Plot Busters – HEX HALL Breakdown (1)

Scroll down for the link to part 2.

HEX HALL by Rachel Hawkins.

I bought this book based completely on online buzz. As soon as I’d heard the main character was funny – I wanted to read it. And guess what? She was funny even though the story was serious.

Logline: At Hecate Hall, Sophie will learn to control her powers and follow rules except there might be an ancient enemy infiltrating the school, trying to kill her and other witches.  (my words)

Opening Image/Inciting incident:

Spell gone wrong. Need I say more?

Sophie’s simple act of mercy lands her in Hex Hall.

Act I climax/ Lock-in/ point of no return:

The end of Act I is also the end of Sophie’s first day of school. A mean girl invites Sophie to join her coven. Sophie says no. (Go Sophie!) And she learns her dad is Head of Council, who sentenced her to Hex Hall.

Honestly, I didn’t find this Lock in to be very strong. In fact, I picked it by finding the quarter point of the story. There was no debate. No decision she had to make entering into Act II.

It was there. Just subtle.

At the start of Act II, Sophie starts her classes. She meets Archer, the love interest. So the Break into Two was a bit stronger, which helped me find the end of Act I.

But you know what? It didn’t matter. While reading, I didn’t miss it. Sophie’s character and humor made up for it. I didn’t care.


If the Act I climax was a bit weak, the midpoint more than made up for it.

Returning to her dorm, Sophie finds a witch murdered in the tub, and the evidence points to her roommate, who is a vampire. From here on out, the story can’t help but be more tense.


I’m going to be vague so as not to give away anything.

Sophie learns the hidden truth about herself and her dad. She realizes who has infiltrated the campus; and learns her frenemy, Elodie, is in danger. Sophie runs to be the hero and fight the bad guy.

Third Act Twists: (Read no further because there will be spoilers.)

Rachel Hawkins had a superb Act III.

Reveal after reveal – many of which could be called twists.

But the biggest surprise for me was learning that Archer, who Sophie has now fallen hopelessly in love with, holds the mark of the “Eye”, the organization trying to kill witches. And of course she figures this out during the first kiss.

Rachel Hawkins got many things right with this story. Read Plot Busters (2) Tips from HEX HALL

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29 Responses to Plot Busters – HEX HALL Breakdown (1)

  1. Sheri Larsen June 6, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    Thanks for this examination. Sounds interesting. I’m a fan of a story that slowly builds and with the humor you elude to, I’m sure it’s a great read.

  2. Jen Daiker June 6, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    I love the Plot Busters! This is so neat! It’s perfect when you’re using a book I’ve read as well! Makes it easier for me to understand.

    I just finished reading a book and I feel that I’ve finally gotten what I want out of writing under control. Learning the plot, the climax, the fun, all of it and making sure it’s combined with the overall character ARC’s is a lot of work but I find that starting to outline rather than being a panster has helped a lot. Who knew that with some light reading I’d walk away understanding a ton!!

  3. christine danek June 6, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    So, I stopped reading when I hit there will be spoilers. I have this book and I need to read it. Thanks.

    • Laura June 6, 2011 at 11:55 am #

      It is neat when structure finally clicks and you understand how it helps your story. That’s why I started analyzing books – to grow as a writer!

  4. Matthew MacNish June 6, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    Your analysis is always spot-on. Thanks Laura!

  5. Angela Felsted June 6, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    This is one of my favorite reads! It took me awhile to pick it up because the story looked like every contemp-fantasy story out there.

    But when all is said and done, it’s not like every other story because Sophie is funny and the plot twists rock!

  6. Creepy Query Girl June 6, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    I loved hex hall. It’s true that sometimes I felt like things didn’t really get rolling until near the end (same thing with the second book in the series) but i enjoyed it all the same!

  7. Stina Lindenblatt June 6, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    I bet Rachel hadn’t read a book on story structure when she wrote this book. I’ve discovered that’s normal for most writers. But man it makes life easier when you do something about structure.

    LOL Love how you figured out the end of the first ACT.

