The 8 C’s of Plotting: The Ending

This is Part 7 of The 8 C’s of Plotting. Click here for the whole series on the 8 C’s. Or click the image below to be taken to the General Fiction Feed.

Today is Act Three, the Action, Curve ball, Final Battle, Culmination, and Resolution. If this is your first time joining us, be sure to start at the beginning with Part One.

Last week we rounded up Act Two with C6—the Comprehension, which is the turning point, the awakening, the glimmer of hope, the renewed motivation. It is basically this moment:

The hero (protagonist) got a near-fatal blow at the end of Act Two, but is now getting up and wiping off the blood, ready to either finish off the bad guy or die trying.


So Act 3 begins with Action and ends with resolution, the new sense of normalcy. See the dotted line in the chart below? That’s the Normalcy line. Upward movement is progress, and downward movement is chaos.

Action is determination to fight back. If the collapse (C5) brought a death, the action might be revenge. It’s whatever happens as a result of the comprehension (C6).

Update: I detail the whole third act of Toy Story here. You’ll see that the “action” section is full of problems and obstacles for the protagonist(s) to overcome!

Simba, ready for action:

In movies, the action to curveball (C7) to final battle to culmination (C8) might only last a few minutes, with more time devoted to the resolution. Unlike some strict proponents of the 3-Act structure, I say: if you have all the stops in the right order, you can decide where you take a rest stop, where you spend the night, and where you drive straight through.

(Highlight between brackets to reveal SPOILERS)

In The Lion King, [Simba climbs back up from the cliff; Simba makes Scar reveal the truth to lionesses; the fight between the lionesses and hyenas begins; “They call me MISTER PIG” flash to Timon and Pumbaa fighting other enemies; Simba corners Scar, who begs for mercy].

In the novelization of The Hunger Games, [Katniss finds Peeta, she nurses him back to health. Katniss goes to the “feast.” The remaining tributes are eliminated except for Cato, Katniss, and Peeta.]

C7—Curve Ball

The Curve ball isn’t strictly necessary, but it will give your third act some interest between the Comprehension and Culmination.

In a tragedy, this C is a bit different. Either way, the C7 is the inverse of the Final Battle and .

Here’s the curve ball, in a nutshell:

  • It’s a surprise twist for the hero, the reader, or both.
    • Sometimes readers know what’s coming before the protagonist. Fewer times, the protagonist (e.g. Sherlock Holmes) knows what’s coming before the reader.
  • It’s an unexpected obstacle the hero must overcome, most likely with help from friends. Think Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
  • It’s a reminder that the hero is still fighting a worthy/evil opponent. A dad chopping off his son’s hand with a lightsaber. The hero’s girlfriend jumping in front of him, taking the bullet instead.
In The Lion King, [Scar flings embers into Simba’s eyes]
In The Hunger Games, [One word: Muttations]

Final Battle

Okay, “Final Battle” is a bit of a misnomer, because in some cases, the entire Third Act is the “final battle” and the stuff between C7 and C8 is more like the “final face-off” or a “final exam.” So…


Final Face-off / Final Exam

Here it is: the climactic scene.

Spotlight on just the protagonist and antagonist—forget about the other characters for just a minute. Chances are, they are watching this unfold anyway. Especially if the bad guy is Voldemort and won’t let any one else lay a finger on Harry Potter.

In The Lion King, the face off is in slow motion. Then Simba [flings Scar down to the hyenas].

In The Hunger Games, [Katniss and Peeta fight Cato on the Cornucopia. They throw him off, and he’s attacked by the muttations. Katniss’ mercy kill. Announcement that there can only be one winner, after all. Berries. (Note: The announcement could also be considered the curveball. It certainly is the curveball in the movie. But in the novel, the realization that the Capitol turned the dead tributes into mutants was certainly an emotional curveball for Katniss.)]

In movies, the final face-off might be less than a minute, like it is with The Lion King. In some movies—and nearly all books, as far as I can tell—the face-off is its own plot within a plot. As in The Hunger Games, there’s a beginning, middle, and end, complete with rising action, climax, falling action, and even a twist.

