The Return of the Jedi – another 9 step story structure breakdown

I think this will be the last Star Wars story structure breakdown I will do. I won’t see The Force Awakens until the end of December 2015 and I would not want to spoil the plot.
The firs two blog posts in this Star Wars story structure breakdown series are below in case you want to review the who trilogy before you head off to see The Force Awakens yourself!

Star Wars: A New Hope

The Empire Strikes back

Protagonist: Luke Skywalker – Inner Demon/Weakness – “The Force” is strong in this one but he is no a Jedi… or is he?

Antagonistic force: The Empire and the dark side of the force.

1. The hook

Han Solo, frozen in carbonite and shipped off to Jabba the Hutt, is in need of rescue.  C3P0 and R2D2 find their way into Jabba’s palace to begin proceedings.  The Empire is building another Death Star.  Darth Vader arrives at the new the Death Star to ensure the project completes on time.

2. The setup – what is normal life like for the protagonist, what is at stake?

Normal life for Luke is rescuing Han along with his band of merry rebels, fighting Rancor monsters and he has a new light sabre.

3. First Plot Point aka Inciting Incident – the protagonist’s plans have to change here at around the 20%-25% point in the story and they must now engage with the antagonistic force.

Following the rescue of Han Solo, Luke and company are free to resume their struggle against the empire.

4. Wandering response – reaction to the inciting incident

Luke travels back to Yoda to complete his training… which he doesn’t require.  Han Solo and company meet with the rebels at Sullust and begin plans to attack the new Death Star.

Luke learns from Yoda, Darth Vader really is his father and he must confront him to become a Jedi before rejoining the rebels and travelling to Endor.

5. Pinch-point – half way through the wandering response stage a reminder of what is at stake if the protagonist fail’s

Yoda dies after telling Luke he must pass on what he has learned so there can be more Jedi.

The Emporer Palpatine arrives at the Death Star.  Vader wants to seek out Luke, but the emperor tells him Luke will come to them.

6. Mid-point – at around the 50% mark in the story – the story has to turn around with the protagonist going on the offensive.

The rebel fleet departs for Endor to attack the Death Star.  Luke joins Han and Leia for the ground assault.

7. Fight back culminating in all is lost pre second plot point lull/it has all gone horribly wrong moment

Meeting ewoks, speeder bike chases, captured by ewoks, escaping from ewoks after C3P0 impersonates a god and beginning the attack on the shield generator.  But Luke has already left and been taken to the Death Star.

Meanwhile the rebel fleet arrives, the rebels attacking the shield generator are capture and it turns out the Death Star is fully operational and starts destroying rebel ships.  Luke tries to kill the emperor but ends up fighting Vader.

8. Second plot point – The protagonists learn the last new information they need in order bring resolution to the story – around the 75% point in the story

Lando Calrissian realises the Death Star shields are still up and breaks off the attack.  The rebel fleet engages the imperial fleet as the odds of survival are better than sitting around waiting for the Death Star to destroy them.

9. Resolution where protagonist (Luke) must be the main catalyst for the event

The ewoks turn the tide of the fight on the surface of Endor and the shield is at last destroyed.  Luke battles Vader to the ground and refuses to kill him.  The rebel fleet head into the Death Star super structure to fire the killing shot at the power generator.
Darth Vader redeems himself by throwing Emperor Palpatine down a shaft of some sort to prevent him killing Luke with lightning.
Luke and Vader escape in a shuttle as the Death Star blows up.

Everyone has a party!

The Empire Strikes Back – another 9 step story structure breakdown

This blog began with a breakdown of the story structure for Star Wars a New Hope a little over a year ago here. I’ve planned on giving the remainder of the first three movies in the franchise the same treatment. So here is The Empire Strikes Back.

Protagonist: Luke Skywalker – Inner Demon/Weakness – “The Force” might be strong in this one, but he is not a Jedi yet.

Antagonistic Force: The Empire, of course, but on a more personal level for Luke, the dark side of the Force. There are two plot threads in this story.

1. The hook

The Empire are all out to find the rebel alliance and destroy them. Probe droids are sent all over the galaxy, and one lands of the ice planet Hoth. Han and Chewie go to investigate. “It’s a good bet the Empire know we’re here.” The rebel alliance goal is to survive.

For Luke, the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi tells him he must find Yoda to continue his Jedi training, which is his goal.

