-shifting market.

With rom-coms once more on the rise, I’d like to break down the anatomy of the genre using the structure outlined in Billy Mernitt’s Writing the Romantic Comedy. (Note: Buy this book. Seriously. It’s a sharp tool in your writing arsenal. Mernitt explains each of his seven story beats with brilliant examples from existing rom-coms. It’s a must-read.)

In The Anatomy of a Romantic Comedy, Mernitt takes the classic three-act structure (e.g. Conflict, Crisis, Resolution) and renames each point to set them into a rom-com frame: Meet, Lose, Get.

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How to Craft Static Character Arcs For Your Novel

A character arc follows the inner journey a character undergoes throughout a story.

In most cases, we think of character arcs as being transformative. A protagonist overcomes a fear or flaw in an effort to achieve their goal, or an anti-hero finds themselves falling victim to their darkest doubts and desires. But what about those arcs in which no transformation takes place? Is a character arc lacking in development if the character remains the person they are when their story began?

Not at all, writer — or, at least, not necessarily. When crafted with intention, this type of arc can tell a powerful inner story. Today on the blog, let’s take the time to break down the major beats that bring this static arc to life.

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How to Craft Negative Character Arcs For Your Novel

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I wrote an article on character arcs.

In that article, I explained the importance of developing character arcs in your stories, established the three arcs found in fiction, and broke down the eleven major beats that comprise the most popular of the three: positive change arcs. I also asked if you’d be interested in similar breakdowns of the remaining two styles, negative change arcs and flat arcs, and your answer was a resounding yes.

Despite this, I found myself caught up in other articles and topics and failed to circle back around — until now, that is. Today, I’m excited to delve into the dark descent of negative change arcs with you all, soon to be followed by an article on flat arcs as well. Have a character for whom a bittersweet or tragic ending is in order? This is the article for you, writer.

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Exploring Three Ways to Structure Your Book Series

I’ve always been drawn to book series, both as a reader and a writer.

Perhaps it’s the depth a series can achieve, allowing for rich and expansive storytelling, or simply because I long to spend more time with the characters I love. From a career standpoint, series also offer authors the opportunity to build upon their backlists with related works, encouraging book sales as readers return for more of what captivated them in book one.

Think you may like to write a book series of your own? It’s important to note that not all series are created equal. In fact, there are three distinct ways you can structure a book series, and understanding which structure is right for your stories and career goals is key to setting yourself up for series success. Today, let’s break down these structures together.

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Do You Know What Drives Your Story’s Narrative?

At the heart of every good story is an arc, a series of related events that compels the reader to engage with the narrative.

Sometimes, that arc is one of external thrills and escapades. Will they catch the killer? Will she break the curse? Other times, that arc is one of inner turmoil or transformation. Will his pride lead to eventual downfall? Will she find it in her heart to forgive? Certainly, both types of arcs can be present in a story. But ultimately, only one can serve as the driving force behind its narrative.

As writers, why is it important to understand which arc lies at the heart of our stories? Let’s examine the difference between plot-driven and character-driven narratives today on the blog.

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Finding the Novel Outlining Process that Works for You

There’s nothing more nebulous than trying to produce a decent outline for your novel.

With dozens of outlining methods to choose from, all of which seem to work well for some writers but not for others, defining the outlining process that works best for you and your stories can be more than a little intimidating. How much detail do you need to include? Is outlining really necessary? Isn't there a better way? 

Writers, it's time to cut through the chaos and get down to business. Let's find the outlining method that works best for each of us in today's breakdown!

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Outline Your Novel With the 3-Act Story Structure

Are you ready to take the overwhelm out of outlining your novel?

Transforming a new story idea or a shapeless first draft into a spectacular full-length book is more than a little difficult. There are endless elements at play: plot arcs, character arcs, stakes, themes, pacing... It's no wonder many writers struggle to give life to the stories in their heads. 

Fortunately, giving shape to your story doesn't have to be as difficult as it may seem. You can craft a strong blueprint for your novel with ease by making good use of a little tool called story structure.

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How to Craft Riveting Internal Conflict For Your Story

Conflict is the backbone of any good story.