For stories without a face-off between the protagonist and a “Big Bad,” I call this the “Final Exam”. Read about the Final Exam in the character-driven film Toy Story here.


If the final battle is it’s own mini-story, then the resolution of that story is the culmination. Put into other words, if the final battle is the climactic scene, then the culmination is the climactic moment. Somebody needs to lose. To be more black and white: either the Hero wins, or the Hero dies. Dying can be figurative. Don’t be afraid of gray areas, just stay away from muddy areas.

If it can’t be stated in one, short sentence, it isn’t the culmination.

Lion King: [The hyenas devour Scar.]

Hunger Games: [Capitol changes its mind:Okay, okay—there can be two winners.]


The new normal. The word “new” is important because the cast will never return back to the way things were. If the protagonist didn’t change throughout the story, it’s not much of a story. Personally, I don’t like the word “normalcy,” but it has the right sort of connotations. Life might not be the same, but life goes on.

The Lion King: [Simba roars, claiming throne. Rain. Hyenas leave, the valley turns green again.]

The Hunger Games: [Peeta and Katniss are celebrated as victors, but there is a rift between them, and the Capitol is not happy.]

Writers get bonus points if the ending matches up with the WATCH element from the Opening.

Optional: The Epilogue

The epilogue ties off any story strings that were left after the resolution. Usually the epilogue requires a shift in time, setting, or point of view. Otherwise lingering scenes are still part of the main resolution sequence.

Since The Hunger Games is the first book of a trilogy, there’s no epilogue, and the resolution doesn’t tie up all loose ends. If it did, then people wouldn’t HAVE TO read the other books.

But in Disney movies, there is often an epilogue. We want to know if the sweethearts get married. So, in The Lion King, there is an epilogue: [Look! Simba and Nala have a baby. The Circle of Life continues.]

Toy Story has a sort-of epilogue—the resolution contains a Christmas scene, but the ending still leaves room for sequels. Lots of sequels.

Thus ends the series on the 8 C’s of plotting! For now, anyway.

(Further reading on plot and story structure can be found here)

If you have questions, I’ll answer them in the comments or create another post in the series.

I’m currently researching series novels and movies and how their plots work. By researching, I mean I’m reading a lot of books and watching a lot of movies. Today, while I was watching clips of The Lion King, my husband asked me what I was doing.

“Research,” I said.

“I want to watch movies for research.

“You can watch movies for my research.”

We’ll see if he obliges. In the meantime, what is the next FICTION WRITING TOPIC I should cover on the blog? What do you want to learn about? What do you want me to learn about?

If you want me to learn how to NOT use clichés in my blog, then I will apologize. One, I know how to avoid clichés. Two, this is a blog, so I’m going to be conversational. Three, clichés are handy ways to be concise without trying too hard. Four, the purpose of my blog is not to blow readers away with how creative or literary I can be. The purpose is to describe and discuss elements of writing in plain, conversational English.

The 8 C’s of Plotting: Confrontation to Comprehension

This is Part 6 of The 8 C’s of Plotting. Click here for the whole series on the 8 C’s. Or click the image below to be taken to the General Fiction Feed.

Since last week’s post was a bit late, I’m going to round out the rest of Act 2 today. Buckle up; it’s a lot of new stuff.

Last week we talked about Preparation and Problems, the longest section of the book. We also mentioned a thing or two about Pinch Points.

As you may have noticed, the 8 C’s is based loosely on the 3-Act structure, but there are differences. If you’d like the 3-Act structure broken down into a list of terms and regulations, read Larry Brooks’ posts on StoryFix (while I think his blog is valuable, I will say he tends to ramble, and the last time I visited the site, navigating from post to post was about as easy as scrambling up a fireman’s pole).