2. The setup – what is normal life like for the protagonist, what is at stake?

The rebels are hiding behind an asteroid field on a frozen planet. Life is hard, adapting equipment to the cold, Luke getting lost in the snow and Han rescuing him establishing the depth of relationship and loyalty between them. This is used in the story later. Preparations for evacuation begin now they the rebels know their hiding place is no longer safe.

3. First Plot Point aka Inciting Incident – the protagonist’s plans have to change here at around the 20%-25% point in the story, and they must now engage with the antagonistic force.

The AT-AT walkers arrive, and the laser bolts start flying in what is, in my opinion, one of science fiction’s most iconic battle sequences.

4. Wandering response – reaction to the inciting incident

It’s a losing battle, rebel starships flee for a rendezvous point, Han Solo is forced to abandon plans to pay off Jabba the Hut and escapes with Princess Leia. The Millennium Falcon is broken (again) and hiding out in an asteroid field (“Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1”) is their only hope. Fortunately, they find a cave to hide in, but everything is supposed to go wrong in the wandering response phase, so it is not a cave, it is the insides of a space worm.

Meanwhile Luke, having ditched his X-Wing into a swamp, loses patience with an annoying little green man who turns out to be the Jedi Master Yoda he seeks. While struggling to control the force he confronts the dark side in a creepy cave that doesn’t turn out so well.

5. Pinch-point – half way through the wandering response stage a reminder of what is at stake if the protagonist fail.

Darth Vader will not allow asteroids to get in the way of his pursuit of the Millennium Falcon. When Vader and the Emperor Palpatine communicate, they agree that Luke will either be turned to the dark side of the force or destroyed.

6. Mid-point – at around the 50% mark in the story – the story has to turn around with the protagonist going on the offensive.

The Millenium Falcon escapes from the space worm then:

C3P0: “The odds of successfully surviving an attack on an Imperial Star Destroyer are approximately…”

Leia: “Shut up!”

But we are in a phase of the story where the heroes fight back but are not yet succeeding. So when the Falcon floats off it’s hiding place on the back of the star destroyers bridge Boba Fett the bounty hunter follows them.

Meanwhile, Luke’s training with Yoda moves on, and his X-Wing is pulled out of the swamp by Yoda.

7. Fight back culminating in all is lost pre second plot point lull/it has all gone horribly wrong moment

Han, C3P0, Leia and Chewbacca escape to Bespin and the care of his old ‘friend’ Lando Calrissian. But the bounty hunter led Darth Vader and company there first so C3P0 gets dismembered (again), Lando has betrayed them, so they all get captured, and Han Solo is tortured in an attempt to lure Luke to Vader then frozen in carbonite.

Luke’s training is doing OK, but he senses the danger Han Solo is in, and since the loyalty between them was established with Han rescuing Luke at the beginning of the story, the inevitable happens. Luke is in a dangerous state where he may be tempted by the dark side when quits his training to rescue his friends and confront Vader. It is a trap, Luke will be captured and frozen in carbonite or destroyed.

8. Second plot point – The protagonists learn the last new information they need in order bring resolution to the story – around the 75% point in the story

The deal Lando made with the Empire to maintain their independence keeps changing and Lando eventually changes sides in an attempt to rescue Han.

Too late for Luke to avoid this, he arrives for his confrontation with Vader.

9. Resolution where protagonist (Luke) must be the main catalyst for the event

Luke’s fight with Vader ends badly for him, but at least he escaped being frozen in carbonite and taken the emperor for “conversion to the dark side” and he survives and escapes.

Leia, Chewie, and Lando fail to rescue Han, but at least they escape and rescue Luke when he uses his force powers to somehow “speak” to Leia and ask for help.

The resolution of this story for the rebels was to survive the Empire striking back. Arguably, Luke is not the main catalyst for this, but in the wider story his part is yet to come.


The first plot point in a story – what is it and where does it go?


Story structure – it is beginning, middle and an end as we were taught at school isn’t it?
Maybe if the middle is recognised as being half the length of the story with two distinct halves to it, you could say it is the middle of three acts. I am really talking about a story having four main parts.
A story created with the well-used structure we all see at play in movies we watch, whether we are aware of it or not, means that the essence of a plot can be captured in nine key sentences or at least short paragraphs. Around 20% to 25% of the way into a story (and no later or you are keeping the audience waiting too long) there is something called the first plot point. It is the moment when the protagonist changes their plans and responds to the antagonistic force in the plot – and at first, not very successfully. If you are watching a two-hour movie that starts at 9pm watch out at around 9.30pm, probably just after a commercial break, and you’ll see it.