External conflict, which we broke down recently here on the blog, occurs between a character and an outside force, whether that be another character or an element of nature, society, or technology. On the other hand, internal conflict arises from an ethical or emotional debate that occurs within a character.

This style of conflict, while occurring in some form in every story, has the same ability to carry the full weight of a plot as external conflict. But how? Well, let’s discuss internal conflict together today!

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Breaking Down The Four Main Types of External Conflict

Conflict drives narrative.

As humans, our curiosity piques when two forces oppose one another. “What is happening?”, we ask. Why are these two forces at odds? How will the conflict play out? Who will win? What would I do if I were in that situation?

These are the questions readers ask, more or less subconsciously, as they read. Which means they’re also exactly the kinds of questions writers should ask themselves when crafting plots for their stories.

In stories, as in life, there are two types of conflict: internal and external. Internal conflicts are the mental, emotional, or spiritual struggles a person faces—Character vs Self—which we’ll talk about on the blog soon!

Today, however, we’re going to focus on the second type of struggle: external conflict. Shall we dive into the breakdown? 

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How to Write a Trilogy: Q&A Session!

Who’s ready to talk trilogies?

Hello, writer, and welcome back to the third and (possibly?) final installment of our blog miniseries on crafting trilogies. 

In the first article, we broke down the three basic types of trilogies and four ways you can plot your own. We then picked up in article two with a breakdown of the many different ways you can craft character arcs for your trilogy, but we’re not stopping there!

When I was first asked to write an article on trilogies, I knew I wanted to talk about plot and character arcs, but many of you also had related questions and concerns. Because many of those concerns couldn’t quite fill out articles of their own, I’ve decided to tackle them today in a blog Q&A session. 

Ready to dive in?

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How to Craft Character Arcs for Your Trilogy

Welcome back to our blog miniseries on crafting trilogies!

In last week’s article, we introduced the series and covered a few trilogy basics, including the three main types of trilogies and four ways you can plot your own. But focusing on plot alone won’t help you write a successful trilogy. 

Today, we’re going to turn our attention to character arcs—specifically, the four types of character arcs you can utilize as you map out the inner conflict and development of your trilogy’s characters. Sound like a plan?

Make sure to check out part one of our blog miniseries before getting started, then come on back to dive into the wonderful world of character arcs below!

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Four Ways to Plot a Trilogy

Are you interested in writing a trilogy?

From The Lord of the Rings to The Hunger Games and beyond, it’s plain to see that trilogies stand the test of time among readers. But writing a trilogy? Well, that can be tough!

A good trilogy must hook readers and keep them engaged, maintain good pacing and consistency, and steadily increase in tension toward an epic series climax. Mapping that out? Well, it’s certainly a tall order. No wonder so many authors find the task of writing such a trilogy daunting!

Recently, one of my lovely Patreon supporters asked if I had any tips or tricks for planning a trilogy, and I was shocked to realize I hadn’t yet written any articles on the subject. But better late than never, right?

Over the coming weeks, I’m going to break down the process of crafting a trilogy in depth so you can better plan your own. What’s on today’s agenda? An overview of the common styles of trilogy and the plot structures behind them. Let’s dive in!

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The Third Act: How to Write a Climactic Sequence

Writers, it’s time to go out with a bang!

Today, we're back with the third and final installment in our mini-series on the 3-Act Story Structure. Each article in this series builds upon the last, so make sure to check out the first two installments before diving in: 

All caught up? Fantastic!

Today, we’re diving into Act Three of the 3-Act Story Structure. Tension is thick. The final conflict between your protagonist and antagonist looms on the horizon. How can you ensure you write a finale that will blow readers away? Let’s get started with today’s breakdown!

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The Second Act: Is the Middle of Your Story Dragging?

Worried your book isn't exciting enough to maintain readers' interests?

Back in the day, I constantly struggled to write past the first few chapters of a manuscript. I knew who my protagonists were, what they wanted, and how their journeys would end, but how in the world did one fill in the gaps? I hadn't a clue, and because of that struggle, I set aside dozens of unfinished drafts, telling myself I just wasn't good enough to be a writer.