I’ve read literally hundreds of blog posts and articles and books about the 3-Act structure, yet I was still dissatisfied to the point of creating my own method. Why? The Midpoint. No one can seem to pinpoint it exactly. There are varying definitions: It’s an epiphany, it’s a change in tactics, it’s the turning point or “point of no return.” Yet people will take a book or movie and argue what the midpoint is. Or, if you are in a literature class looking at Freytag’s Pyramid, what the CLIMAX is. Note, the climactic scene—the highest point of tension at the end of a novel—isn’t the midpoint.

Basically, whenever people talk about the midpoint, they are really just telling you this:

Make sure something interesting happens in the middle of your book, or the plot will sag in the middle.

And whenever they talk about pinch points, they mean this:

Remind the reader about the ANTAGONISTIC FORCE, you know, so they don’t forget. And also to keep the story moving.

I talk more about pinch points in part 5, also.

Blogs like Larry Brooks’ will give you exact places to put the midpoints and two major pinch points: Pinch Point I at 37.5% (3/8ths), Midpoint IN THE MIDDLE, Pinch Point II at 62.5% (5/8ths). Adhere to that if you wish. I probably will whether I intend to or not. But plenty of novelists and screenwriters will throw things around at earlier or later points in the story, and they are just fine. But note, certain strict adherents might blog about your straying from the holy percentage points.

Bottom line: somewhere around the halfway point, make the protagonist change tactics or realize a new goal. In Tangled, the midpoint is the elation, when Rapunzel finally gets to see the lights and realizes that being Flynn’s honey is her new goal. In The Hunger Games, the collapse is the midpoint.

If you want guidelines to shoot for, then take your target word count for age and genre, and apply these percentage points: Change, 10%; Complication, as early as 18%, no later than 25%; Pinch Point I at 37–38% (during Preparation & Problems); Elation or Collapse at 50%; Comprehension somewhere between 70–80% (see below); Final Battle from 90% to 99%.

It’s fine to stray from these targets! Think of the 8 C’s as an accordion. You can stretch or shrink as needed.

Now let’s get back to the 8 C’s.


Like the explosive C-4, the Confrontation is pretty perilous. And like its name suggests, it’s the first confrontation between the protagonist and the [capital-A] Antagonist after the protagonist has prepared and acquired skills and allies in preparation & problems. If your protagonist is a boxer, the confrontation will be the last match in the semi-finals.

I say “Capital-A Antagonist” because in the preparation and problems sequence of events, your protagonist(s) will face a number of antagonists and antagonistic forces. The Confrontation is the “First Battle” with whichever antagonist they will face-off with in the Final Battle.

In The Hunger Games, the confrontation is a physical confrontation between protagonist and antagonist: [the Tracker Jacker scene, when Katniss is stuck up in a tree and the Careers are waiting to kill her below]

(Highlight between brackets to reveal SPOILERS)

In The Lion King, Simba is confronted by an antagonistic force, when we are reminded of his inner conflict: [Simba meets Rafiki, sees vision of Mufasa, who tells him, “Remember who you are.”] 

The confrontation ends with a KO—a knock out. Or maybe a TKO, a technical knock out.  Either way, your protagonist wins, propelling them into…


The victory celebration. This is the moment of the protagonist’s greatest confidence, hope, or pleasure. (You can probably guess what happens in the romance genre during the elation!)

Endorphins are surging. In The Lion King, the Confrontation was the midpoint, when Simba decides to stop running from his past and run TOWARD it, backed up by a motivating Swahili chant.

This is the elation scene, and it lasts less than twenty seconds.


In The Hunger Games, the elation segment is a bit longer, which is a nice relief for us readers, who have been on the edge of our seats, getting paper cuts from turning pages so quickly. It’s when Katniss allies with Rue and makes a plan [to blow up the Careers’ stash of food].

Happiness is…making allies with fellow tributes

However long the Elation lasts is up to you. Decide how much relief the reader needs after the confrontation and before being trampled by the…


This is the near-fatal blow to the protagonist. The boxer gets punched in the face and falls to the canvas.

(Major Spoiler) In The Hunger Games, [Rue is killed by another tribute].

