Erika Wassall the Jersey Farm Scribe here with:
The Four Energetic Markers of Any Story
As some of you may remember, I’ve been reading The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master, by Martha Alderson. And I’ve found it’s not the type of craft book you read, say “that was interesting” and then put away. It’s a manual. And I’ve been going back over many aspects of it, working the concepts into my own work.
One of the things I’ve found most interesting is her breakdown of energetic markers throughout a story. For me, it’s been a birds-eye-view of the arc of a good story.
“Like signposts, energetic markers identify four major turning points in every story. Each energetic marker defines the dramatic action, characters, and thematic significance plot elements as your story energy expands and recedes.”
– The Plot Whisperer, page 64
Here is my own translation of what the four energetic markers are:
- 1. The End of the Beginning
This is the first “big moment” in any story. There is an aspect of “life before” and “life after” this moment. Everything changes.
Readers have a feel for the characters, the tone and the conflict. Someone wants something they (think they) can’t have. What is it? What’s in their way? Why do they want it?
A strong base supports the foundation of the story.
You want a reader to long for more, to be itching with anticipation. But at the same time, but engage them from the very first word.
Somewhere around a quarter of the way through a well plotted- novel, there is a moment, a decision, an uncontrollable event, a threshold that after crossing, we know that nothing will ever be the same again. This is the first energetic marker.
2. The Halfway Point
The height of the crisis is on the horizon, and each step brings us further away from the world we left behind in the “beginning”.
About halfway through, the second energetic marker causes the main character to recommit to the goal. Things have stood in their way, and they’ve been tempted to give up or turn back, longing for the comfort of a world they once knew. And now, in this moment, this surge of energy snaps them back to why they’re here.
This second energetic marker reminds us of the passion of their beliefs and helps them rise to the occasion, via both action and emotional development. It also perks the reader up.
Something’s coming. Something big.
3. The Crisis (the greatest struggle)
We’re about three-quarters in. It’s intense. The main character has been through so much, but they’re gaining ground. And then… BAM. Eruption. Destruction. Devastation.
Just as they were getting closer to their goal, they’re suddenly ripped down, left shredded, raw, broken down. This trauma serves a purpose. In order to become the transformed version of themselves they will be in the end, their old self must die.
This third energetic marker is the destruction of the person they use to be.
4. The Climax (the greatest drama)
Not to be confused with the crisis, this is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Every aspect of the story pulls together and the main character goes head to head with the antagonist.
This is when we find out if it was all worth it. The goals the main character had in the beginning, that thing they desperately want (which is not necessarily what they THOUGHT they wanted) is right in front of them. The question is, will they get it?
This final energetic marker brings it all together in an explosion of direct conflict. After which, the reader can finally let out that breath they’ve been holding as it quickly defuses and settles into the resolution, highlighting the transformation of the main character.
Phew… just thinking about that gets me all wrapped up in the excitement of plot and the power of the way a story builds.
These energetic markers are powerful ways to map out your manuscript, and help the real essence of the story you have to tell come through. (And that goes for ANY story. Picture books have these same markers of conflict and transformation!)
I highly suggest that no matter where you are in your process, you take a moment to think about the four biggest energetic markers in your manuscript. Perhaps it’ll give you the clarifying birds-eye-view that it did for me.
And no matter what you see, keep writing because…
… our manuscripts are worth it.
Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!
Thank you Erika for another great post.