Fortunately, that all changed when I discovered the power of story structure—specifically, the 3-Act Story Structure!

The second act of this popular storytelling blueprint makes plotting the dreaded middle section of your book a breeze, or at least a heck of a lot easier than it was before. How so? Let's discuss just that in today's second installment of our three-part blog miniseries on the 3-Act Story Structure!

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The First Act: Nailing Your Novel's Opening Chapters

Ready to discover the power of story structure? 

Now, don't frown at me. 

I know story structure doesn't sound like the most exciting thing in the world. Well, not to everyone anyway. Personally, I'm kind of a structure freak, so I AM SUPER EXCITED FOR THIS BLOG SERIES.


Apologies. Got a little excited there. Back to business...

Over the next four weeks, we're going to break down the 3-Act Story Structure. But first, let's talk about why structure is so important. After all, one of the biggest complaints I hear about structure is that it's too rigid, that it makes stories sound old and recycled.

But that's not the case, not if structure is used well.

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My Outlining Process: How I Prepare to Draft My Novels

There’s no right way to outline your novel.

That’s something I quickly learned when I first joined the online writing community and something I later discussed in depth in our article on finding the outlining method that best works with your creative process. Outlines can be powerful drafting tools, you see, but we all have draft in different ways.

Today, I’m going to tell you a little about my own outlining and drafting processes so you have a better understanding of both what works for me and what may or may not work well for you. Sound like a plan? Let's jump in!

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Breaking Down The Hero's Journey Plot Structure

Writers, it's time to discuss one of my favorite storytelling topics: plot structure.

Today, in particular, we're going to break down a structure originally outlined by mythologist Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero With a Thousand FacesThe Hero's Journey is a classic plot structure that appears in many speculative fiction books, films, television shows, and other forms of media.

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Four Lessons I Learned From Writing a Serial

Hello, lovely writers! Join me in welcoming today's guest teacher, author Mariella Hunt. Fresh off of the overwhelming success of her first serial, The Autumn Prince, Mariella has graciously agreed to share the lessons she's learned from her experience.

Interested in learning more? Grab a cup of tea, and read on!


We live in a wonderful age in which there are many ways to tell a story.

Our self-expression is no longer limited to poetry, song, and acting; these days we also express ourselves through photography and 3D art. Human emotion can be captured through countless mediums our ancestors never imagined.

With personal blogs, we can tell stories immediately by clicking a button; nothing stops us from being heard. Recently I experimented telling a story this way, initiating a project that gave me insight on many things—for example, I learned what people look for in a story as well as the person telling it.

It's because I tried my hand at something I've been meaning to do for years: A serial.

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How to Know if You Have a Story or a Topic (with guest writer Abria Mattina)

Sometimes the best lessons of our writing careers come from unexpected places.

Four years ago, I jetted off to New York to study publishing at NYU in a bid to make my English degree worth something. I expected to learn about business, not storytelling, but some of the best writing advice I ever received came from that course.

Every day, professionals from various roles in the publishing industry came to speak to the class. The goal was to teach us about how publishing worked and help us find our places within that industry, but it was also an amazing opportunity to learn about how stories come to life. No matter what aspect of the publishing world a person comes from, he or she is a career storyteller.

One of the best lessons I learned there came from a journalist specializing in long, in-depth articles (the kind of central stories you read in magazines like Time). He spoke about finding stories and pitching them to editors, hoping to get the green light. It's easy, he explained, to find something to write about. It's finding the angle -- the hinge point of an interesting story -- that's the hard part.

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Develop Your Story Idea in Eleven Simple Steps

You’ve the seed of a story idea stuck in your head, but it’s nowhere near ready to write. 

How does one go about expanding a simple story idea into a fully-developed novel? It depends! Some writers prefer to explore their ideas by diving straight into a discovery draft, getting to know their characters and plot as they write, while others find it beneficial to first outline their characters, scenes, settings, and more. 

The latter process, called pre-writing, certainly isn't easy. But if you believe a little plotting and planning may help you draft your next novel with confidence and clarity, have no fear. Today, we're walking through eleven simple steps you can take over the coming weeks to develop your story idea with purpose and power!

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