Tag Archives | Plot Busters

Plot Busters – Heist Society break-down in 15 sentences!

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?

3. Set-up:

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.

Final note:

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?

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How to bring emotion to your plot. (Plot Busters)

In Act II there is something that Blake Snyder refers to as the B story (or basically the subplot).

And this is where you bring in the emotion, the personal stakes.

I figured with a humorous mystery like I SO DON’T DO SPOOKY that the emotion might be on the weak side. With the focus being on the mystery.

Boy was I wrong.

Barrie Summy does an incredible job balancing the main storyline or the Fun and Games of the first part of Act II with the B story.

In other words, the mystery is there but we connect to Sherry when we realize how much she misses her mother, which makes us care more about the mystery.

The emotion of the B story provides the motivation for the character to solve the mystery.

Below is a one-sentence break down of Act II

Break into two: (protagonist must make a proactive decision)

Sherry and her best friend, Junie, make a plan to follow leads.

B story: (the love story – not always romantic)

Sherry misses her mom (who is a ghost) and wants to earn some “real time” with her by solving the mystery.

Fun and Games: (the heart of the book – why we read it)

Sherry investigates and follows clue after clue – some of them leading to a dead end, but others set up the midpoint and climax.

Midpoint: (stakes are raised significantly – another big game changer)

In her undercover work, Sherry is found out and dropped off in the middle of a desert where she learns that the Ruler’s stalker is a ghost!

Bad guys close in: (Things get worse.)

Sherry goes ghost hunting with a “real” ghost hunter and learns how to catch a ghost and she learns who the ghost might be.

All is lost and Dark night of the soul:

The mystery continues and more truths are revealed but I didn’t find a true dark moment where Sherry feels all is lost. She does feel the stress of time running out, but that’s not quite the same thing.

And this ends Act II.  So without that dark moment how did I know where Act III started? With an obvious Break into three. But that’s next Monday.

How do you add emotion to your main storyline so it works? Share your tips.

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Plot Busters – I So Don’t Do Spooky – Is it high concept?

Surprise! I’m giving you a dose of Plot Busters early. On Monday, myself and 24 other self published and indie published authors are launching The Indelibles blog. There will be chances to win a Kindle Fire and all our books in a blog hop. So be sure to check it out!

Now let’s move on to I So Don’t Do Spooky by Barrie Summy. I just love this series.

Logline: (from book) Thirteen-year-old Sherry helps her mother, a ghost, to investigate who is stalking Sherry’s stepmother, but Sherry is also very busy with school and friends, while her mother is also striving for a gold medal in the Ghostlympics.

Eh, this logline is just okay. I like my shorter version below.

Thirteen-year-old Sherry solves the mystery of who is stalking her stepmother to earn real time with her mother’s ghost.

High concept?

Let’s see. Ghosts, a mystery, high emotional stakes – I’d say yes. (I end up thinking that every book is high concept when the emotional stakes are high. So technically, this book might not be high concept. But that’s just semantics.)

1. Does the character offer the most conflict for the situation?

I love Sherry’s shopaholic, peppy personality. This is a mystery series and I love that we don’t have a noir detective, but a cute middle schooler who just wants to hang with her friends and boyfriend.

It’s not her personality or flaws that bring conflict to this mystery. It’s the fact that she wants to spend more time with her mom’s ghost. High emotional stakes.

2. Does she have the longest way to go emotionally?

In some ways, yes. Her dad has remarried one of Sherry’s teachers, who kids call the Ruler. And we can see from the first chapter, that Sherry is struggling accepting her as a mother figure.

3. Demographically pleasing?

I’d say yes. This is a perfect mix of contemporary with a bit of paranormal to make it fun. This story would appeal to middle schoolers and elementary age girls.

4. Is it primal?

Yes, definitely. Sherry misses her mom and longs to spend “real time” minutes with her. Without this emotional aspect, the story would not have carried the same level of impact.

If you’re wondering how to add emotional impact to your humorous middle grade or young adult story, look no further than this book. Summy does a masterful job. Lots to learn.

