Plot Busters – Kat Incorrigible (1) Coming Full Circle

Somehow I just knew from the moment I saw the cover for KAT INCORRIGIBLE by Stephanie Burgis and then read the blurb on Amazon – that I’d love it. I had a whole stack of YA but as soon as this book landed on my doorstep, I read it.

In Regency England, when twelve-year-old Kat discovers she has magical powers, she tries to use them to rescue her sister from marrying a man she does not love.

But this blurb from the inside cover just doesn’t do it justice. At all! Here’s my version:

In Regency England, twelve-year-old Kat, who is constantly earning lectures from her stepmother and older sisters, turns down a secret order of powerful magicians to dabble in her mama’s simple magic with hilarious results as she saves her family from financial and social ruin.

And, of course, I analyzed it. Like I always do. And I found pure gold.

I’m not going to do the entire Blake Snyder beat sheet break down because I’m afraid to say that it got a bit tedious for my readers by the end of Act III. #readerscanbreatheasighofreliefnow

Instead, here is a quick break down of the crucial elements.

Opening/Inciting incident

In the first chapter, we learn that Kat’s family is in dire straights. Her brother has run up a gambling debt and her older sister, Elissa, is willing to marry to save the family. This sets the whole story in motion.

Act I Climax/Lock-in/point of no return  #whateveryouwanttocallit

After learning that Elissa’s soon-to-be-husband murdered his first wife, Kat steals the key from her stepmother to unlock a cabinet, which holds her mom’s things. She grabs onto a magical mirror, which transports her to a great hall where she learns her mom belonged to a secret order of guardians. And Kat is one too.

The act of stealing from her stepmother is Kat’s point of no return. She’s going to do whatever it takes.


Kat’s whole family has traveled to a country estate for Elissa to meet Sir Neville. Kat performs her first spells and uncovers some serious dirt on Sir Neville.


In her moment of triumph, Kat stands up for herself and her family and solves the main storyline conflict. (I don’t want to give it away.)

Third Act Twist

The twist isn’t huge, but during the climax, certain truths are revealed that show the stakes were actually much higher than Kat ever realized.

There are many things this novel got right. Kudos to Stephanie Burgis. But for today, I want to point out the power of coming full circle with the opening and closing.


I was twelve years of age when I chopped off my hair, dressed as a boy, and set off to save my family from impending ruin.

I made it almost to the end of my front garden.

That totally cracked me up. These first lines showed the voice, the main story conflict, the spirit of the main character, and the humor.


I was twelve years of age when I cut my hair short, became a highwayman, and captured husbands for both of my sisters.

And it wasn’t just in the opening and ending lines. The first and last chapters show this mirror image also. And most importantly the change in Kat as a person.

Can you think of stories that have had their opening and ending chapters come full circle? Does your current wip?

Next, we’ll look at the incredible transition into Act II from Kat.


38 Responses to Plot Busters – Kat Incorrigible (1) Coming Full Circle

  1. Jennifer Shirk May 2, 2011 at 11:35 am #

    I took a workshop once where Jennfier Crusie talked about going full circle and putting your MC in a position in the end as the beginning. Because your character should have changed by the end they should react differently now. Good stuff.

    PS> I LOVED that opening line. Cracked me up too!

  2. Stina Lindenblatt May 2, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    Wow, I’m blanking out on the first part of the question. I know a number of books that do, but I can’t remember them. My WIP doesn’t come full circle. Are you talking about the opening and closing line?

    Love your analysis, Laura. It makes tons of sense now that I’ve read STC. 😀

  3. Angela Felsted May 2, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

    I so love your breakdowns. Note to self: come full circle.

    • Laura May 2, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

      I don’t think the opening and closing line have to come full circle. Kat Incorrigible was just the kind of narration and story that it happened to work. I’m talking about showing your character at the end of your story in the same or similar situation as the start but they’ve changed, their emotional arc or the story arc has ended. I think a lot of books do this naturally but it’s hard to remember them when put on the spot!

  4. Kelly Polark May 2, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    I love the first line and the title. So catchy and intriguing!!!

  5. Karen Lange May 2, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    What a great title! Thanks for the breakdown and your thoughts. Full circle – two excellent words to guide the WIP. Thanks, Laura! 🙂

    • Laura May 2, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

      Kat Incorrigible really was a fun book if you like MG or if you know of an elementary age girl! I loved the voice.

  6. Eileen Astels May 2, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    I love stories that end with a twist of the beginning, it just seems to cinch the whole thing for me. My stories don’t always allow for that, but when they do, I sure take advantage of that tool!

  7. Tana Adams May 2, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    Well done, Laura. I took notes this time.=)

  8. Sherrie Petersen May 2, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    Sounds like a fun story. I’ll have to read this one. I always love how you break down a story 🙂

  9. Susan Kaye Quinn May 2, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    I love that mirror – how spectacularly done! #putsonTBR

  10. Susan Kaye Quinn May 2, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    Correction: I already had it on my debut-author list!