In The Lion King, we learn a tip about the Collapse: foreshadow its coming with setting and atmosphere. A few scenes before the collapse, we see the current state of Pride Rock, and it looks like this:

Later, it starts raining with thunder and lightning. You might not be able to control the soundtrack for your novel—your readers may be listening to Miley Cyrus, for all you know—but you can control the mood of the novel with word choice and atmosphere.

The collapse in The Lion King is when Simba sees firsthand the consequence of his leaving, and what is at stake if he fails, when he witnesses [Scar hitting Sarabi, Simba’s mother].

The collapse reminds the audience what the protagonist stands to lose.

Depending how severe the collapse is, you may end your chapter on it. Just be careful that it is a cliffhanger that keeps the reader reading. If it’s a real sock to the gut, then you’ll need at least a glimmer of hope for the reader before the chapter ends, so he or she knows all hope isn’t lost. Sometimes writers add a cliffhanger directly before the near-fatal blow, delivering that sucker-punch in the first line of the next chapter. THAT will definitely keep your reader going, since they know it isn’t the end of the story!


The gloom is whatever follows the collapse, and can be long and drawn out or just a few sentences. Either things can get worse, and they do, or they can’t possibly get any worse. The Princess Bride chooses the former route. Buttercup and Westley hit their elation when they survive the Fire Swamp together as a couple. They are separated in the collapse. For Westley and Buttercup, things only get worse: [He’s tortured to death, and she’s forced to marry the nasty Prince]. Meanwhile, William Goldman takes the opportunity to give lavish backstory on Inigo and Fezzik, to the point that the “Gloom” is the longest section of the original novel. Yet it works! See, there is freedom.

In The Hunger Games, we see what the gloom serves to do when the collapse is pretty brutal. In cases such as these, the gloom should:

  1. allow the protagonist to react to or grieve the collapse, and
  2. provoke the protagonist (and reader) to move on with a new determination

We see both in The Hunger Games when [Katniss buries Rue and grieves for her] and  [Katniss recognizes that The Capitol was the real killer (Pinch Point 2)].

In the gloom of The Lion King, Simba has to face his problems and its consequences: [He tells the lionesses that he was to blame for Mufasa’s death. Then Scar calls him a murderer and backs him off a cliff. “This looks familiar”].

Summary: The gloom is the natural outplay of whatever happens in the Collapse. It is primarily reaction and is a great opportunity to spend some time in other viewpoints or on the B story. The protagonist can only make progress towards the goal again after the comprehension.


This one’s big. It’s the Awakening, either figuratively or physically. When all hope seems to be lost, the Hero learns new information, regains consciousness, or gets help from someone or -thing.

Comprehension aligns pretty nicely with Plot Point II,* and it’s what ends the second act. It’s the BIG turning point. Everything after this is the ending. This is the stuff you won’t see in the trailer, because the Comprehension is the thing the writer keeps up a sleeve to deal at the last, best moment.

*Note: in the 3-Act structure, the second Plot Point may be assigned to anything that happens between C5 and C6.

Let’s look at some examples of C6:

In The Princess Bride, [Westley is resurrected.]

In The Lion King, [Scar says, “I killed Mufasa.”]

In The Hunger Games, [there can be two winning tributes.]

That wraps up Act II! Next week we will talk about endings.

The 8 C’s of Plotting: Preparation and Problems

This is Part 5 of The 8 C’s of Plotting. Read parts onetwo, and three first, if you please. Click here for the whole series on the 8 C’s. Click the image below to be taken to the General Fiction Feed.

I’m back! This week has been a bit crazy, but here’s Preparation and Problems for you, which is usually the longest section of the book.

After the Complication (C3), the action has started and the adventure has begun. (Or the lovers meet, or the protagonist begins a journey of self awareness. I’m going to go with adventure stories as examples because I know them best.)

