Structure Part 2–Plot Problems–Falcor the Luck Dragon & the Purple Tornado

The Neverending Story circa 1984

Okay, since I get to drive to San Antonio today, I figured we’d just plow ahead and take on Lesson Two in my structure series. I strongly recommend checking out Monday’s lesson if you haven’t yet. Each of these blogs will build upon the previous lesson. By the end of this series, I hope you to give you guys all the tools you need to be “structure experts.”

Yes, even the pantsers.

If you are planning to do the National Novel Writing Month Challenge (50,000 words in the month of November) then these lessons will help you tremendously. If you are going to put in that much effort, wouldn’t it be great to have something worthwhile at the end of the month?

Structure is one of those topics that I feel gets overlooked far too much. There are a lot of workshops designed to teach aspiring writers how to finish a novel in four weeks or three or two or whatever. And that is great…if a writer possesses a solid understanding of structure. If not? At the end of 4 weeks, you could very likely have a 60K word mess that no editor can fix.

Finishing a novel is one of the best experiences in the world, but wanna know the worst? Pouring your heart and soul into a novel, finishing it, and then finding out it is not publishable or even salvageable. I make a lot of jokes about my first novel being used in Guantanamo Bay to break terrorists.

I’ll tell you where the bomb is just not another chapter of that booook!

Some of you might be in the midst of having to face some hard truths about your “baby.” If you have been shopping that same book for months or years, and an agent has yet to be interested, likely structure is the problem. If you went ahead and self-published, but sales are lackluster? Again, problem might be structure. Many of you might have a computer full of unfinished novels. Yes, again, structure is likely the problem.

Good news is that most structure problems can be fixed, although many times that requires leveling everything to the foundation and using the raw materials to begin anew…the correct way and killing a lot of little darlings along the way.

Monday I broke the bad news. Novels have rules. Sorry. They do. I didn’t make this stuff up. When we don’t follow the rules, bad things happen. Just ask Dr. Frankenstein.

Authors who break the rules do so with a fundamental understanding of rules and reader expectations. Remember the pizza analogy? We can get creative with pizza so long as we do so with an appreciation for consumer expectations. A fried quail leg on filo dough with raspberry glaze is not recognizable as a pizza. We can call it pizza until we are blue and a consumer will just think we’re a nut.

Same with a novel. Readers have expectations. Deviate too far and we will have produced a commodity so far off the standard consumer expectations that the product will not sell…which is why agents won’t rep it. Our novel can be brilliant, but not sell. Agents are interested more in making money than breaking literary rules. Rumor has it that agents do have to make a living.

I can tell if a writer understands structure in ten pages. So can an agent. We are diagnosticians and when we spot certain novel “diseases” we know there is a big internal problem. We’ll discuss two major symptoms of a flawed plot today, but first we are going to pan the camera back this time. Last time, we zoomed in and looked at the most fundamental building blocks of a novel. Today, we are going to get an aerial shot—the Three Act Structure.

Aristotelian structure has worked for a couple thousand years for very good reasons. To paraphrase James Scott Bell in Plot & Structure (cuz he says it the best, but do yourself a favor and get his book, STAT!):

There is something fundamentally sound about the three act structure, and it is very much in harmony with how we live our lives. Three is a pattern. Childhood is short and introduces us to life (Act I). Most of our living comes in the middle span of years (Act II), and then we are old and we die and that sums up our existence (Act III). We wake in the morning (Act I) then have the day living life (Act II) and then night ties things up (Act III). When we are confronted with a problem we react (Act I) then spend the greatest amount of time searching for insight and looking for an answer (Act II) and then finally the solution (Act III).

Three act structure has endured thousands of years because it works. Beginning, middle and end. We can ignore the three act structure, but we do so at our own risk that our work will fail to connect with readers.

Beginnings present the story world, establish tone, compel the reader to come on the adventure, and introduce the opposition.

Middles deepen the character relationships, keep the reader emotionally invested in the characters, and sets up the events that will lead to the final showdown at the end.

Ends tie up the main plot and any other story threads and provide a sense of meaning.

