There are multiple story structure templates out there but the most basic one consists of a simple, three-act model.
Act I, Act II, and Act III, and nothing more.
It’s simple, efficient, and something that will give any new writer a blueprint on creating their dream story.
First a brief overview of the three-act structure.
Act I is where you’ll introduce the bulk of your main characters and where your story’s premise is located. Here, introduce the characters, what they’re after, why they’re after it, and what they’re planning to do in order to get what they want.
In Northern Knights, Act I goes from Chapter One all the way until Cain and his friends arrive at their university.
I like to think of Act I ending when Cain meets his mentor at the university where they go through Cain’s life-changing week prior to arrival.
Act II is the marathon of the middle, where the meat of the story takes place. You may introduce another character or two, as I have with breakout character Savannah Rivers. However, while Savannah wasn’t supposed to be a major character, a certain scene, later on, forced me to throw her in deeper.
Here, you’ll basically walk the reader through the problems, trials, tribulations, and endless losses. The marathon of the middle is full of tension, where the main character will be tested time and again before the inevitable occurs.
In Northern Knights, Act II ends when the Southpoint Empire issues preliminary strikes on free North Columbia.
Cain and the others realize how much trouble they’re in.
So, Act III is when the action really heats up and takes us all the way to the climactic scene. Act three begins the next morning after Cain and his friends had been up all night due to relentless missile strikes and are planning their defenses.
In Northern Knights, the main antagonist isn’t introduced, though he’s spoken of often beforehand and his actions are recorded, Act III is a great time to introduce this antagonist.
And in the third-to-last chapter, that’s exactly what happens.
For you, Act III is the best time to introduce such an epic battle or fight scene.
While you may have some skirmishes throughout the earlier portion of your book, Act III is the big one.
Think of Act III as when in Harry Potter of the Deathly Hallows, the Battle of Hogwarts begins and you’ll get a firm grasp on what I mean.
So, if you have the best, most epic battle scene planned out, save it for Act III.
If you want the one event where the reader will remember your book, save it for Act III.
And you’ll be glad you do.
Breaking it Down into a Timeline
1. Hook your reader!
2. Introduce the main character(s)
3. Establish what they want
4. Establish why they want it
5. Hint at how they’re going to get it
6. Tease the reader with a couple of ‘uh-oh’ scenes
7. Plunge these characters into troubled waters
8. Introduce the antagonist
9. Establish how the antagonist is reacting to the main characters getting in their way
1. Introduce another character or two if necessary
2. Introduce more trouble and trials. Make your main character(s) lose often.
3. Add in some pain. Make the main character(s) question themselves at times (I could’ve done this better in Northern Knights, I won’t lie).
4. The final scene here should hint at the upcoming climax. With Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I’ve always thought this as when the Inquisitorial Squad apprehends Harry and his best friends with Umbridge present.
1. Record the events leading to the upcoming climactic battle scene.
2. Let that battle scene commence! If we’re talking Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, it’s when they’re confronted by the Death Eaters in the Dept. of Mysteries.
3. Climax time! OP reaches its climax when Bellatrix kills Sirius and Harry goes after her, followed by Dumbledore’s duel with Voldemort.
4. Falling action. Introduce the falling action that leads to the resolution. In OP, it’s when Harry sits in Dumbledore’s office before revisiting with his friends after the battle in Chapters 37 and 38.
5. Resolution time. This is where the book, their characters, and everyone congregates after everything they’ve been through. Of course, like most Harry Potter books, it’s back at Platform 9&3/4.
Focus on the Flow!
What I mean here is you want each act to flow seamlessly into the next. In other words, it shouldn’t be blatant to the reader that Act I just morphed into Act II.
Instead, ease the reader into Act II with a simple scene that ensures the story is still flowing the same direction, where they’ll follow along without having to state they just went from Act I to Act II.
When it’s time to pen Act III, a simple event is all you need for the reader to realize they’re in Act III and have left Act II.
Again, you don’t need a huge, cataclysmic event to alert the reader. A simple change in feeling and the reader should feel it, is all they need to tell them that they’re in Act III.
What do I mean by feeling? The atmosphere of the whole book should change.
With Northern Knights, the second the characters see an explosion in the distance and feel a subsequent tremor, the reader is going to know something’s way off, and things are going to get ugly.
Then, insert the cataclysm.
The Three-Act Story Structure is just one of many ways to build a story, though it’s great with beginning authors unfamiliar with structure.
I can relate Northern Knights to this structure, though it’s really more of a representation of the Hero’s Journey since I happened to come across the legendary book ‘A Hero with A Thousand Faces’ long before I wrote Northern Knights.
Either way, the Three-Act Story Structure is sure to kickstart your writing career in the right direction. It’s not easy, but it will provide a nice blueprint from which to work.