Preparation and Problems

This is generally the longest segment of the narrative, when the protagonist makes friends and enemies and learns new skills. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone, for my friends across the pond that got the original HP series), this is where Harry meets Ron, becomes friends with Hermione, is pitted against Snape and Draco, plays Quidditch, plays chess, etc.

If there’s a skill you protagonist needs to know, or if your protagonist needs a certain tool or ally in order to WIN THE STUFF,* then he or she will acquire that during this section.

*You know, defeat the bad guy, get the girl, that sort of thing.

You can throw in some backstory here if you want, or you can be like William Goldman and wait to add all the backstory for secondary characters (Inigo, Fezzik) until the Gloom section. (We’ll get to that next week.)

The Preparation and Problems is also where the Protagonist’s problems will intensify. Think of it as a two steps forward, one step back movement. Those “step backs” are setbacks or confrontations with the/an antagonist. Don’t let your reader forget the antagonist and what is at stake for the protagonist!

Let’s review the Preparation and Problems for The Lion King and The Hunger Games.

In The Lion King, Simba meets Timon and Pumbaa, he learns Hakuna Matata and grows up into a big strong lion. This is upward movement.

Don’t get too comfy—The camera shoots back to Pride Rock to remind us that there’s still a problem Simba’s going to have to face. This is the first Pinch Point. Highlight between the brackets to see the text, which may contain spoilers: [Zazu and even the Hyenas aren’t happy with the way Scar runs things.].

Here’s what Larry Brooks has to say about Pinch Points:

pinch point allows the antagonistic force of the story roaring onto center stage to announce itself and remind us of its dark intentions and inherent threat to the hero’s quest.  To stick it right into our face so that we may fear and [loathe] that which the hero fears and [loathes].

…Every story has a hero.  Every hero has a journey, a quest, a problem to solve, a need to fulfill.  There are obstacles in the way of that quest, often (usually) embodied in the character of an antagonist, or the bad guy.  A pinch point is when the primary opposition to the hero’s quest comes front and center in the story, showing itself to the hero and to us.

…If the hero is being chased by a bear, the bear will show up at the pinch point.  If the story is about an airplane crashing, something that reminds us we’re about to crash will show up at the pinch point.  If the story is about trying to win back lost love, the pinch point is when the departed lover turns up in the arms of another.

—From “The Help” – Isolating and Understanding the First “Pinch Point”

Then there’s the stargazing scene. Simba thinks about his dad, Rafiki has a realization, and Nala shows up. Can You Feel the Love Tonight?

Now, when I first plotted out The Lion King, I put the love ballad in the slot for “Elation.” Except it isn’t. Nala showing up isn’t the real confrontation. She’s more of a set back in Simba’s plan to forget his past. The real confrontation? We’ll get to that next time.

In The Hunger Games, [The Games begin. Katniss nearly dies of thirst (1), she dodges fireballs and gets burnt (2), she takes refuge in a tree and Haymitch sends her ointment for her burn].

You’ll see that there are two big problems that Katniss has to overcome while trying to stay alive during the Hunger Games. The second one is the pinch point—it’s when we are reminded that The Capitol controls the games. In the movie, the Gamemakers get their own scene.

When you have a pinch point—and there are at least two—you have a choice. You can either have another character remind the protagonist about it (Nala telling Simba what is going on at Pride Rock), or you can actually show it, unfiltered by the protagonist’s eyes (A scene devoted to Scar, showing him doing mean, awful things). The latter is more powerful because the reader will experience it for him or herself.

Depending on the length of your book, I’d shoot for two pinch points BEFORE the Confrontation. One can be direct, and one can be indirect. The rest of the time, you can move the plot along by throwing in other obstacles, like general problems or minor antagonists.

Next time we will be talking about the Confrontation, Elation, and Collapse, and we will relate them to the 3-Act Structure’s Midpoint. I can’t make any promises, but I think I’ll publish another post about the 8 C’s before next Friday, since this post was late.Stay tuned, and Write Now!