(If you don’t yet own Jim’s book, buy it today. It is a must-have for every writer’s library.)

Ideally, our story’s tension will steadily rise from the beginning to end, getting more intense like a roller coaster. Think of the best roller coasters. They start off with a huge hill (Inciting Incident that introduces the ride) then a small dip to catch your breath, and then we are committed. If the biggest hill is at the beginning of the ride, the rest of the ride is a total letdown.

A well-designed roller coaster gives escalating thrills—bigger and bigger hills and loops—with fewer troughs to catch our breath and all leading up to the Big Boss loop, then the glide home to the other side of where we began. We all want to get to the Big Boss loop, but we do so with a mix of terror, dread and glee. Same with a good story.

Great roller coasters are designed. So are great novels. Everything is done with purpose.

Two major problems will occur when we fail to follow this design. In almost four years of running countless plots through my workshop, I have given them names—Falcor the Luck Dragon and The Purple Tornado.

Meet the Luck Dragon

Remember the movie The Neverending Story? Beautiful movie and amazing special effects…but (in my opinion) a HORRIBLE story. I loved the movie, too. I have a soul. But I feel this movie is remembered and loved more for great effects and puppets, not the storytelling.

The beginning starts with The Nothing eating away a world we haven’t been in long enough to care and gobbling up critters the viewing audience hasn’t even been introduced to. Total melodrama. And the solution? A boy hero who the viewer doesn’t know from a hole in the ground and who, truthfully, isn’t nearly as likable as his horse that sinks into the Bog of Despair. Yes, I cried.

So High Council instructs unlikable boy hero to go and talk to the Northern Oracle. Northern Oracle is a giant turtle that is suffering depression and is apparently off his meds. Northern Oracle tells boy hero the answer to their problems rest with the Southern Oracle…but it is ten thousand miles away.

Boy trudges off depressed and defeated and music rises to cue the audience that we are supposed to care. Unlikable boy hero falls into the swamp…oh but Falcor the Luck Dragon swoops down from the sky and flies him ten thousand miles to the Southern Oracle. How lucky for the boy hero. Better yet. How convenient for the screenwriters that Falcor was there to bail them out of a massive plot problem.

No, your protagonist cannot find a journal or letters or some contrived coincidence to bail her out of a corner and get her back on track. That is what I call a Luck Dragon. Don’t think you can sneak a Falcor by an agent or editor either. There is no camouflaging this guy. Have you seen the movie? He’s HUGE, and he will stand out like, like…like a Luck Dragon bailing you out of a plot problem. But take heart. Looking at structure ahead of time will make all actions logical and Falcor the Luck Dragon can stay up in the clouds where he belongs.

Watch out for that Purple Tornado!

Next plot problem? The Purple Tornado. What is a purple tornado? So glad you asked. I once worked with a writer who had a YA fantasy. By page 30 there was this MASSIVE supernatural event with a purple tornado. This writer clung to the purple tornado scene until I thought I was going to break his knuckles prying it away from him.

Why was I prying the purple tornado from his hands? Because he couldn’t top the purple tornado!!! He had his Big Boss Battle, his grand finale, his giant loop too close to the beginning. The rest of the book would have either been a letdown or totally contrived.

Plan where that loop will be situated and put it in the spot that will evoke the greatest emotional reaction…at the end.

I see too many new writers trying to “hook” the reader with some grand event like a building exploding. Well, okay, but what are you going to do for the grand finale, blow up a city? The planet? It’s too much too soon and before anyone even cares.


I hope you guys get a lot out of this series. I know it took me years to learn some of this stuff and part of the reason I sat down and wrote this series was to help shorten the learning curve. I would imagine most of you reading this would like to be successfully published while you are still young enough to enjoy it. Join me on Monday for more on structure and plotting.

What are some problems you guys have faced in plotting? What are the biggest struggles? Do you have any suggestions for books on the subject or methods you use that you could share? Have you been guilty of a Falcor or a Purple Tornado? Share your thoughts.

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of September I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.


