Monster Structure Worksheet: The Text

monsterWS-2016-06-11The last update to the Monster Structure Worksheet introduced a lot of text, so much so that I had to split it into two pages. A full-color version with notes, and a blank version for you to write in your own notes for your project.

I think now’s a good time to go through that text and expand upon it a little. Oh, and gifs, because gifs.

You can download the latest version here. Today’s post refers to v1.1 from June 11, 2016.

1: The Ordinary World

This term comes from The Hero’s Journey, or Monomyth. Basically, it’s a chance to establish a base line, or what’s “normal” for your protagonist/hero prior to the disruption of the real story. Having a base line is good for a number of reasons–it provides contrast with the action, and it allows the reader to get to know your protagonist and come to sympathize with them.

2: Call to Action

Something changes, and the protagonist is asked to confront that change and go on a journey of some kind. This journey may be an actual get-up-and-leave-the-house journey, or it could be emotional/spiritual. Either way, their life is about to change.

3: Hero’s Refusal/Doubt

The protagonist is reluctant to join the journey. They may be opposed to going, or just reluctant to leave. This ‘point’ may be very short, or it may be a major part of the story.

4: Convincing/Commitment

The protagonist is convinced or changes their own mind, and agrees to go on the journey. They may be pushed by circumstances, cajoled by a mentor, or come to a realization. Regardless of how ‘large’ 3 is, 4 needs to involve the protagonist accepting that they are about to go on a journey.

5: Turning Point 1

Point of No Return 1. The break between Act I and Act II. After this moment, there is no going back. Everything changes. The adventure begins. “Everything changes” can be as obvious as leaving this world for another, or it can be making a decision that changes the protagonist’s perceptions.

6: Exposition

Hang with me, this is where we begin to enter ‘muddy middle’ territory. Luckily, we do have structural elements breaking up Act II (which is a solid 50% of your book!) into manageable checkpoints. In the Exposition, major complications start. Between 6-8, everything is a reaction to 5. We want to shed some light on 1. Foreshadow 12/13. And expose a personal flaw and/or history (no backstory before Ch 4!). In the Hero’s Journey, this part is also where you introduce Tests, Allies, and Enemies.

7: Pinch Point 1

The antagonist displays their power, clearly a threat. Things look pretty bad for the protagonist, but it’s not dire yet. This is where the reader gets to see the bad guys as BAD, and really start to worry about our heroes.


8: Midpoint

The protagonist makes a decision to stop reacting. They have a mirror moment, and experience a personal insight. Plot-wise, we have a false resolution. Foreshadow 14.

9: Approach Begins

Begin barreling toward 12. Protagonist starts to act instead of react, gets proactive. Make sure you get the final pieces in play for climax.

BE. A. MAAAAAAAN. *cough* sorry…

10: Pinch Point 2

All hell breaks loose. The antagonist displays their power again, and this time it’s really scary. The protagonist may experience their “just desserts” for 3. Lays the groundwork for 11.

11: Approach to Climax

Run headlong into the climax. Subplots start to tie off.

12: Ordeal/Turning Point 1

Point of No Return 2, the climax is inevitable now. The Ordeal is a major clash with the antagonist, the battle begins. Also, may be an upheaval of any gains from 7-9.

13: Antagonist Triumph/Dark Moment

All is lost! Destruction of the protagonist’s plans. It looks like there’s no way out. The protagonist’s reasons from 3 and 4 impact their reaction to 13.

14: Hero’s Revelation

The protagonist must face their darkest fear, the fear which has been holding them back. Overcomes elements from 6-9 using a device from 5.

15: Win/Resurrection

The protagonist must act upon the darkest fear in order to defeat the antagonist. Victory!

16: Denouement

The winding down from the climax. Tying off a few (but not all) loose ends–you want a couple left for the reader to be able to imagine a future. Revelation from 14 comes to full bloom.

Now everybody go take a nap, you’ve earned it.

And that’s the 16-part novel structure!

I’m always open to questions or comments.

Photo: François Philipp‘s Architecture


Monster Structure Worksheet v1.1

Major updates to the Monster Structure Worksheet!


Scroll down to download full PDF

What is the MSW? It’s a combination of novel structure theories into one chart to help you visualize what-all is supposed to happen and when.

I’ve been reading K.M. Weiland’s Structuring Your Novel [amazon asin=0985780401&template=add to cart] and I highly recommend it. It’s a great step-by-step walk-through of  the parts of story structure.

Weiland made something clear for me. There are Turning Points, and there are what she called Pinch Points.

Turning Points

Most theories identify two Turning Points, sometimes called Points of No Return. Once these moments happen, the protagonist can never go back to the way things were. They can’t turn back and opt out of the story. These points usually mark the changes between the three Acts.

Pinch Points

I’d heard the term Pinch Point before, but it had always been conflated with Turning Point. Weiland makes them two very different things. A Pinch Point is a point that

showcases the antagonist, either personally or in some manifestation that emphasizes his power and his potential ability to defeat the protagonist. (location 1247)

Basically, this:

You know, if Xena were the bad guy.

Makes sense, right? You want points where your antagonist flexes their muscle and looks duly threatening.

Weiland reckons you want these at the 3/8 and 5/8 markers. My Monster Structure Worksheet is broken down into 16 parts, but I was able to place the Pinch Points in roughly the same places. I felt it was important that the Second Pinch Point come at 10, not immediately after the Midpoint (8).


Weiland also made an excellent point about the general thrust/motivation of the protagonist’s actions on either side of the Midpoint.

Between Turning Point 1 (5) and the Midpoint (8) the protagonist is reacting to what happened to them in the first Turning Point. They’re playing defense, trying to survive.

In the Midpoint, the protagonist has a bunch of internal transformations, including the realization that they need to stop reacting and start acting proactively, be offensive.

This offensive style lasts from the Midpoint through Turning Point 2 (12) as the Climax begins.

I’ve represented these changes with rounded arcs on the left-hand side of the chart. A reminder more than anything else.

The New Worksheet Download

The new PDF comes with a full-color guide explaining all the things each point is supposed to accomplish, and a clear white worksheet you can fill in with your own notes.

Download the PDF here: MonsterStructure 2016 06 11

Have you used the worksheet and found it helpful? Leave a comment below!

Photo: Beastly by David Goehring