Structure of Plot: In our own stories

It’s Outer Journey week.  Today we’re going to see if we can flesh out the major plot points in the one-liner‘s we’re working on.

1. Our human-rights-attorney story:

Set in the mid 1950’s, against the backdrop of the first US Supreme Court case to affirm gay rights, a human rights lawyer joins a wealthy Los Angeles law firm in order to fund his transgender partner’s wrongful termination suit against the federal government, not knowing that the firm’s managing partner is a devil intent on sabotaging the lawsuit.

Setup:  Hero’s a cowardly human rights lawyer whose biggest case is a wrongful termination claim for a transgender client, who is also Hero’s life partner.  Hero is running out of money.

Inciting Incident:  The managing partner of a prestigious, wealthy law firm offers to help Hero financially.

Turning Point 1:  Hero joins the firm.

Part 2 Events:  Being at the firm comes with a lot of perks: a paralegal, a car, first-years who are eager to do your appearances for you.

Pinch Point:  The managing partner requires that Hero let someone else do an important court appearance in Hero’s place so that Hero can do something for the firm (that’s illegal).

Midpoint:  Hero realizes that he has sabotaged his case and that this was the whole reason the managing partner offered to help him in the first place.

Part 3 Events:  Hero mortgages his house to pay for the case and holes up somewhere to regroup and figure out how to salvage the case.

Pinch Point:  Hero gets a subpoena from the opposing counsel asking for information about him and his client/partner that Hero thought was completely private, but was learned through bugs planted by the managing partner in hero’s office.

Turning Point 2:  Hero fails to produce the information and his client/partner is carted off to jail on obstruction of justice charges.

Climax:  Hero offers up the firm’s illegal activity to the district attorney in exchange for his client/partner, but instead incriminates himself.  However, in working with the district attorney, Hero learns some information that helps him win his client’s case.

Aftermath:  Hero finishes his community service and leaves the law, and he and his partner step courageously into an entirely unknown future.

2. Our diamond bullets story:

When his brother’s Pacific Northwest gang develops a diamond bullet that can penetrate bulletproof vests, a scholarship student must decide whether to help his brother avenge the death of their gang-leader father or protect the father of his girlfriend, the Yakima, Washington Chief of Police.

Setup:  Hero is the indecisive son of gang leader who’s just been killed.  Hero is looking forward to a peaceful existence, now that his dad is dead.  He attends a prestigious private school on scholarship; his girlfriend goes there, too–her dad’s a police chief; and he’s got an older brother who’s in line to lead the gang.

Inciting Incident:  Brother announces that the diamond bullets are almost ready and he’s got big plans for their first use: they think they know who killed Dad.

Turning Point 1:  Brother announces that the inaugural target of the bullets will be the man who killed Dad: the police chief, Hero’s girlfriend’s dad.

Part 2 Events:  Hero tries to understand his brother’s need for revenge and why they think it’s the police chief, while also trying to warn the police chief without seeming disloyal to the gang.  He gets offered opportunities that would be good for him, but he can’t decide whether or not to take them because he also doesn’t want to upset his brother.

Pinch Point:  Brother has Hero demonstrate the diamond bullets–and his shot–to the gang.

Midpoint:  Brother announces that Hero, since he seems so eager and is so deferential and has easy access to the police chief, will be the gang’s hitman.

Part 3 Events:  Hero tries to get out of his appointment as hitman.  He tries to get the international apple salesman, who has some clout, to help him out.

Pinch Point:  Brother says that if Hero doesn’t go through with the plan, they’ll report a gun they planted at Hero’s school as belonging to Hero and he’ll be expelled.

Turning Point 2:  Hero learns that it was Brother, not the police chief, who killed Dad.

Climax:  Hero’s girlfriend (now ex) is taken and Brother is going after the police chief.  Hero can only save one of them.  He lets someone else save his girlfriend and goes to confront his brother and save the police chief.

Aftermath:  Hero’s scholarship is revoked, but he gets a job with the police chief.  He and his girlfriend reconcile.


Well, that’s it for me.  What about you?  What awesome plots have you got planned for your stories?  Tell us in the comments!


Writes With Tools will be on hiatus in May so that I may have time to whip out a draft of my current project.

To my handful of followers out there: thank you!  I started this blog for myself, to hone my own craft.  The fact that others also find it useful is a bonus… but also secondary.  My number one priority is my current project. Writing these posts on this schedule is practically a full-time job, and I can’t do them justice if I’m also trying to focus on a draft–and I WANT to do them justice.  As fellow writers, I know you understand.

I expect to resume tool posts in June; I’m a quick drafter so long as I can give it my single-minded focus.  In June, we’ll be taking another look at Character, this time at some of the finer aspects, starting with Characterization: portraying fully realized, three-dimensional characters on the page.

In the meantime, if you’re interested, you might check out some of the earlier tool posts.  Three of my favorites are: the one-line synopsis (especially the master post), clones, and antagonists (especially Robert McKee’s bit about shades of negativity–try it, if you haven’t yet; it’s fun).

Other people (judging by search results) seem to like:  backstory and thematic metaphors.

If you want to be notified when the tools post again, please feel free to add your email to the list, over there on the right, and you’ll get an email.

Anyway, time to hunker down. I will see you in June!


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