0% 25% 50% 75% 100%
Act I Act II Act III
Hey, I'm not a fan of math either. But whoever came up with this is brilliant. Thinking in percentages and "acts" will tighten up those sagging middles, fill up plot holes and help sculpt your story. Even pansters might benefit from this formula when editing.
You open the story, hopefully with compelling conflict. Chapters fly by, and the reader is getting a sense of what the story is about. Think of it as Act 1. At the 25% mark, introduce the first plot point. It should change the character's world, force them to make decisions/plans, and deepen the conflict. This is a great place for a twist as Act II begins.
Act II will span from the 25% mark to the 75% mark, and is arguably the hardest part of the book to get right plotwise. Basically, you want to show the protag's progress and complicate his/her situation. At 50%, you're obviously halfway through. That would be the place to thow in the monkey wrench, or second plot point. Keep the reader hooked and guessing, but don't have the protag come home to find the dog wearing a tutu, sitting at the table and drinking tea with the cat. While at 25%, you can take the story in just about any direction, at 50%, the twist should make sense to the story and increase the stakes. This is the characters' point of no return. Your's too. :-)
75% ushers in Act III, and your third plot point or major set back. It looks like the antag is winning, and the protag's plight seems beyond hope -- or it should. You want your reader worried that there is no way the book can end well (leaving room for hope, of course.) The plot and subplots should be coming to a head, and if you're really crafty, the reader is starting to understand how those subplots fit into the main plot. Then you have the scenes its all been leading up to -- the protag overcomes, etc., and the happy ending. 100% should leave everything tied up in a neat little bow with no loose threads. Voila. Bowing. Roses are flying. And the reader should be able to live the rest of their lives without reading book two. Yes, I did just go there.
I hope I didn't confuse you. Okay, I did. Ignore me and try the formula anyway. It's a great place to start, and it's changing the way I write and edit.
A big thank you to Loree from Loree Huebner ~ Between you, me and the gatepost, and Faye from labor not in vain for thinking of me while passing on the "I've Been Tagged" Questionnaire! If you aren't following Loree and Faye's blogs yet, allow me to recommend them. Loree writes a terrific historical-themed blog featuring the Civil War time period, and I am so excited about her new contract with Seymour Agency! Faye reviews the latest CBA releases and writes helpful and sincere book reviews.
I'm not going to participate in the questionnaire this time (forgive me), but if you would like to, I'm passing this questionnaire on to you. You can find Loree's questions and Faye's questions in the links I provided above. :-)