Some examples:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerers (or Philosiphers) Stone – Harry boards the train to Hogwarts for the first time.

In the first Star Wars film “A New Hope” – Luke Skywalker finds his aunt and uncle burnt to death by Storm Troopers pursuing the droids he has bought and announces to Ben Kenobi that he wants to join the rebellion against the empire and become a Jedi like his father.

Ground Hog Day – The newsman Phil wakes up and re-experiences ground hog day for the first time.

Spiderman – Peter Parker realises he has spider superpowers for the first time and has to start coming to terms with them.

Back to the Future part 1 – Marty McFly, escaping from the Libyan terrorists, hits 88mph in the DeLorean and heads back in time for the first time.

Accidental Hero – Dustin Hoffman’s character Bernie Laplante, a no-good swindler, witnesses a plane crash and pulls numerous people out of the burning wreckage saving their lives. When the press goes hunting for the hero, someone else takes the credit.

Knowing – Nicolas Cage’s character John Koestler finally realises the significance of all the numbers on a mystery piece of paper taken from a time capsule buried in 1959. He already suspects they predict the date and numbers of deaths in accidents. When the date of a new predicted event arrives, he is stuck in a traffic accident and notices the latitude and longitude on his cars navigation system corresponds with the numbers he did not understand before on the sheet. When he leaves the car to enquire how many people died in the traffic accident, an airliner skims the road and crashes into a nearby field killing the predicted number of people. Now he is in no doubt what the numbers mean.


Story structure at work: a short story with commentary

I decided it was time to put my writing skills where my typing fingers are regarding the story engineering business and write something that fits the story structure. Not easy with the 2500 word limit I have stuck to and it is all relatively simple but hopefully shows the story structure at work.
All comments and discussion are very welcome.

Word count: 2500 (approximate excluding commentary.)
Title: Peter’s Vane Struggle
Genre / Setting: Historical fantasy set in rural southern England in 1872
Synopsis: Vicar Peter is in a terrible rush to get a new weather vane for his church. When it turns out, this is not as simple as he hoped and the going gets tough Peter’s imagination and the cherubs get going.
[Commentary in bold square brackets]
[Peter’s inner weakness, all good protagonists should have one: Fear of dogs (simple but it will suffice for this exercise)]
[Set up and hook]
‘… I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, until thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.’
Vicar Peter shut the Bible with a snap lamenting his namesakes fear and looked up at the hole in the roof. The wind tugged at the waxed canvas covering like little Mikey Sparry pulling on his cassock for attention in Sunday school.
Peter wasn’t concerned with Mikey right now, he was thinking of Mary. Mary was a smiler. When he baptised her, she didn’t wail up at the cherubs like most of the infants; she gave one of those baby half-moon smiles. On her fifth birthday, she beamed him a smile when he came in carrying her birthday cake as Mr Sparry was on business in London. She smiled at him on her confirmation day and smiled at everyone when she helped run Sunday school. Peter had all those smiles tucked away in his memory. He raked his fingers through his greying black hair and felt worry creeping in. A week Saturday was Mary’s wedding day. Jake the Millers son from the next village. Bless him if he wasn’t a smiler too.

Peter looked up at Worry, the name of the cherub lowest down in the North West corner. He had names for the other cherubs too. Names like Conscience, Patience, Fear and Inspiration.

He bid the cherubs farewell and left the church money purse in hand.

“I need the weather vane by tomorrow or I’ll not be able to finish the roof before that wedding you’ve got planned.” Frank, the builder, had told him.

[The Hook: Peter’s got a story goal, he has to get the roof fixed and a weather vane in place before a wedding that is important because the bride is someone who has dedicated so much to the church herself. The stakes are setup, what is at risk if Peter fails.]
[Set up continues]
He could count on Billy at the smithy to help him out of this tight spot so that’s is where Peter headed.
Peter strode through the village with its white picket fences grinning at him like over white sets of teeth. Any old weather vane will not do. It must be a cockerel in remembrance of his namesake’s denial of Jesus ‘three times before the cock crew’.

Raucous barking from a hound that sounded as if it came out the gates of hell itself jolted Peter out of his revere. His heart jumped into his throat and sat there beating like a frightened sparrow.

[Peter’s inner weakness is shown – fear of dogs.]
“Bed Buster.” The hound scowled and loped away from the gate it was guarding. “Sorry Vicar, he’s a bit territorial.” The owner apologised.

