A novel plot outline for your story (FREE fiction writing template!)

A few years ago I made the Plot Dot – my simple 8 step outline for writing novels, with the major dramatic twists most stories need to hit. I always wanted a more in-depth plotting outline and cheatsheet, but there’s so many conflicting story structures out there… this week however, I managed to put together a 24 step chapter outline for commercial fiction.

It’s based on a lot of other things, but I’ve looked at other beatsheets or story planning guides and haven’t found one that actually tells you what to do at each stage in your story… So I hope you like it. I made an hour long video walking you through the steps, I’ll share that down below.

You can also download the Word Template; I managed to get it down to 2 pages (so you can print front and back if you want, and so that I can call it a “one page” plot outline.

If you like this graphic and plotting outline, please share it!

 

 

Watch the VIDEO

 

 

Download the TEMPLATE

 

In case that doesn’t work… I’m going to copy the whole thing down below. You can paste it into the word processor of your choice.

It’s not pretty this way…. but I hope it’s useful!

 

The One-Page Novel Plot Outline

ACT I: ORDINARY WORLD (START WITH LACK)

1 Really Bad Day

Ordinary world, empathy, conflict. Show flaw and lack. Want, Problem, Need.

2 Something Peculiar

Something unique or strange happens, but they dismiss it.

3 Grasping at Straws

Trying to regain control of ordinary world but setbacks mount.

  • INCITING INCIDENT (call to adventure)

4 Call to Adventure

Something extraordinarily different happens, they can’t ignore. Major setback.

5 Head in Sand

The new interrupts the old and causes conflict. Reveals dissatisfaction with ordinary.

6 Pull out Rug

Trying to fix ordinary world problems while resisting the lure of the supernatural world.

ACT II: 1ST PLOT POINT (point of no return)

7 Enemies & Allies

Explore new world; meet characters, find their place and and role. Introduce all main characters.

8 Games & Trials

Struggle to belong. Frustration and doubt. Trials and challenges. Promise of premise.

9 Earning Respect

Small victory as lead proves capable. Fun and games. Begrudging acceptance.

  • 1ST PINCH POINT (first battle)

10 Forces of Evil

Stakes are raised, antagonists revealed.

11 Problem Revealed

Surprise problem or situation. Demanding answers.

12 Discovery & Ultimatum

New information, vulnerable share. In or out?

  • MIDPOINT (victim to warrior)

13 Mirror Stage

Self-realization or a discovery. Victim to Warrior.

14 Plan of Attack

Plan of action to thwart antagonist’s forces or overcome main problem.

15 Crucial Role

Trusted with an important task.

  • 2ND PINCH POINT (second battle)

16 Second Battle

They execute the plan, and come in direct conflict with antagonist’s forces.

17 Surprise Failure

The plan goes horribly wrong, faulty information or assumption. Consequences.

18 Shocking Revelation

The antagonist’s full plan/true identity is revealed. Stakes are raised. Guilt and anger.

ACT III: 2ND PLOT POINT (dark night of soul)

19 Giving Up

Lead loses confidence; the forces are too great. What they want is unattainable.

20 Pep Talk

Encouragement from ally. Vulnerable share, inclusion. What’s at stake; choice.

21 Seizing the Sword

Deliberate choice to continue, even if slim chance of success.

  • FINAL BATTLE (triumph-knowledge)

22 Ultimate Defeat

Triumph of Villain. All hope is lost. Confront fatal flaw.

23 Unexpected Victory

Secret weapon or ability, deep resolve, new understanding, unlikely ally. Remove glass shard. Sacrifice.

24 Bittersweet Reflection

Temporary victory. Innocents saved. How far they’ve come.

  • REBIRTH (return to ordinary word)

25 Death of Self

From ambition to service. Death of former self. Acknowledgment ceremony.

Optional: Hints of future challenges or antagonist lives.

 

About Derek Murphy

Derek Murphy is a book editor turned book designer with a Ph.D. in Literature. He's been featured on CNN and spoken at dozens of writing conferences around the world. These days he mostly writes young adult fantasy and science fiction, while helping authors write and publish bestselling books. FREE GUIDE: Sell your work without selling out.
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