I'm getting all of this, but the 4 pt. is still very cloudy...


Question: I have to tell you that I'm getting a tremendous amount of novel standards that I'm getting more and more confident in my writing, but the 4 pt. starts with 1. inciting incident, could you give me an example of what this is? Is it what the whole book will be about? Or is it the front door of the book? As with 2. I've got that, but then 3. climax, is climax from the 2. complication? Or is the climax from tension building from 1. and 2.? As 4. resolution, that will solve all mysteries or end all main charactors in a sad or better than before situation? I'm stuck on 1. and 2.? I'm not sure what you mean by inciting incident? As with 2. complication? Is this in the first quarter of the book, then 3. in middle towards end?

I thank you for getting me all of my questions filled with your extreme easy to understand definitions of what I've asked. Like I said I'm going on vacation and will think about this last question when you respond, and then will read over all of your site that I printed and put my mind in order, which I really did need, for in high school, college, I tried to take classes that have exactly what you have printed on my screen and I'm stoked!
This will be my last question for a while, and thank you so very much in your fast and thoughtful response.
Thanks again,

Answer: Let's assume you have the simplest of stories. Here's what the four signposts would look like:

1. Inciting incident: this is the event that sets the hero on his journey, that gets the plot moving. It is when he acquires the purpose of pursuing the story goal that changes his life.

2. Complication: this is the event where the hero runs into some problem, obstacle, conflict, etc. that impedes his effort to achieve the story goal.

3. Crisis: This is the event that determines whether or not the goal will be achieved, whether the hero is able to overcome the obstacles. It is the event where tension is highest, because everything is riding on what happens here.

4. Resolution: This is the event that shows the outcome of the story, that shows whether the goal has been achieved or not.

In a 4-act structure, each
act revolves around one signpost.

In a 3-act structure, Act 1 takes you from the inciting incident to the complication. Act 2 goes from the complication to the crisis. Act 3 goes from the crisis to the resolution.

To take an example, in the first Star Wars movie (that is, Episode IV, A New Hope) the Story Goal is to destroy the Death Star.

The four signposts are:

1. Inciting incident: Princess Leia steals the Death Star plans and sends them, along with a message about the Empire's plan, to Obi wan Kenobi.

2. Complication: Obi wan Kenobi and Luke deliver the information about the Death Star to the rebel alliance, a journey made complicated because of the Empire's efforts to stop them.

3. Crisis: The Empire discovers the location of the rebel base. (The threat is that it will do to the base what it did to Alderaan.)

4. Resolution: The rebels manage to destroy the Death Star i time and celebrate their victory.

All these signposts are part of the Overall throughline of the story.

In a longer work, such as a novel or film, the signposts may be divided into sequences. In other words, each of these events can be broken down into a series of smaller events, so that each signpost has its own inciting incident, complication, crisis, and resolution.

For instance, the inciting incident of Star Wars is broken down into a longer sequence...

1. Leia puts the plans and the message in R2D2's memory and delivers him to Tatooine, where Obi wan lives.

2. On his way to Obi wan, R2D2 is captured and sold to a farmer who threatens to wipe his memory.

3. R2 escapes but is nearly caught again by Luke and/or destroyed by the Sand people, but Obi wan saves him.

4. R2 finally delivers his message to Obi wan.

Alternatively, you can leave the signposts as single events, but have longer transitions between them.

In addition, there are 3 other throughlines in a complete story, each with its own series of four signposts. These run parallel to the overall throughline.

For a brief description of the other throughlines, see this article...


It can get rather complicated mapping out every incident of your story, so don't make it more complex than you need to. The point of the theory is just to help when you get stuck.

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