You know I love breaking down story structures to learn and grow as a writer. And Heist Society was terrific!
1. Opening image: (the before snapshot of the protagonist)
When at private school, Kat tries to live a normal life, but the headmaster’s sports car is placed on top of the fountain with water shooting out the headlights, and Kat is blamed or framed.
2. Theme stated: (What is the story really about?)
And at every turn Kat is debating – how far should one go for family? And who is family?
When a man named Taccone believes Kat’s dad stole his paintings, Kat joins the family business again to resteal the paintings and save her father.
4. Catalyst: (the game-changing moment or inciting incident)
Taccone gives Kat a ride to the airport and spells out to Kat that her dad has two weeks to return the paintings or else.
Kat experiences the true evil behind Taccone. And if she walks away from this, her life will never be the same. Now that is a catalyst.
5. Debate: (asks some kind of question of the main character)
Kat is constantly asked, by others and herself, the same question: Is she truly a part of the family, or not?
At the end of Act I, after meeting with Taccone, Kat ends the debate. On returning to Hale’s house in New York, she wakes him and announces that they are going to steal back the paintings.
6. Break into two: (protagonist must make a proactive decision)
When Kat visits her Uncle Eddi – it’s a statement: I’m back, I have a job, and I need your help.
No more indecision. It wasn’t a flashy scene, but the significance isn’t lost.
7. B story: (the love story – not always romantic)
While Kat works on planning and setting up the big con, we see her relationship with her “team” and her love interest, Hale.
8. Fun and Games: (the heart of the book – why we read it)
Clue after clue, Kat tries to figure out who stole the paintings while she works with Hale to build their team.
9. Midpoint: (stakes are raised significantly; another big game changer)
Kat figures out that a Visily Romani stole the paintings and hid them in the Henley – an impenetrable museum, so she meets with her crew and announces they will be robbing the Henley. (mouths drop)
10. Bad guys close in: (Things get even worse.)
While Kat and crew are casing the Henley and planning out the con, Taccone steals her away and shows her pictures of all her loved ones, her family and close friends. He means business.
11. All is lost
On the eve of the caper, Kat meets with Taccone and names the place and date for the exchange. Not a super strong All is Lost but it fit Heist Society perfectly.
12. Dark night of the soul
Hale fully admits to getting her kicked out of school and even gives her a full admission, so she can clear her name and go back to school – if that’s what she wants. Again, not a true dark night, but served its purpose of offering Kat a choice.
13. Break into three: (External and internal conflicts combine for the solution.)
Kat breaks into Act III with all the swag and confidence of a true thief: with help from her cousin, Kat walks down the stairs and looks hot!
This is not the girl from the start of the story who wanted to walk away from her family.
14. Finale: (the climax)
If you haven’t guessed by now, the climax of HEIST SOCIETY is the actual robbery of the Henley – with some twists that I loved!
I can safely tell you that they steal the paintings because there is never any doubt she would. The fun and suspense came from watching how she pulls it off. And it’s worth the read.
15. Final Image: (Opposite of the opening image.)
At the start, Kat was with her new family at school. At the end, she’s with her real family, embracing the life and not looking back.
What comes after that heist is what made me fall in love with this story. Ally Carter does a magnificent job making the impersonal caper, extremely personal, and then ended with another surprise. I loved it.
And you’ll have to read it to find out how she did it!
Have you read Heist Society? What’s your favorite caper story? Have you tried breaking your story down into 15 sentences?