Write Your Novel Step by Step (Home Page)

Write Your Novel
Step by Step

By Melanie Anne Phillips
Creator of StoryWeaver

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~ Step 86 ~

Plot - Act One

In the Exposition Stage you created specific manners and instances in which your story elements will be revealed to your readers.  Here in the Storytelling Stage, you are going to work out the order in which each of these instances will come into play.

A good way to organize your material in a sequence is to divide it in acts.  Though the number of acts in a novel can vary, there are usually at least three.

Act one introduces the story problem and goal, the protagonist, antagonist and main character, the overlying thematic topic and underlying thematic message, and establishes the edges of the novel’s unique genre.

Act two develops the details of all the material introduced in act one and also initiates new connections among elements of the plot and among characters.  In additions, difficulties, obstacles and unexpected turns of events complicate the effort to achieve the goal, befuddle the main character’s quest for a personal resolution, advance the stakes riding on the thematic issues, and enrich the atmosphere of the genre.

Act three brings all the dramatic tensions that were amplified by the difficulties of act two into conjunction in a series of conflicts leading to an overall climax at the end upon which hinges blot the logistic and passionate outcome of all that has happened.

Following act three is a concluding scenario, or a collection of moments in which the individual outcomes for each problem in the plot, the personal goals and issues of each character, a confirmation of the thematic message and the icing on the genre are all addressed, wrapped up and dismissed.

As usual, we begin each stage with plot.  We’ll follow plot through all three acts and the conclusion, then move on to develop the act sequences for your characters, theme and genre.

The first step in creating your plot timeline is to pull from the material you have already developed all the plot elements you’d like to appear in the first act of your novel.

In regard to plot, act one is about the set up.  It establishes the way things are when the problem begins.  It introduces the problem, establishes the goal and its requirements, as well as the consequences if the goal is not achieved.

Many stories include a journey or quest that leads to the goal.  In such stories, the first act concerns discovery of the need for and nature of the quest (be it logistic or personal and passionate), the acceptance of the quest, and preparations to embark.  Act one then concludes with the final preparations and a restatement of the necessity of the quest by reminding the readers of the potential consequences.

In all stories, by the end of act one, your readers must understand what the story is about, what is to be achieved, and how the effort toward that end is expected to proceed.

Keep in mind that for storytelling purposes you may intend to fool your audience into believing the goal is one thing when it will later turn out to be another.

Also, the plot of many stories includes a "teaser" at the very beginning of the act.  The teaser is an emotional "hook" meant to snare generate interest and draw your readers into your book.  Almost every television episode begins with a teaser to keep the audience from changing the channel.

Teasers may or may not have anything to do with the story at large.  Sometimes they are simply exciting emotional or action-oriented extravaganzas which are nothing more than entertainment, and add little to the structure of the real story about to begin.

In any event, by the end of the first act, your readers must feel they understands what the story is about and the direction it appears to be taking.

For this step, review your plot exposition material from the Exposition Stage and list the plot points (or instances of plot points) you’d rather reveal to your readers toward the beginning of your novel, rather than in the middle or at the end.