The 8 C’s of Plotting: Reaction and Complication

This is Part 4 of The 8 C’s of Plotting. Read parts one and two first, if you please. Click here for the whole series on the 8 C’s. Click the image below to be taken to the General Fiction Feed.

With the Prologue, Opening, Captivation, and Change we discussed last time, the Reaction and Complication flesh out the rest of Act One, if you are familiar with the 3-Act structure.

I told you that I’d start using The Lion King and The Hunger Games as examples to illustrate. To get you up to speed, here are the Prologue, Opening, Captivation, and Change for each. I’m not hiding these, because even if you haven’t seen either, this information is pretty standardly given in a movie trailer.

The Lion King

Prologue—The Circle of Life, Simba introduced

Captivation—Lions! In Africa! Great Soundtrack!

Opening—Simba Just Can’t Wait to Be King

Change/Inciting Incident—Elephant Graveyard; Scar makes a plan to become king

The Hunger Games

Prologue (Movie)—Panem, District 12

Captivation (book)—It’s the Reaping. What’s the Reaping?

Opening—The Reaping

Change/Inciting Incident—Katniss’ sister is chosen as tribute in the 74th Hunger Games. Katniss volunteers in her place.

Up to speed? Here’s the Reaction and Complication. They don’t need very long descriptions.


The reaction is anything that happens after the Change. How does the protagonist (and/or the antagonist) react to the change?

In The Fugitive, Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) is convicted of killing his wife, though we are pretty sure he didn’t do it. The conviction is the change. The reaction? He is sent to be executed.

In The Lion King, (highlight the area between brackets to read the spoiler) [Simba still trusts his uncle Scar, so he willingly, naively, sits at the bottom of a canyon waiting for his dad, not knowing that Scar intends to trample him with a stampede of wildebeests.]

In The Hunger Games, [Katniss and Peeta go to the Capitol and train. Katniss isn’t very cooperative (or likable) as far as Haymitch is concerned. This includes the parade, the training, and the arrow through the apple.]

The reaction can play out in different ways, but whatever the Protagonist does during the “reaction” stage, he or she will do something else after the complication.

Before or during the Complication, it’s a good idea to show what the antagonist is doing.


This is whatever happens to make the protagonist stop reacting (likely due to a “complication” or obstacle of some sort), and start acting (setting upon a “campaign”).

It can be a switch from passive to active, like in The Lion King.

Or it can mean a change of direction or a different approach, like in The Hunger Games.

It might also be the entrance into a new world or setting, like in the monomyth.

In a character-driven story like Toy Story, the complication:

  • is a bad decision, mistake, or accident
  • which grows out of the Reaction
  • and ends unfortunately,
  • resulting in the need to make new plans—the “campaign” of Act Two.

—”Act One: Threatened Characters Make Mistakes

The Complication corresponds with the 3-Act structure’s First Plot Point or the End of Act One and is often a MAJOR SCENE. Major scenes have their own beginning, middle, and end.

In The Fugitive, Kimble is riding the bus, on his way to be executed. His fellow convicts plan an escape, but that backfires. A guard gets shot. Kimble, a doctor, is unchained to help the guard. The bus crashes. It crashes on a train track. The train is coming. Kimble has to escape from the train. Once he escapes from the train, a fellow convict frees him. Now he’s free…a fugitive on the run. And because he’s a fugitive, the US Marshalls get put on the case. This introduces Gerard, the antagonist and in some ways, a secondary protagonist.

In The Lion King, [Scar kills Mufasa and blames Simba, Simba runs away.]

In The Hunger Games, [Peeta declares his love for Katniss during the interview. She freaks out, but Haymitch teaches her that she needs to play up the audience to get sponsors]


(See my deconstruction of Toy Story’s Act One and how it relates to the story’s theme.)

Any questions? Ask below. Just don’t include spoilers. If you disagree with my assignments of plot points, all the power to you, as long as you are thinking critically.

Next week I will devote the entire post to the Preparation and Problems segment, which nearly always takes up the longest chunk of narrative, and is what Blake Snyder calls “Fun and Games.”