Michael Hauge on PlottingLast month I talked about Michael Hauge’s conceptualization of Character . This month I’ll tell you what he says about Plot. This is not meant to substitute for attending one of his workshops, watching his DVDs, listening to his CD, or reading his books. Check his website here for more information. Remember, Hauge is primarily addressing the writing of screenplays, but what he says can also apply to writing popular fiction, like Romance.
Hauge says that all stories are about a character pursuing a visible desire and facing visible conflict. The purpose of any story is to elicit emotion. In a good plot, the right thing happens at the right time to elicit maximum emotion. (There’s a great question to ask yourself with every scene—Have I made the right thing happen at the right time and does it elicit maximum emotion?)
Hauge describes a Six Stage Plot Structure
The purpose of the set-up is to draw you into the setting and to establish tone. The set-up also ought to create sympathy for the main character—the hero-- (in a Romance, this character/hero could be the hero, the heroine, or both) and shows the hero in his ordinary world. At the end of the set-up, at approximately the 10% mark of the total screenplay (or book), there is a turning point, an opportunity that gives the hero a new goal and moves him into a new situation.
2. New Situation
Now the hero begins to pursue his new goal, until at the 25% mark something happens that creates a change of plans in pursuit of his goal.
The hero overcomes obstacles in pursuit of his goal until the 50% mark, the Point of No Return. At this point the hero makes a full commitment to the goal and he burns his bridges behind him. Now he can never go back to his ordinary world. Hauge says that in a love story, this event is often something that takes the romance to a new level—like a love scene.
Now it becomes more difficult for the hero to achieve his goal. The obstacles become bigger. At the 75% mark there is a Major Setback, in a Romance, Hauge says, this means a break-up. All is lost. The hero can’t go back and his original plan won’t work.
5. Final Push
In the final push, the hero summons every last ounce of courage to try one more do-or-die thing until the 90 to 99% mark, the Climax, the moment which resolves the hero’s outer motivation and results in an inner transformation. The story is resolved.
The aftermath shows what the character’s ordinary life looks like now. It shows the hero with the reward of his journey.
Hauge suggests you analyze your favorite film to see if it fits into this Six Stage Structure. You could also analyze your favorite book. Or...your latest manuscript.
I must say, I never think of structure when I’m writing my synopsis, which is my plot outline, but after I’ve thought it up and written it, I check to see how it fits in the structure and then I make adjustments.
What do you think? Does this plot structure make sense to you?
If it does, I urge you to explore more about what Michael Hauge has to teach us about story-telling.
Any questions? Comments? (remember that $20 gift card to Border's Theresa is awarding on March 31 to one lucky commenter)
Visit my website to see what plots I've conjured up and to enter my contest celebrating my friend Kathryn Caskie's new book How to Propose to a Prince.