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The Ten Most Important Scenes

The following is a method to use in writing and editing your story. To learn more about Story Structure you can click here for a replay of the show.


Logline: one sentence describing story.

Short Paragraph Outline: what is the general overview of the story.

Full Synopsis: create 1500-2000 word beginning to end synopsis that will include the following ten scenes in addition to other notable scenes.

Act 1

Opening Action: The story needs to start with something happening. If this is a multiple POV book it could be a scene from the villain or auxiliary characters already involved with the plot (the opening of Star Wars). If it is a 1st person POV or it is necessary to open on the protagonist they need to be doing something from their normal life: At Work, At Play, At Rest and preferably with someone they can interact with to keep the chapter interesting and moving forward.

Deep Protagonist Introduction: This scene gets deeper into who the protagonist is before entering the plot. This can include inner demons, current desires, hobbies, examples of deep rooted character etc. This is the connecting point for the reader, so knowing who the target reader is will help build this scene.

This is the first of four required rest stops. These rest stops are designed to give just enough of a breather to the action before you ratchet it back up.

Protagonist Enters the Plot: The protagonist needs to enter the plot toward the end of the Act 1. This should be a deliberate decision and not something they are pulled into. If the protagonist is pulled in (accidental spy) they will need to commit to the plot by the middle of Act 2. Having the protagonist enter the plot in the end of Act 1 will give the reader enough information to see the normal world so they can compare it to the new world of Act 2. Ultimately this will allow the protagonist to take who they were in Act 1 add it to what they learned in Act 2 and become the person they need to be in Act 3 and overcome the plot.

Act 2

Deeper Understanding of the Characters and World: This may be more than one scene. Get into the supporting characters and demonstrate how the world works. This is the same for any genre, not just fantasy and sci-fi worlds.

This is the second required rest stop.

Protagonist Initial Success: The protagonist has already had some failures and they are about to get a lot more. They need a small success to establish that they might be able to overcome the odds (Harry, Ron, and Hermione beating the troll).

Why Does the Protagonist Care about Plot: Coming up to what is often called the dark night of the soul, the reader really needs to have a firm knowledge of why the protagonist is willing to sacrifice and lose for the sake of the plot. What is the driving force that makes them keep going? 

This is the third required rest stop.

Total Failure: This is the scene when the protagonist thought they had it all figured out, but now are hit with the blow that rocks their core. If they don’t have serious doubt and want to quit, you’re doing it wrong. The protagonist needs to question, they need to hurt, they need to demonstrate what the reader is feeling at the darkest moments in their life.

This is an excellent scene for betrayal, demonstrating the power of a villain, having the protagonists failproof plan fall apart, etc.

Act 3

Protagonist Strengthening: After the total failure, the protagonist recommits to move forward. This is what the reader wants in their own life. If the protagonist is a dynamic character this should include overcoming an inner issue that has been holding them back from Act 1. Again, the protagonist will take who they were in Act 1 and what they learned in Act 2 to become the person they need to overcome the antagonist in the climax.

This is the forth required rest stop.

Climax: Everything has led to this moment. The climax is the ultimate showdown against the antagonist. Plan 1 is put into action, the plan isn’t working, the protagonist digs deep into what was learned and comes up with Plan 2 that does work.

This is the scene where any final twists are executed. These final twists are what cause Plan 1 not to work.

One story type doesn’t follow this and that is the heist. The heist is supposed to look like a failed climax, but in fact it was all in the original plan.

Resolution: What do you want the reader to walk away with? How will they feel when they read the final pages of the book?

Close all loops from this story.

If a series introduce new loop or reinforce continuing arc for next story.

I am a professional editor and author. I have worked in multiple genres with authors at all levels from novice to NYT Bestsellers.

Story is my passion and I want to share it with you. I will help you transform your manuscript into a novel that will engage readers and be commercially viable. My insight and expertise of storytelling and the psychology of why we read has allowed me to assist authors of all levels to improve their craft. From students to clients I give everything I have to make the passion in the story stand out and connect with the reader.


In Punch them in the Gut you will learn:

  • The power of story and how it continues to shape our world.
  • The brain’s need for story and how to keep rewarding your reader.
  • What a story is and the parts that must be included to keep a reader turning the page.
  • How to tailor a story for instant emotional engagement with your reader.
  • The three scenes in each story that must be solid and how to build them.
  • How to create an emotional impact that will get your reader to share your work instantly.
  • How to intensify your story with believable outer problems.
  • How you can change the world with your writing.
  • And much, much more!!