Like most creative pursuits, the writing process is frenetic at worst—and chaotic at best.
Without warning, an idea strikes, and all we can do is furiously scribble down every last detail before it escapes us. By the time we finally come up for air, we’re left with a jumble of scenes and characters that may (or may not) form a cohesive story.
The next step forward is about as clear as mud.
Many writers get stuck in that mud, white-knuckling a Google Doc full of semi-organized notes with no idea how they’re going to piece everything together. But there’s a way to wade through that mess and come out on the other side with a solid, structured story in hand: plotting methods.
Plotting methods are tried-and-true frameworks that help writers organize their ideas into a coherent plot. These techniques go beyond the simple beginning, middle, and end, instead providing a detailed roadmap for discovering all the twists and turns that make a story worth reading. They’re not meant to be strictly followed but to serve as guideposts that focus and shape your narrative.
No method is the “right” method. Each approach is unique and will result in very different stories. It’s up to you to experiment, but some of the most popular options include the Story Circle, the Hero’s Journey, the Heroine’s Journey, the Virgin’s Promise, and the 7-Point Story Structure.
To give you the full scope of possibilities, we’re dissecting the 7-Point Story Structure and how you can use it to write the next great page-turner.
What is the 7-Point Story Structure?
The 7 Plot Points Method is a plotting technique created by American horror and science fiction author Dan Wells (you may know him best from his book I Am Not a Serial Killer, which was turned into a movie in 2016). During a 2010 lecture at Brigham Young University, he laid out his simple yet effective approach to plotting novels. You can watch the full lecture here.
His seven points are:
- Hook: Exploring the status quo
- Plot Turn 1: Introducing a conflict or incident that shakes things up
- Pinch 1: Circumstances escalates
- Midpoint: The protagonist stops being reactive to the incident and starts being proactive
- Pinch 2: Despite their proactivity, they experience a major setback
- Plot Turn 2: They discover the key to overcoming the setback
- Resolution: They resolve the conflict
The 7 Plot Points Structure in Action
Using this method in practice requires you to do something that may go against your initial storytelling instincts: Wells wants writers to start at the end.
According to a Reddit Thread that summarizes the author’s 2010 lecture, Wells believes that it’s important for writers to know what the story is leading up to. What is that final scene, the ultimate moment of triumph or defeat? By knowing where you’re going, you can better shape and direct your narrative toward that goal.
Once you have a clear understanding of your ending, you can start back at the hook and fill in the gaps. Let’s dive into what you should aim to accomplish in each of the seven points.
The hook is a snapshot of your protagonist’s current state, which Wells argues should be the opposite state of where they will end up in the resolution. So, if you want to end your hero’s journey on a confident note, paint a picture of insecurity in the beginning. This is the simplest way to build a character arc: show how the protagonist changes from point A to point B.
Plot Turn 1
Think of the first plot turn as your protagonist’s call to adventure. This is the moment that changes everything. Be it a new person they meet, a natural disaster, or even a chance encounter, something needs to happen that shakes the protagonist out of their comfort zone. This incident will set the story’s wheels in motion.
Not all calls to adventure are answered. So, the point of this pinch is to force your protagonist into action. What events would make it so your character has no choice but to take action? This event needs to be significant enough that the protagonist can’t ignore it.
Up until this point, your character has just been reacting to the events around them. Now is when they start to take control of their own destiny. Wells suggests this should be the moment the character stops being reactive and starts being proactive.
Double down on the conflict in this pinch. Now that your protagonist is taking action, they should be experiencing obstacles and challenges left and right. Plans fail, allies betray, disaster strikes. The stakes should feel higher than ever.
Plot Turn 2
This is the point where they receive the final thing they need to reach their ultimate goal. Whether it’s a piece of information, an actual object, or a moment of realization, this is what sets them up for the resolution.
Finally, your protagonist has everything they need to confront and resolve the central conflict. This is the big showdown that leads to either triumph or defeat. And with that, your story is complete.
Working With the 7 Points
As a book coach, I often encourage new writers to work with Wells’ 7-Points Structure, as it’s by far one of the simplest to understand and apply—but that doesn’t make it easy.
Taking a story from point A to point B and making sure all the beats land in the right places is no easy feat. You have to juggle character development, pacing, and plot twists, all while keeping the story cohesive and engaging. That’s where book coaching comes in.
If you’re struggling to implement this method or any other plotting technique in your writing, check out our book coaching services at PDHines. Through 1:1 support that’s tailored to your writing experience, genre, and style, we’ll shape your story into the page-turner it’s meant to be.