Article of The Month



 Beginning, Middle, and End: The Purposes


Copyright 2000 by Alicia Rasley

        Here's a quick guide to some of the purposes of each section of your novel plot.

    Starts on the brink of change.

    Introduces the protagonist and provides a glimpse of his/her character, goal, and conflict.

    Sets up the world of the book.

    Shows "before" of the world and the protagonist, what they're like before the story events.

    Hints at backstory, or at least indicates there is some relevant backstory.

    Initiates the situation of the story.

    Shows the inciting incident that starts the plot.

    Sets up the major story questions (external, internal, interactional) and probably poses the external story question.
    Initiates the external conflict.
    Hints at the internal conflict.

    Shows the start point of the central relationship.

    Ends with the inevitability of change.


    Shows how protagonist initially responds to the forced change.

    This reveals more about how the internal conflict might be affecting pro's actions.

    Deepens the understanding of how the world of the book works and what the issues there are.
    Shows how the world of the book responds to the threat and event of change.
    Forces more protagonist/antagonist action/reaction through events.
    Forces the protagonist to take charge of plot action.

    Forces protagonist to confront (but not yet resolve!) internal conflict.

    Forces protagonist to begin to understand the cost of not resolving internal conflict.

    Gradually reveals the "secret" or the backstory as needed.
    Heightens conflict through events requiring greater emotional risk from protagonist.

    Suggests what the crisis might be– what the protagonist fears most.

    Produces reaction by antagonist/external conflict.

    Increases interaction within central relationship, heightening conflict but also increasing the intensity of the caring. With each event, the nature of the relationship shifts a little.

    Causes a reversal of some kind (the hunted becomes the hunter, maybe, or a trusted person is revealed to be a fraud).

    Creates the point of no return– the event or action that means the protagonist cannot turn back.

    Starts with crisis, where the worst that can happen happens-- the supreme test, the forced confrontation with the internal conflict.

    Plunges protagonist into the dark moment, where lies despair, fear of failure... and the decision to do what it takes to recover, including overcoming the internal conflict.

    Forces a decision on the protagonist which leads to the action that brings on the climax.

    In the climax, brings the external conflict to explosion and, through effective protagonist action, resolves it.

    In the resolution, restores the world to order, but shows the changes that result from the plot events.

    Also shows how the protagonist has changed because of the plot events-- perhaps doing something that the internal conflict would not allow earlier.

    Previews in some way what the central relationship will be like in the future.

For more plotting help:

Outline Your Novel in Thirty Minutes

Plotting Without Fears

Structuring the Story

On the Brink: Turbocharge Your Opening

Tightening the Sagging Middle

Developing the Dark Moment

End Thoughts



Alicia Rasley is a 13-year member of RWA, a writing teacher, and a RITA-award winning Regency author. She teaches at Painted Rock Writers Colony.

Copyright 2000 by Alicia Rasley

If you like my articles, check out my interactive writing booklets and plot guidebook:

The Story Within Writing Series

The Story Within Guidebook

Go to previous articles:

 Character Motivation

 On the Brink: Turbocharge Your Opening

Tightening the Sagging Middle

Sharks in the Water: Old Scams in the New Millennium

The Publishing Journey

Lest Ye Be Judged: Contest Judging for Writers

Setting and Character Interactions

Developing the Dark Moment

The Promise of the Hot Premise

Outline Your Novel in Thirty Minutes

Subtle and Sensual

Plotting Without Fears

Structuring the Story

End Thoughts

Details, Details

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