Sometimes, you just don’t know where to start with your story. So what I decided to try is using some sort of structure, like a skeleton to fit the flesh of your plot and characters onto.
The best one I’ve found so far is the ‘Blake Snyder Beat Sheet-’ or BS2 as he called it- which works for novels as well as screenplays.
It breaks down the standard three-act structure into small, convenient segments, each one having a specific goal fitting in with the overall plot.
1. Opening Image – A snapshot of the main character (MC)’s situation, before the adventure begins.
2. Theme Stated – During the set up, something happens to show what the story is about e.g. “I wish…” “What if…?” “I want…”
3. Set-Up – The main character’s world as it is, and what is missing from their life.
4. Catalyst – A life changing event for the MC.
5. Debate – The MC must decide how to proceed in life. If they don’t do anything, they are
6. Break Into Act Two – The MC makes a choice and leaves the old world behind. The journey begins in the new world.
7. B Story – Take a breather. The subplot (e.g. a love story between two of the minor characters) starts here, to provide a break from the intense main plot.
8. Fun and Games – The bulk of Act 2, where the conflict and action is escalated. Setbacks, action and exploring the new world. The theme stated appears to have come true and its fun.
9. Midpoint – The main character either gets everything they think they want (false high) or doesn’t get it (false low). But not everything we think we want is what we actually need in the end.
10. Bad Guys Close In – Villains (physical and/or emotional) regroup against the hero and the midpoint situation disintegrates.
11. All Is Lost – The opposite of the midpoint: the hero’s goal looks even more impossible. Someone or something important dies here.
12. Dark Night of the Soul – The MC hits bottom and mourns for their old world. It can’t get any worse, but, when all seems lost:
13. Break Into Act Three – The B story gives rise to a new idea, the MC is refreshed and finds a solution.
14. Finale (a long scene) – The MC uses knowledge from both the main and B stories to form a plan, and triumphs over villains to create a new society, achieving their goal.
15. Final Image – Opposite to the Opening Image. Shows how the MC has changed and grown during the story.