A week from Monday, we’ll cover Act I. So if you want to join in the fun and give Plot Busters a whirl, pick the book up at your library and break down Act I! We’ll compare notes. (Because really this is not my area of mavenness. I’m learning, just like you.)

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Balance. Believability. Bordering on Ridiculous.

I’ll be honest. I absolutely love stories that border on the ridiculous, the unreal, the fantastical, the unbelievable. I don’t mean fantasy. I mean real life that gets out of control. Hyperbole. Satire.

I totally crack up.

And there is no better example of it done right than the Christmas movie JINGLE ALL THE WAY. I watch it every year. A harried father tries to make up for working too much by rushing out to buy the hot new toy on Christmas Eve.


The unbelievable.

The fight for the Turbo Man doll, the stampede. Yes, overdone. But for me? Hilarious.

Bordering on ridiculous:


Oh yeah, that’s right. The Santa sweatshop. A bunch of con men dressed up as Santas selling overpriced toys. They come complete with candy cane numchucks.


And then there’s the part where the dad ends up dressed up as the toy, Turbo Man. And his nemesis throughout the movie, Sinbad, is dressed as Turbo Man’s nemesis. But what a perfect ending for such a fantastical movie.

The balance.


This movie was grounded in something primal: a father trying to make things right with his family, struggling to earn back their trust. I rooted for him, cheered for him, hoping he’d pull through.

This satire on commercialism at Christmas time was balanced with the true meaning of the season and real heartfelt emotion that anyone could relate to.

This is the kind of stuff I love to read and write. And I’ve often had to rewrite to find that balance: toning elements down, beefing up the primal emotion.

How did JINGLE ALL THE WAY get it right?

  • Great writing.
  • Great acting.
  • Finding that balance.

As a story, they did everything right too. Opening and closing mirror image and foreshadowing, making everything go wrong for the character, running gags, subplots that tied in. I’m sure it would pass the Blake Snyder beat sheet test.

The biggest aspect of believability is not whether what happens is truly believable. It’s in the setting up of expectations and the follow through. Not veering from the tone and style of the story. Building up to the ridiculous moments with the right emotions and set up.

What’s your favorite Christmas movie?

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Is your story too unbelievable? Add some “sweetening”.

*Winner of the arc of  DITCHED by Robin Mellom is Riv Re! Congrats!

If you haven’t read this absolutely fantastic post about the Grinch at Fiction Notes by Darcy Pattison then click on over. Love, love, love it. And we wonder why that story remains a classic. Well, maybe we don’t wonder – the fun language, the characters, etc.

My whole family sat and watched HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS for our first Christmas special. I watch it for the Grinch song and for his tremendous moment of change when his heart grows and breaks the frame. I love villain songs. And why are villains so fun? #ilovevillains

My daughter had a question that I tweeted the other night.

Daughter: “Why does the Grinch have a sewing machine? And where did he learn to sew?”

Me: “Hmm. Good question.”

And then we proceeded to point out all the other unbelievable parts of the TV version.

But it got me thinking about believability. Why are some events believable even when they are unrealistic? (The kind of stories I love!)

JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH is unrealistic but totally believable!

WHEN YOU REACH ME included time travel but was totally believable!

But if Rebecca Stead had tried to put in some magic beans and a humongous peach into WHEN YOU REACH ME it would’ve been totally unbelievable! (Or who knows? Maybe she could’ve pulled it off.)

Believability comes down to the story, story expectations, the world building; and honestly, the level of writing.

So, for me, the fact that the Grinch had a sewing machine or that Max actually pulled that gigantic sled with all the ribbons, wrappings, and bows up the mountain was totally believable.

Add some sweetening!

We happened to be watching a special edition with an extra behind the scene look at the making of the Grinch. They talked about “sweetening.” Which fascinated me. Sweetening refers to the sound effects they add, the small details, whether a marker squeaking against a balloon or some violins – all to add to the believability.

What would sweetening be for the author? Maybe those small details about the world or your character that seem unimportant but just might add richness to your writing, your story, your world. Hmm. Very interesting.

What do you think? What do you love about unbelievable but believable stories? Do you add sweetening to your work?

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