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  1. I like to think of structure (and the necessity of it) like music. In songs, we have the chorus, verse, and bridge. Nobody tries to mess with that- they might rap, play acoustic or electric guitars, or bring in other varied instruments. Heck, they can do anything they want within the boundaries set by the structure, but nobody tries to mess with the chorus, verse, and bridge. But boy do us writers try to. And apparently as musicians already know, it never really works 🙂

    Great post Kristen! I’m enjoying this series.

  2. You are so right, Kristen! The three act play is everywhere, every television drama on television (that I can think of) is based on the three act play. I ALWAYS have an outline before I start NaNoWriMo. It makes writing the 1667 words each day seem EASY!

  3. I read Bell’s book while I was in the hospital, away from my novel, about a year ago. What I remember now is his problem … response … disaster formula for chapters, and I remember a sense of futility because I was certain that I had failed this test. When I picked up the ms. again though, I saw that I was in error about where my errors were. I used a blog post per day as the frame of the story, so each post, going back to my newspaper days, had a hook, or next line. That was a very good thing.

    Something like the next line in a Freddy the Pig story. I can remember falling asleep to the promise that if Nurse Jane did this and Freddy did that, I would hear another great story the next night.

    I saw that even a weak next line was better than no next line.

    I remember a lot of other things about Bell’s book that seemed important at the time but cannot recall the specifics. After all, I am a pantser.

    I think that a slavish adherence to the three-act structure, if you take a blockbuster movie for your guide, say, would be a mistake. A lot of all-but-brain-dead movies make a lot of money and give almost no value beyond making your forehead feel warm and fuzzy for an hour or two.

    Plot is much more than satisfying our hunger for expectations met. For kids, this is probably enough, but adults hunger for things like grand- and all-but-impossible-to-answer themes.

    I’m starting to sound like a Calvinist, so I’ll stop.

    Tnx for caring enough to share your vision for writers.

  4. I started out my writing adventures with stage and screenplays and yeah, structure rules. It’s like a house, if the foundation or the frame is bad, the house is coming down.

  5. I agree with everything you’ve said about structure. Yet… I must say that I’m a sucker for Falcor. Loved that Luck Dragon. I realized about an eon ago that almost any fan can handle the Luck Dragon scenario once, even adore it. How many of us wouldn’t want a giant, yet cuddly and friendly dragon to swoop in and save us just when we need it? I know I would. If nothing else, Falcor gave the true hero of the story a release that heroes sometimes need. For that alone, I didn’t even question where he came from. Falcor, in his way, represents God – a being who can save the day when nothing else will work and all is lost. I can’t despise him, but he belongs in that world and the rest of us will have to follow structure and come up with stories that make sense.

    I also have to say that what caught me in the movie was the grief of the Rockbiter. I didn’t care that I didn’t know his world. I immediately cared about *him*, so I was engaged right away. Ende’s tale may be different in German, I’ve never read it. But Fantasia, or Fantastica, or whatever it is called, represents to me MY world of fantasy. Saving it is up to me and me alone, just as it was up to Bastian. It didn’t have to make sense, he only had to love it. And he did. So for Ende, for that world, it works. Gold in the hands one one man, a purple tornado in the hands of your friend. We can’t all have the Luck of Ende, eh?

    Btw, Kristen, this probably isn’t the place for it, and I’m sure I am putting you on the spot; but my motto is that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission. So here goes: I won your critique back in February. After sending my five pages multiple times to you (after your own request to do so because of email snafu/rearrangement/crises at home –at your end not mine–) I never heard back. I’d really like to win my prize! I value your experience and your integrity. I am really hoping that I’ll have my own version of Falcor and you’ll give me another chance to send my pages.