    • Laura June 6, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

      I can usually pick out stories where the writer knew about structure b/c all the plot points are hit. And I think it does make a difference.

  8. Jennifer Shirk June 6, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

    Yes, I remember that opening and thought, “What a great way to have a character likeable and incite her on her “journey”.”
    Did you read Demonglass yet? sooooo good!!! She’s got a love triangle going on in that one.

  9. Lydia K June 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

    I always read your analytic posts with such interest. I love book dissections!

  10. Laura Marcella June 6, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    I love it when you do these plot busters posts. I’ve heard good things about this book, too. Thanks for the breakdown, though I didn’t read the end of your post because I haven’t read the book yet!

  11. Lisa Green June 6, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    I better read this quick. As it is I skipped most of what you said about act 3!! Sigh. I love that the character made up for the beginning. 😀

  12. Ansha Kotyk June 6, 2011 at 4:09 pm #

    Love the analysis. 🙂 I did one for the first Harry Potter book and learned a great deal. I’m getting that feeling it may be time to do it again! 🙂 Learning is FUN!

  13. Jill Kemerer June 6, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

    You always make me wonder if my plot points are strong enough–thank you! Love your Plot Busters break downs!

  14. Margo Berendsen June 6, 2011 at 4:36 pm #

    What intrigued me about this was a) a simple act of mercy lands her in Hex hall and b) she discovers something major during a first kiss.

    I read the first chapter of this online and it didn’t hook me – but after reading your analysis, I’m reconsidering 🙂

  15. MG Higgins June 6, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

    Very informative! I really enjoyed both of the Hex Hall books. The humor and voice are terrific.

  16. Karen Strong June 6, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    Yay! This plot chick is happy. LOVES these posts.

    I read HEX HALL and I love how you broke it down like this.

    The humor buzz is also what got me interested. Writing funny is hard to do but I think the author pulled it off.

    Can’t wait to hear more this week. 😉

  17. Eleni Alexandraki June 6, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

    I like your breakdown of the book. I haven’t read it yet, so I skipped the Act III part because of spoilers. I think I’m loving Plot Busters!

    • Laura June 6, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

      Thanks for commenting everyone! I’ll be around to all your blogs later! 🙂

  18. Donna K. Weaver June 6, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    Interesting story. I hadn’t heard of the book. Now I’ll have to check it out (pretty soon my books to read stack is going to push me out of the house).

  19. Carolina Valdez Miller June 6, 2011 at 7:12 pm #

    Super breakdown, as always! I haven’t read this so I didn’t pass into the spoilers part, but very well done. It’s so cool to see published books broken down this way.

  20. Sherrie Petersen June 7, 2011 at 3:09 am #

    I really enjoyed this book, but the sequel is like ten times better. Love, love, LOVE Demonglass!

  21. Donna Hole June 7, 2011 at 3:44 am #

    I’ve never analysed a book by acts. I doubt I’d be able to find them. I write scene by scene, chapter by chapter; each scene progressing the chapter goal, each chapter contributing to the overall character and plot progress.

    Well, that is the goal, anyway 🙂


  22. Tana Adams June 7, 2011 at 6:07 am #

    I really love when you break books down like this! I haven’t read this one and I’m leery of doing so because if a book doesn’t hook me in act 1 I don’t want to give it that second chance. I’m selfish with my time that way.

  23. Patti Nielson June 7, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

    I stopped reading when I hit the spoiler section, but I loved your break down at the beginning and it gave me some ideas for my current WIP. Thanks.

  24. Kris June 7, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

    I’ve got to read this book. 🙂 Great analysis, Laura!

  25. Julie Musil June 8, 2011 at 1:41 am #

    I haven’t read this book yet, so I skimmed through the bottom paragraph! I love the way you search for structure in other books. I need to do this too.


  1. Friday 5 – How to write a rockin’ sequel. – Laura Pauling - June 10, 2011

    […] week we’ve look at HEX HALL by Rachel Hawkins. And if these posts, here and here, didn’t convince you to read this book. Then just you wait. Read […]

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