Heart Breathings – Plot Theory

I’m back this week with another plotting method that I just learned and totally love. This one is from author Sarah Cannon of Heart Breathings and her entire plotting method can be found over on YouTube, starting with this video. So I highly recommend checking her out and subscribing to her channel! Go buy all her books. Leave her comments and reviews. I binge read the book in her series which she gives as an example to see how it all came together, and actually ended up loving the book.

Now, if you are familiar with the three act formula, the Save the Cat beatsheet, and character arcs, this may seem familiar to you. However, this is a different way of putting them all together that really made it click in my brain for one of the stories I’ve had on a backburner for ages. So let’s go through what this method looks like, step-by-step.

Act I

Opening Scene/Hook

Where do we see the character in the opening scene? How will we meet the character for the very first time? What is going to make the reader think they have to read the book? Hint at the trouble the character will face at the end of the book.

The Setting

Where is it set? Small town? Big City? Dystopian Future?

Allies

Who is on your main character’s team? Who cares about your character and who does your character care about?

The Dramatic Question

Will your main character survive? Will they be able to figure out what really happened that night? This is the central conflict of the story.

The Argument Against Transformation

The character will be asked to change in some way. This is your character telling you why they shouldn’t be the hero of the story.

Meet the Antagonist/Introduce Mystery

In some stories you know right away who the antagonist is, or at least the mystery. Sometimes the antagonist is also the hero/heroine of the story.

The Stakes

What happens if the main character fails? What is at stake? What if they don’t fall in love?

First Doorway of No Return

First big event where the character gets locked into the action of the story. A rite of passage where life will never be the same again.

Inciting Event

Introduces the new story world to your character. What gets the story moving?

Key Event

The thing that solidifies or locks the character in the story for good. 

Act II

Into the New World

What happens when the character moves into this new version of their life as they are stepping into what they need to be.

The Plan

They start to figure out a plan for how they are going to now live their life.

Tests and Challenges/Reactions

As they start to enact the plan, they will be tested in some way. Training sequence. New allies. Questioning witnesses. Exploring Clues. 

The First Pinch Point/Antagonist Attack

A danger to your character. 

The Midpoint

The second time your character is turned on their head. A revelation. A huge clue that turns the story. A “now it’s personal” type of loss. A catalyst for change.

The Mirror Moment

The character is looking in a mirror and seeing what they’ve become. Or they are saying “there’s no way I’m going to survive this but I’m going to try my hardest anyway.” This is a change or die moment.

Reaction to Midpoint

Begins to take a more active role in their own story. They begin to make decisions and realize their own inner struggles for the first time and begin to work through it.

The New Plan

Whatever their plan originally was has been changed or completed, so they come up with a new plan.

Hard Choices, More Tests, and the Push to the Goal

All about them confronting and resisting death over and over again (not necessarily a literal death). Stakes are raised. Pieces of the puzzle need to start to be revealed here.

Second Pinch Point/Antagonist Attack

Reminded yet again of the danger to the hero/heroine.

Second Doorway of No Return

Very dark moment, but not necessarily all is lost. A huge revelation. A shocking twist. A major setback. Makes it inevitable that this final battle is going to be fought. Taking away the character’s other options. 

Act III

Increased Danger/Mounting Forces

Relentless momentum. Gathering forces and going harder at the antagonist.

Final Plan

Somewhere, the characters will formulate their final plan. 

Storm the Castle

This is the character taking action on the final plan. Your biggest, most action-packed scene.

Black Moment

Something goes wrong at this moment. A moment of extreme loss that motivates your character through the final doorway.

Q Factor

The final piece that makes you realize what you need in order to win.

Final Battle

The character finally faces the antagonist and they either win or lose. This ends the primary conflict with the antagonist. The inevitable conclusion of your story.

Resolution

A glimpse of the new future for the character. One final scene at the end that introduces the next conflict that gets the reader excited for what’s coming next.

If you’re interested in other posts in this series, check them out:

The Hero’s Journey (Monomyth)

7-Point Plot Structure

Snowflake Method

What do you think about this plotting method? Let me know in the comments below!

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