    Normally, I wouldn’t do such a thing publicly, but I have had a hell of a year. In spring, I had serious neck and shoulder trouble. Weeks of therapy for that and then I fell in the basement. All seemed well, until in early summer I was hit with intense back pain that left me literally screaming. I could barely move, let alone write. Then, my Aunt who lived with us, had a heart attack. She opted for triple by-pass surgery but the anesthesia and the pain medication left her worse than before the operation. Over the next month and a half, she suffered dementia and a situation I think of as “being out of time.” She thought everyone in her family, including her long dead son, still lived. It was very hard on all of us who loved her to watch. Her beloved cat, Panda, that I had care of suddenly developed saddle block (a clot that lodges in the spine blocking blood flow to the rear legs and sometimes to the lungs). He died in my arms on a Tuesday in August, and my Aunt passed away that same week on Saturday morning.

    I don’t tell you all this to play an emotional sort of blackmail. I needed to say it somewhere and I don’t have the heart to detail it in my blog. A summary here has been surprisingly very cathartic. I understand how busy you are and I’ll take another shot at winning a critique some other time. I’ve enjoy both yoru books that I bought back in February, and I often pass on your blog posts via facebook and twitter. I would have loved to know your opinion of my work, someday soon. One bright spot in a year that has been full of agony for me.

    Thanks for all you do!

  6. I love it — simple, understandable English. I write mostly in the memoir genre but so much of writing any book is understanding how to construct the story so readers can follow and enjoy. Bottom line is a story is a story — fiction or non-fiction. They have rules if they are to be construed as a story. Your advice supersedes genre. Thank you!

    BTW, James Scott Bell’s book was one of the very first I bought. It is dogeared and stained but still much loved and a mainstay in my how-to book collection.

  7. Thank you, thank you, for doing this for us!!

    • Monique Headley on September 28, 2012 at 10:29 am
    • Reply

    I love this series as always! Falcor the luck dragon tried to pop up in my latest WIP but I cut his wings off (figuratively, of course. And yes I loved him in TNES too.) I’m looking forward to next weeks post! Thank you for making this whole writing thing a bit easier.

  8. Oy… so full of doubts now. :/ I started off intending my WIP as a 3-act, but then came across the suggestion to split the middle in two… something about that’s where stories tend to lag a bit, and chopping it up adds more structure to it somehow. I also wrote my ending early on, which helped me get an idea of what needed to happen on the framework of the outline I created, but now soooo much of that ending needs revising that I’ll be a serial killer of many, many little darlings, I’m afraid. Problem is, I’ve built up the middle of my story so much that it seems like it’s just taking forever to get through (Are we there yet? Are we there yet??) and it’s building toward a pseudo-climax rather than the bigger conflict that I resolved in my original ending. …My ‘structure’ is feeling rather more like a Jacob’s Ladder yarn-game right now. *L*

  9. Awesome post. I loved this movie btw. I’ve thought about naming a dog Atreyu 🙂

  10. Writers – espeically of the screenwriting variety – tend to treat the plot as a means to an end, rather than the all-importand piece of the puzzle it is.Thank you for another piece of this particular puzzle, Kiristen.
    As always, this was a joy to read. I continually leave this blog richer and wiser for the experience.

  11. One of my big problems when using the scene/sequel and plot preparation is that I get frightened of straying away from my “goal” or I feel like my goals are too vague. Especially in the book I’m writing right now where the character has a goal but no means of reaching it. Not until the end does she change her goal to something she can actually achieve, but throughout the entire book she is chasing something impossible – so impossible that I’m not sure how to make it so she doesn’t give up too soon.

    With three act my big problem is the middle. I always know my beginning and have a feeling about the end (though it can change, depending on the middle) but that big meaty part in the middle is just so harsh. Maybe because it’s so undefineable. I thought you described it nicely, though 🙂

  12. I love this series you are doing. I’ve always written stories, but never knew the jargon for a lot of what I needed to know. So now I realize that old cliche is so right. One is never to old to learn new things. As I am doing NaNoWriMo for the first time this year I am super excited to get some knowledge in before then. Thank you so much!

  13. I tend to write lack plots where the character is missing something vital and don’t have enough insight to recognize it until later in the story. They are hard to write because the character doesn’t tend to want anything on the outside. Their goals – to become a man (I write for kids), or to be part of a community – are internal and unrecognized in the beginning. Books that have helped with this are Second Sight, by Cheryl Klein and From Where You Dream, by Robert Olen Butler. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and how to build a good plot from lack.

