What is 7-Point Story Structure?
This is my attempt to explain my understanding of the 7-point story structure. I would encourage you to look at other sources as well, especially the video series by Dan Wells.
The 7 points
Let’s start off by listing the 7 points that give the structure its name:
- The Hook
- Turning Point 1
- Pinch Point 1
- Pinch Point 2
- Turning Point 2
- The Resolution
I will try to apply these to the Miller arc of Leviathan Wakes, as well as the main plot of the Eye of the World (Wheel of Time book 1). Note there is some ambiguity as to what exactly constitutes each point, in part because in both of these examples there is more than one plot line going, and they are often interwoven.
This is the starting state of your plot / hero / romance / etc. In many stories you want to start with “normal” situation.
- For Miller, this is his life as a somewhat washed out detective on Ceres.
- In the Eye of the World, this is Rand al’Thor traveling to Bel Tine and the festival itself.
Turning Point 1
Something changes that propels the story forward. This is the inciting incident that starts the change. Often this is because the hero learns something about themselves, or the world.
- For Miller, this is the decision to chase after Julie Mao despite Captain Shaddid telling him to drop it, and firing him.
- In the Eye of the World, this is the departure from Emond’s Field.
Pinch Point 1
Something happens that threatens the end goal. Often this is the introduction of the villain. For most stories this is an attack of some kind that threatens the well-being of the protagonist(s), or else threatens their objective, if they even have a clear objective at this point. However, since not all plot lines have a positive outcome, it could be something that gives a glimmer of (false) hope, or else something that makes the traitor question his decision to betray his former friends.
- For Miller this is being exposed to radiation on Eros.
- In the Eye of the World, this is Shadar Logoth, and the group getting separated.
The major change of state. Often this is when the hero decides to go from reaction to action.
- For Miller this is his decision to shoot Dresden, one of the scientists working on the protomolecule. By doing this he declares his stand on the whole issue.
- In the Eye of the World, this occurs when our heroes are reunited, and decide to brave the waygate, possibly a little later when the set off from Fal Dara in search of the Eye of the World.
Pinch Point 2
Peak pressure is applied. This is often when everything seems to be lost, and it looks like there is no hope of the eventual outcome (good or bad).
- For Miller, this is when he decides to stay on Eros.
- In the Eye of the World, this is two fold – Aginor and Balthamel greet our heroes at the Eye of the World, and the forces of Sheinar face overwhelming odds at Tarwin’s Gap.
Turning Point 2
Obtain the thing needed to achieve resolution. This is the last key the hero (or the villain) needs to succeed in their goal.
- For Miller, this is the realization that something of Julie Mao still remains.
- In the Eye of the World, this is when Rand draws on the power of the Eye.
The climax of the story. The hero (or villain) succeeds (or fails). This is the goal the story or the plot line has been building towards.
- For Miller, this is the diversion of Eros to Venus, rather than Earth.
- In the Eye of the World, this is Rand unleashing his power in Tarwin’s Gap.
Plotting Using the 7-Point Structure
So how do you actually make use of this when you write your book?
Your first step should be to figure out what plots you will have in your story. For a short story a single plot arc is fine, but for a novel you want multiple plot arcs. Generally speaking you will have an overarching plot arc, several character arcs, and some subplots. Sometimes you might even have several arcs for a single character. For example for Miller in Leviathan Wakes, you could argue that from start to escaping Eros is another arc. Things also get more complicated in a series, since some of the arcs don’t reach their resolution in the first book, and in later books you usually have a mix of complete arcs within the book, and pieces of other arcs.
Next, you will want to figure out the structure of each arc. This process is NOT done in chronological order. The recommended order is as follows:
- Resolution – what is the climax of the story / plot?
- Hook – how does the story / plot start? Usually you want this to be the opposite state to the resolution. Heroes start out weak / in tragedies, everyone is happy / etc.
- Midpoint – the main transition point that gets us from Hook to Resolution.
- Turning Point 1 – introduce the conflict, give the hero a nudge towards the Midpoint.
- Turning Point 2 – how do we finally arrive at the Resolution?
- Pinch Point 1 – apply pressure to the hero, forcing them to arrive at the Midpoint.
- Pinch Point 2 – this is when everything looks lost, the jaws of defeat.
One possible adjustment I would give is to do Pinch Point 2 and Turning Point 2 together, since they really come as a pair.
You may very well want to adjust these once you have all 7 in front of you. If you’re using this tool, just click on the “Edit Plot Line” button under the plot line you want to modify, and you’ll be able to edit any of the 7 points or even the plot line title.
The third step is layering. Once you have the outlines for all your plot arcs, you want to figure out how they all fit together. You will often have plot points for various arcs coinciding, which will provide you with some guidance as to how to order them. One advice I will give here is to keep the Hollywood formula in mind: the following three resolutions need to come as close as possible:
- Protagonist overcomes the antagonist
- Protagonist achieves his or her goal
- Resolution of the relationship
For layering your plot arcs, this means that you want to have multiple arcs resolving either simultaneously, or close to it. This ensures that the grand finale of your book packs the most punch possible.