Peter nodded and nervously hurried on.
“Billy are you there?” Peter called out into the gloom of the blacksmith’s workshop. Somewhere in the depths an orange glow flared up and danced across the walls and ceiling.

“Just a moment.” A muffled voice replied.

A sooty black creature emerged with a gap-toothed grin. Peter wondered if there was ever a time Billy would look clean.

“Bit of a rush Billy, I need a weather vane for the church by tomorrow, a cockerel. Can you make it?”

“Oh, you want copper for a weather vane so it don’t rust.” Billy replied knowledgeably.

“Yes, that’s right. Can you do it by tomorrow?”

“No can’t.”

Peters’ face fell like an over tall stack of bibles.
[First Plot Point / Inciting Incident: Peter’s plans will have to change.]
“Billy, I’m in a bit of a bind here can’t you help me out.”

“Got no copper see, no one around here asks for copper horseshoes or copper barrel braces or…”

“I get the picture, Billy.” Peter sighed.

“So I got no copper.”

“I need this weather vane, it’s Mary’s wedding next week.”

“You try that Scottish fella Mackintosh, Mactavish or whatever he calls himself. Just set up on Mill Lane, he made vats for the brewery, he might have a bit of copper left.”

“That’s two miles away in Brayton!”

“My old Dad reckons its two ‘n’ ‘arf may be three miles at least.” Billy smiled helpfully.

“Thanks, Billy, I’d better get walking.”

[Set up ends here at the First Plot Point / Inciting Incident. Peter’s plans have changed, Billy can’t help so Peter’s mission is to find someone else to make a weather vane.]
[Response (to the inciting incident) Peter now needs to struggle and fail to get the job done, the antagonistic force – he has delays and distractions…]
Peter hustled down the road leaving the village houses behind and looked forward squinting into the sun. It was getting warm and the heavy black cassock started to drag and suck the sweat from him.

“Morning Vicar.” The cheery call came from a man caressing the biggest pumpkin Peter had ever seen nestling like a giant bird’s egg in the vegetable plot in the field.

“I reckon I got Mr Simpson beat this year, I got a secret formula for me manure this year.”

“Well done Mr Jones, good luck at the harvest show.”

“The secret is, my manures got chicken dung and …”

Peter stopped and politely listened to Jones retelling a decade in pumpkin growing and the delicacies of dung. Patience appeared in a puff of smoke, stretched his cherub wings, sat on Peters’ shoulder and drummed his fingers on Peter’s cheek. Jones couldn’t see Patience, Peter wished he couldn’t either, but his imagination had a way of defying him.
A clatter of horse hooves caught both the men’s attention and Peter looked up at Mrs Sparry approaching on her new horse-drawn wagon. She beamed a smile not quite the match for her own daughter Mary’s smile.

[Here is the mid-way pinch point where the reader gets a reminder of what is at stake in the story – failure to get the roof fixed and weather vane in place in time for the wedding.]
“Morning Vicar. I do hope the church roof will be finished in time for Mary’s wedding. I’ve got the Sullivan’s coming… and one hundred and twenty other guests. Can’t have them coming to an unfinished church now can we? Imagine if it rained!”

“No of course not Mrs Sparry. Got to go now Mr Jones, the Lords work doesn’t do itself.”

Peter hurried off down the road to Brayton before anyone could object.
The Haymaker pub came into view, a yellow building with a red tile roof that drooped over the upper floor windows like a drunks eyelids.

“Morning Vicar.” Two men chimed in unison.

“Freddie, Johny.” Peter nodded briskly.

An excited Freddie handed him a glass.

“Hey Vicar, get some of this into you, better by far than the communion wine I can tell you.”

Peter sniffed at the glass and took an experimental sip.

“Wow, oh no, not my cup of tea at all gentlemen. What is it moonshine?”

“Somut like that, Ah well, try some o’ the new ale we brewed instead then.”

‘Must I?’ Peter thought but soon found himself warming to the flavours in the glass jug Johny handed him.

“I have to admit this is more like it gentlemen.”

“See, told you people would like it.” Johny told Freddie with a grin.

A ringing sound tickled at the edge of Peter’s consciousness and he looked up in alarm at the Brayton church clock.

“Got to go lads.” Peter said and downed the rest of the pint in one huge gulp and let out a wheezing cough when he’d finished.

“Wow, that’s got an after kick, what you put in it.”

“Spiced it up a bit with a slug o’ the moonshine Vicar.” Johny smiled.

“Oh Lord preserve me.” Peter gasped.

“Well if the Lord doesn’t the moonshine will.” Laughed Freddie.
Peter shook his head in wonderment and started off down the road. A road that seemed to sway like a small ship in a rough sea. He concentrated hard, aimed himself somewhere in the middle of it and tried to resolutely march towards the refuge of a row of houses ahead. Something he could lean on just for a moment to regain his composure.
The brick of the house felt like it would burn his hand, so hot it had become under the fierce sun.

“Peter, just the man, I wanted to speak to you about…”

Peter looked up and saw Brayton Church’s Vicar frowning back at him.

[Here is the mid-point, Peter now starts to fight back against the antagonistic force of delays and distractions, but he is still not resolving the issue of the weather vane yet.]
“Really Edward?” He blurted. Vicar Edward seemed to split in two. Two halves of a shadow that could not seem to decide whether to stay together or not.

“Can’t talk. I’ve got an important errand to run.” Peter burbled starting to totter off.

“Are you OK Peter?” Edward called after him.

“No, not really Edwards, I’ll talk to you both later.” Peter burped as he called back.
Mill Lane stretched out before Peter and teasing him, getting longer with each step. Then suddenly it seemed the refreshing chatter of running water joined his scraping footfalls as he looked up at the mill house.

“Ah vicar, just the man I wanted to talk to.” The Miller and the father of the groom to be shouted out.

Peter thrust out his open hand palm towards the Mill and his brain wrestled with his ungainly tongue.

“Noooo, I have an impossible… I mean impractical… improbable… Oh, there’s something I gotta dooo… later.”

Peter wavered onwards to the end of Mill Lane where a red brick workshop with a chimney stood with it’s the doors open wide.

“Hellooo” he called through the doors.

“Be with you in a minute laddie, just hang there by the door.”

Peter clung to the door in the hope it might be the best way to stop it moving around so much.

“Ah vicar, nice to see ye. Say your lookin a wee bit off colour.”

“I think it’s something I drank. Are you Macteezy, Mactozy, Mac… What’s your name?”


“Yes that’s right, Maceezy, wonderful, I’ve found you.”

“Here I think you better have a wee dram o’ this, it’ll snap ye right round in no time.”

Peter hesitated then sniffed at the bottle.

“What is it? I seem to have lost my sense of smell.”

“Some o’ the moonshine the boys down the road have been cookin’ up.”

“Nooooo, no thank you I’ve had quite enough of that. I need a weather vane urgently to finish the church roof before a wedding a week Saturday. One made of copper. One with a cockerel on it.”

“A what?”

“A cockerel, a rooster, you know, cock-a-doodle doo… wakey wakey. Some Pope’s idea not mine.”

“Oh, ha ha, of course, vicar. Let me see.”

MacKenzie flicked studiously through a large dirty ledger on a no less dirty workbench.

“Friday is no problem.”

“Oh thank God you can do it tomorrow.”

[Pre second plot point lull is here, that all hope is lost moment, the weather vane will not be ready in time.]
“No vicar, I mean week Friday, the day before the wedding.”

Peter let go of the workshop door, clutched his sweating head and span around on the spot before falling to his hands and knees.


“Beg pardon vicar.”

“The builder said he needed it tomorrow to finish the roof by next Friday.”

“I canne do it that soon vicar, the rod you need is over there in the corner but it’ll take me a few days at least to make the vane.”

Peter starred in resignation at the large metal rod in the corner of the workshop MacKenzie had pointed at. Just as Peter’s mind started to jumble through ideas and possibilities Inspiration appeared, fluttered his wings and landed on the end of the rod. Peter frowned at Inspiration as the little cherub walked along the rod arms and wings stretched wide like a circus tightrope walker.

[Here comes the second plot point where Peter learns the last thing he needs to know to resolve the plot.]
Peter stood up like a new born fawn and asked.

“If I take the rod now the builder could finish the roof.”

“Aye, good thinking vicar, and then I can come over in the week and fit the cockerel for you and all would be done for yer wedding.”

“I could kiss you!” Peter exclaimed.

“Ha ha, three pounds and four pence will do just fine vicar.”
[Resolution, now we see Peter as the primary catalyst for resolving the plot.]
MacKenzie lifted the rod with a grunt and dragged it noisily over to Peter.

“Is it heavy?” Peter asked, then “oof” as one end of the rod dropped onto his shoulder.

“Sorry, my carts away for repairs. Far to go?”


“Aye, that must be three miles away if it’s a yard.”

Peter saved his breath, nodded and began to plod back along Mill Lane.
“Nice rod vicar.” Freddie called from outside the Haymaker pub.

“What you doing?” Asked Johny.

“Its’ for the church. New weather vane.”

“Looks heavy.” Observed Freddie.

“You have no idea.” Peter gasped.
Sweat poured down Peter’s face and back as he dragged the rod up the hill between Brayton and Chawton. Through bleary eyes, he saw Mr Jones break away from tending his vegetable plot to lean on the fence as he approached.

“Heavy looking rod vicar, what you doing with it?”

Peter stopped and looked down on the grass verge and there lay Patience on his back looking up with a mischievous grin on his round face.

Peter breathed his reply “I’m trying to get closer to God and Jesus by experiencing what Jesus must have felt like bearing his cross Mr Jones.”

“I am impressed by your dedication vicar.”

Conscience appeared in a puff of smoke, a thin-faced stern cherub and slowly shook its head. Peter ignored Conscience, swapped the rod to his other shoulder and plodded on up the hill.
Nearing the edge of the village where the white fences started Peter heard a horse and cart rattle up beside him.

“So noble of you vicar.” Mrs Sparry cheered.

“Useful looking cart Mrs Sparry.” Peter gasped.

“Yes, it is. I’ve had flowers and grain sacks in it. Very exciting. I’ll be using it to fetch all sorts of things for the wedding. As I was saying, very noble of you, Mr Jones told me what you were doing with that rod. I think I better leave you to it, toodle ooo.”

Peter closed his mouth to prevent whatever he was thinking coming out. It wouldn’t do to displease Conscience any further.

[Here is Peter now overcoming his inner weakness – fear of dogs – as part of the resolution.]
Peter dragged the rod into the village and stopped his path blocked. There was a low growl. Standing there in the road was the hell hound. At that moment Patience appeared, grabbed Fear by his cherub wings, dragged him to the ground and started to drown him by pouring an ale jug of what could only be moonshine down his throat. Peter barked at the hell hound “Bed Buster” and the dog squealed, whined as if the weight of the rod had been dropped on its back and it loped off into its garden.
Peter plodded on.
He reached the churchyard and dropped the rod with a bell-like clang.

“Got the weather vane vicar?” Frank, the builder, asked packing up his tools.

“Yes, this is the rod.”

“Where’s the rest of it?”

[Peter has to be the primary catalyst so he needs to get the builder in on his plan…]
“You can build the roof with this in place and MacKenzie will fit the cockerel next week.”

“Good thinking vicar” Frank nodded “that will work nicely. Good night.”


[The denouement, a return to normal life now the plot is resolved. If you can offer your protagonist a reward, maybe pin a medal on him, or perhaps he/she gets the girl/boy so much the better. In this case, Peter gets a metaphorical medal in the form of one of Mary’s smiles he can collect in his memory.]

The marriage service was over. Peter watched Mary in flowing white walking through the churchyard arm in arm with Jake.

“What a nice shiny cock you have up there vicar.”

“What’s that Mrs Sparry?” Peter replied.

“The new weather vane, positively glows in the sun.”

“It won’t shine like that forever Mrs Sparry.”

“No, did you know we use cocks on Church weather vanes to symbolise Peter denying Christ three times before the cock crowed?”

“Is that so Mrs Sparry.”

“Pope Nicholas decreed all churches should have them.”

“Really Mrs Sparry.”

Mary looked back over her shoulder at Peter, rolled her eyes to the heavens and back, beamed a smile and winked. Peter tucked the new smile into his memory, smiled and winked back.

[The end.]

Ground Hog Day – another 9 step story breakdown

Protagonist: Phill Conners – Inner Demon – self centred and cynical

1. Hook

Travelling to Punxsutawny, Phill is quickly shown to not like the assignment and the weather reports say to expect snow – he might be stuck there for sometime…

2. Set up – Protagonsts life as normal

Groundhog day number 1, Phil is grumpy, unlikable and delivers his report with ill-humour and heads off to skip out of town ASAP following his report.

Bad weather descends meaning they have to stay another night.

3. First Plot Point – Protagonist’s expected plans change – 20%-25%

Phill wakes up and soon realises he is living the same Groundhog day again.

4. Wandering response

Phil is confused and then he takes advantage of the knowledge he has about the day to unfold with unpleasant acts such as theft and seducing women, the days keeps repeating and he tries to learn about Rita in an attempt to woo her but his attempts fail.

5. