The Discovery of Q’s

 And now we’re up to Q4. That’s the fourth quartile of the story construction message. Is it the most important part? Yes, but only if Q1 is the bookend to Q4.

Since I discovered this particular form of words about story structure, I’ve become a convert. Yes, I liked to plan, and I did outlines and chapter/scene discovery pieces, but this has put it all together – much like the first time I built a house (okay, more of a shed really, but we lived in it for a while – and it didn’t leak!).

So, what happens in Q4? We lead up to ‘the end’ and we do it in such a way that the story shows the MC (main character) undergoing the metamorphosis from level 1 characteristics to level 2, and now here, to level 3. The final change (even if only temporary) of the inner person; the overcoming of the internal things that let him down, or held him back, or tried (this is the operative word in Q4 – ‘cos it doesn’t work anymore) to make him fear the consequences (etc.) are finally overcome to enable the MC to be the hero of the story. And he has to be the hero – what’s the point of doing the whole story about this person if he can’t be the hero of his own story?

There’s one very important rule for Q4 – no new info!!!! Very important. The MC has to use only the information he’s earned and learned on the way through the story, and this is where it all comes together, where it plays out the hand in the winning layout, where it gets him to the point of no return – to win (however that win may present itself) the day, the girl, the dog, or the personal satisfaction.

There’s a lot of chat out there (e-world) where story is created backwards – find the climactic end-point (q4) and write the story backwards from there. I like this, but I also like to have at least three (3) points of extreme emotional context associated with that climactic moment before I write up an outline (or now: the Beat Sheet!!!! One of my own creation, because (yep, you guessed it) I’m a know-all who likes doing things my own way – I just steal ideas!) and then let it sit in the pile of other outlines until the story muse yells loud enough that I take it out and ‘do’ that story.


So, in recap:

Q1: Title (the first thing a reader sees, so make it the most appropriate name for the story)

Opening Image: book cover and the first opening on the MC.

The six things (see Snyder: Saving the Cat) that come back in Q4 to show the level of change in the MC.

The Inciting Incident: This is the kicker, the breaking of the status of MC’s world, but it’s often not the First Plot Point (PP1).

PP1: The decision to DO something made by the MC – note the distinction: the MC does this, they choose, and then they step out on the path they chose.

Q2: the running, hiding, planning, strategizing that leads up to the MidPoint (MP). MC can’t win any clashes with the baddy, even if we have to meet up with whatever this is halfway through Q2 – it’s called the 1st Pinch Point (1pp). It happens somewhere near the middle of Q2 because the reader needs to know and feel and experience exactly what it is that the MC has to overcome.

Q3: from MP to 2pp to PP2; MidPoint to the 2nd Pinch Point to end the quartile at the 2nd Plot Point. This is the place to fight back with power, with energy, with knowledge. Of course, you don’t win with the first attempt – but you do learn something more, something that changes the MC, something that alerts the inner demons that their time is almost over. But of course, it’s not over, not yet. And the 2pp will show just how strong and intelligent and overpowering the baddy has become, won’t it? There’s always that point where the person gets kicked just once too many times and they consider the option of giving up and letting it all go. But then something happens.

Q4: The PP2 is the last moment of new info for the story – most often, it’s the point where the MC finally sees how it could all come together – and it usually involves some level of defeating those inner characteristic demons before he really sees.

And when he does win, and the Q4 holds all the answers to how the MC has changed (see the six things) from the beginning of the story to the end, and the final image, and the sense of achievement (or some sort of feeling, an emotional grabber for him) or revenge or . . . [your story] and he can walk away at ‘the end’ showing how he learned something, he gained something, he Did It and survived (or died for the right reason).

The End.

Now it’s time for a new story for the new year.

Ready? Let’s Go!

Just remember, the Reader (most important person in your world) appreciates being able to follow the story as if they walked the map of your story – and that’s why the structure works. And for those of us who might have thought it a constraint – within those boundaries is the scope for a Whole Lotta Creativity!


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