  11. Creepy Query Girl May 2, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    Wow, sounds like a fantastic read! This one’s goin on my list- thanks laura!

  12. Marcia May 2, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    This book sounds excellent, Laura. I’m putting it on my list, too. And yes — my WIP actually does have the end mirroring the beginning!

  13. Lisa Green May 2, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    It sounds like a great book, what really won me over was the opening. What a great first line. 😀 Glad you’re back btw.

  14. Joyce May 2, 2011 at 4:12 pm #

    I love how you break down everything. It makes it so easy to “see” the structure.

    • Laura May 2, 2011 at 4:36 pm #

      Thanks Everyone! I’ve been gone for a few hours and trying to catch up!

  15. Jenny Lundquist May 2, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    Great post Laura, I’m going to put this on my TBR list. Just for the record, your beat breadowns don’t get tedious for me. I have a really hard time thinking that way so it’s nice to see how others break things down.

  16. kris May 2, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    Sounds like a book I’d totally love! Great breakdown. 🙂

  17. Lydia K May 2, 2011 at 4:49 pm #

    I love that full circle thing. I’ve tried it in my WIP. It takes some work to make it seamless!

  18. Laura May 2, 2011 at 4:56 pm #

    Thanks Jenny!

    Kris – I do think you’d like it.

    Lydia – yes, I think coming full circle does take some effort – like everything else in writing- but it’s worth it. 🙂

  19. Tiana Smith May 2, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

    I’ve tried that full circle thing before … It’s a lot harder than it may seem … 🙂

  20. angela ackerman May 2, 2011 at 6:23 pm #

    I haven’t read this one, but I always, always enjoy your breakdowns. I would love to see a quick and dirty top ten structure tips thing from you on the biggest, baddest lessons you’ve gleaned from doing this!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  21. Leigh Moore May 2, 2011 at 8:01 pm #

    wow! That book sounds fantastic!!! I’m adding it to the TBR pile right away.

    And I do really like how that opening line and closing line show the change in Kat. Very very cool~

  22. Shannon O'Donnell May 2, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

    I really, REALLY need to read this!!! 🙂

  23. Maria Toth May 2, 2011 at 9:28 pm #

    Plot Busters! Love it~and loved reading your breakdown of the novel. Sounds like a great read!

    My current WIP does come full circle. 🙂

    • Laura May 2, 2011 at 10:05 pm #

      i can do a top ten structure tips b/c I’ve learned a lot. But each post is basically showing you what I’ve learned. Here it was the power of coming full circle. And the regular reader probably doesn’t even recognize the sense of emotional satisfaction they get when reading a story that does come full circle like that.

  24. Julie Musil May 3, 2011 at 1:47 am #

    Oh my goodness, that first like is AWESOME! Wow. I want a first line like that. I love the way you break all this down for us. Truly.

  25. Lynda R Young May 3, 2011 at 6:29 am #

    wow, your version of the blurb is way better! (wanna write my blurb for me? hehehe)
    Sounds like a great book.

  26. Carolina Valdez Miller May 3, 2011 at 7:20 am #

    Love it when books come full circle. You’re so good at these breakdowns. Makes me a little nervous to think of what you’d do with mine… O_O

    I also like your blurb much better.

  27. Sheri Larsen May 3, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    I think a story to be a true story must come to some sort of resolution at the end, thus the full-circle theory. That’s not saying every problem is solved. Just enough to feed the reader, and if there are intended sequels enough to make the reader want to read on.

    My first writing teacher taught me this simple method about the truth in wrapping a story. It’s all about a dragon and a tail. I’ll have to blog about it. 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration, Laura.

  28. Anna Staniszewski May 3, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    I’ve been really looking forward to reading this one. Thanks for the breakdown!

  29. Margo May 3, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    A twist in Act Three? Interesting… verra interesting. I love those last minute twists that you didn’t see coming but when it hits you go “of course!”

    The premise of this book does sound really good. (and that awesome opening!!!) Adding it to my TBR list.

  30. Sophia Richardson May 3, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    But I love your beat sheet breakdowns! I’m much better at recognising the beats in films than I am in books. And I’m another one who loves that opening.
    – Sophia.

  31. PW Creighton May 3, 2011 at 4:53 pm #

    Excellent analysis. That’s a great example of a full circle story. Honestly, I can’t remember any recent narrative that had such a close circuit. While my writing ends in a similar situation, I don’t think it’s nearly that complete.

  32. Patti Nielson May 3, 2011 at 8:22 pm #

    I had a friend tell me once that your first chapter and your last should mirror each other. I can’t think of any examples right now, but now I’ll be looking for them.

    Sounds like an interesting book.

  33. Anita Miller May 4, 2011 at 2:19 am #

    Great post! I’ve been seeing the book around and have been tempted, tempted, tempted…okay, gotta go for it.

  34. Laura Marcella May 4, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    That really is a great first line! It cracked me up, too. I like how the end line came full circle as well; I’ll have to pay attention to other books that do so.

Leave a Reply