    • Jae on September 28, 2012 at 11:19 am
    • Reply

    Kristen, all you need for the Neverending Story is to play this song over and over and all plot problems are forgiven. 😉 I’m sure many new authors languish that they can’t add a soundtrack to their books.

    I guess another analogy you could use from the movie is if you do use a Falcor to rescue your plot your readers may end up feeling like unlikeable boy talking to the oracle, “not that it matters…” (That turtle’s voice… so obnoxious…)

    I think poor structuring is both fear and laziness. Once we can get over the fear of being critiqued, we can really grow as writers. I was afraid to show anyone anything I’d done for the longest time. Once I finally took grown-up pills and opened myself up to criticism I was amazed at how much stronger my story got and how quickly I became a better writer. I’m still kicking myself that I wasn’t getting feedback sooner in life. How much further would I be even now? Oh well.

    Thanks for the post!

  14. The Neverending Story was one of my favorite movies of all time. I did buy the book later on in a discount store but haven’t read it yet. The premise of the story was simple but that was the time when movies were good because of the special effects like The Dark Crystal and Labrinyth in the use of puppetry. The song from this movie is still in my head to this head.

  15. I am SO guilty! I realized while reading this post that I introduced a Falcor into the first 10K words of my newest manuscript. It gives away the ending, the Big Boss Battle will be anti-climatic and the reader won’t care how my Main Character resolves this situation. *Face-Palm*

    Luckily, this one was obvious enough I caught it early! All fixed and before I got too far away. WHEW!

    I love your book and your blog. Thank you!

  16. I am in process with Bell’s book. It was the one book everyone on WANA could agree was an essential.
    I’ve had to put down the book and go immediately to my computer to fix problems. The exercises he gives at the end of each section have really helped me hone in on problem areas for my WIP. At first, I thought I might have to scrap the whole thing because I didn’t even have a Big Boss – just a quest.
    Now, everyone meets my nemesis before my protagonist goes through the door to Act II.
    Thanks for all your help, Kristen. I’ve run directly to fix my WIP numerous times after reading your blog.

  17. Every now and then it’s necessary to go back to the basics … thanks for this refresher course!

  18. I am so blasted new at this seriously writing and I can not tell you how much it means to have someone “in the know” to lead and teach it is wonderful what you are doing. thank you many tmes over. God bless!

    • Poodlepal on September 28, 2012 at 4:00 pm
    • Reply

    Just out of curiosity, if agents will reject manuscripts with “luck dragons” and the like, how come there are still published books and movies that have them? Is it something that you should try to avoid, but are sometimes unavoidable? Or are new writers held to higher standards than those who have already published something that sold well?

    I never saw that movie, but the Luck Dragon sounds a lot like “traveling by map” in the Muppet Movie of 2011. I’d prefer either method to flying in a snackless/movieless plane.

  19. Plot and Structure is a FABULOUS book! I’ve read it twice, and it’s actually been a while since the last time so I might just break it out again.
    I agree with comment #19 Widdershins completely. We should never think we are done learning, ever. Everyone needs to be reminded of the importance of structure (and plot and characterization, and GMC etc) it’s imperitive that we keep refreshing ourselves as writers, and these classes you teach via your blog are some of my favorites.
    Thank you!!!
    Have a great time in San Antonio, and travel safley 🙂

  20. My biggest problem is going thru all my plat twists & realizing I’m only 1/2 way thru with my book. Hate it when that happens. I either add more plot points or layer in more emotion. Usually the latter is what’s needed.

  21. I don’t think having big hooks like exploding buildings is necessarily the fault of a writer not understanding structure. Just watch a movie. They open with a big explosion to hook the guys who will mostly likely tune if there isn’t something visual to grab them. Then the story starts. And all the craft books use movies as examples, and often even state that the hook has to be something really big. I had trouble with it for that reason, and it took reading Hooked to get that it was simply a change in direction in the story.

    Linda Adams — Soldier, Storyteller

    • Veena Kashyap on September 28, 2012 at 10:33 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you for the series. It is always helpful to go back to the basics in order to move forward. Look forward to reading more.

  22. I just sat down and started thinking about the whole of my story again… making notes of things to fix, things to keep in mind, etc… but what I’m really wondering now is if there are questions we can ask of our work, a touchstone if you will, to judge how well it is structured? (Or how well it is/does anything, for that matter?) I.e., how can I tell if my story starts so “into the pot boiling” that readers don’t know enough about the characters to care yet? Do I need to introduce the Big Boss by more than reputation earlier on? Are there too many small ups and downs of conflict along the way to the ultimate climactic event?

  23. I hated the movie of the Neverending Story. It was such a disappointment. I loved the book, the book is fantastic and does not have the problems of the movie. It starts in the real world, literally, as Bastian reads the book and it makes proper story sense and you do care about the characters. I haven’t read it for such a long time I couldn’t swear as to whether Falcor is problematic in the book as well, but I don’t remember finding him any kind of problem and I’ve never been a fan of random deus ex machina plot ‘solutions’. Now I want to read the book again 🙂

  24. Thank you for this post. I now know why my first few attempts at novels didn’t work – no structure. Now that I actually plot novels and stories out by writing chapter summaries first, and have a structure to how it will go, I feel that my work is better than when I first started out. Will carry on reading your posts about this, so helpful.

  25. Oh, gosh. I am so overwhelmed now!! I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to figure out how to make my story work. I know rules are important, and I want to be able to follow them, but there are so many and I feel like I’m writing from a straitjacket when I try to follow them all. Hanging in by my fingernails …

  26. I’m currently reading, and studying, James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure. I find it easy to follow and quite fascinating. This blog is very informative and the information you provide extremely useful and, in my opinion, necessary. Thanks so much!

  27. I’m so glad I found you! My biggest problem is I can’t tell if what I’ve written is good or terrible, if it’s entertaining or boring. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve looked and read over my manuscript so many times or what. So I don’t know if I’ve used the Luck Dragon or Purple Tornado. I don’t THINK I have, but it’s hard for me to tell. But I’m definitely going to go over my plot with fresh eyes after reading this. Thank you!

    I linked you in a blog post. 🙂 I hope I’m not too late!

  28. Kristen,
    I am at the point where I have been submitting to lit agents. So far I’ve had 3 ask for full manuscript, which in my mind is a good sign:) Meaning they were able to get through the first 20 pgs and wanted more. But have not been signed yet. One said they didn’t think it was commerciable, then went on to say that they have been wrong before and turned down a writer who’s books blew up in sales with someone else. One said they liked it but didn’t feel they would be a good fit because they didn’t “love it.” But I hope that at least this means that I have good structure, because I’m always worrying about the plot, structure and how it flows into the next chapt. The difference in my writing is that I am writing a series (3 books), and so I can’t give everything away in the first book. I have to leave questions, hints that go unanswered; because they show up later in another book. I have had 2 people review it to let me know what character changes needed to be made and or strengthened. Then I implemented changes that they gave. This is my first novel and it’s a series too boot! I don’t think I’ve resorted to a luck dragon or a purple tornado; because I’ve allowed for little hills that the characters overcome but it’s little hills that continue and lead to something much bigger that doesn’t happen till book 3. Do you think I”m on the right track? I’ve only submitted to 5 agents so far, and heard from 3. I do feel it’s commercialbe and very much a story that hasn’t been told yet. Now your going to have me worridly looking for purple tornados! I hope I do not find one:)

    1. You can’t leave threads unresolved. Each book in a series must be treated as a stand alone. There are guidelines for writing a series which we will talk about later.

  29. The 3 Act structure still confuses me a little bit because I broke my WIP outline down into smaller pieces that are manageable. So beginning middle and end feels a little too junior high. I think understanding of the rest of it (structure) is very important. Thanks for the great post.

  30. Right now I’m helping a friend with a book she wants to write, but she doesn’t have a book. She doesn’t even have a main character or over-riding themes she wants to convey. She just has a twist ending. That’s it, the revelation that one of the characters is something completely different than they seemed throughout the rest of the book. And it isn’t even a good twist. In fact, it violates the internal rules of the world she is trying to create. But it is the one part she will not let go of.

  31. I’m writing my first novel – high fantasy for middle grade readers. I can certainly relate to finishing 50,000 words only to realize you gotta start again…and again. Argh, not again! But, on the upside, I have developed a deep understanding of my characters and I still love building this world. Most days.

  32. I think the biggest plot issue I had at first was that the BBT was in another country to my protag and therefore the climax of the book didn’t feel real. The big change I made in rewriting it, was to have the BBT send out emissaries, warriors to do his dirty work. Then all I had to do was have my protag face them down. And he does, in the 3-part structure, as you say. Lucky, for me, I went to a writer’s seminar where Lorrain Orman taught us about 3-part and I’ve used it ever since.

  33. This is wonderful. I’ve written my first novel and it has the three act in it. It’s also the first part of a series and while it stands alone it also serves as act one for the series. Here’s my problem though: the series will have to be four books, not three.

    Do you have any advice for that? Can I keep the three act principle intact for a four part book series?

  34. I have to say I love all your post 🙂

    It isn’t long ago since I began to write fiction and right now I’m writing a middle ages fiction and I think it going pretty well, though I have trouble with the – show – don’t tell rule. Properly because English isn’t my original language. My language is Danish but I can only write on English (I think Danish is a clumsy language) but I can’t all the difficult words etc.
    But I’m getting better (I think) and I hope one day I can finish this story because I think it will be good, if I write it right 🙂

    Well, all I wanted to say is I love your post, they are all amazing!

    Sorry about my English…

    1. No need to apologize. You should read my German, LOL. Best of luck with it and if the story is strong, a good editor can help you with the language. And thanks for the compliment ((HUGS))

      1. Thank you! and you’re welcome! 🙂

  35. I always love your posts, Kristen, but this one struck a chord on many levels 🙂 I recently blogged about my difficulties with my novel’s middle, likening it to Artax in the swamp of sorrow and concluding that strong structure and deeper understanding are the only things that can rescue it (I had conveniently forgotten about the massive luck dragon – which, I can take from your post, is a good thing!). Hilarious that we both used the neverending story example to illustrate the importance of plot and structure!

  1. […] Structure Part Two – Kristen Lamb Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like2 bloggers like this. […]

  2. […] Anatomy of a Best-Selling Novel – Structure Part One by Kristen Lamb. And: Structure Part Two – Plot Problems. […]

  3. […] By the end of this series, I hope you to give you guys all the tools you need to be “structure experts.”Yes, even the pantsers. If you are planning to do the National Novel Writing Month Challenge (50,000 words in the month of November) then these lessons will help you tremendously. If you are going to put in that much effort, wouldn’t it be great to have something worthwhile at the end of the month?  […]

  4. […] Kristen Lamb's Blog HomeAbout Kristen LambJoin the Love Revolution #MyWANA « Structure Part 2–Plot Problems–Falcor the Luck Dragon & the Purple Tornado […]

  5. […] Structure Part 2–Plot Problems–Falcor the Luck Dragon & the Purple Tornado and Structure Part 3—Introducing the Opposition — Kristen Lamb […]

  6. […] Lamb brings us two more blog posts on structure—plot problems and introducing the […]

  7. […] of this series introduced the novel on a micro-scale. Part II explored the big picture and offered an overview of common plot problems. Part III introduced […]

  8. […] Lesson One, we discussed plot on a micro-scale. Lesson Two we panned back for an aerial shot, and discussed common plot problems that arise from a flawed […]

  9. […] Structure Part 2–Plot Problems–Falcor the Luck Dragon & the Purple Tornado… […]

  10. […] all the blogs in this series, you should understand what makes a scene vs. a sequel, understand the three-act dramatic structure. You also understand that the antagonist—or Big Boss Troublemaker—is the engine of your story. […]

  11. […] most evil character in the whole series started out as a Luck Dragon. (Don’t try to understand that one without reading the […]

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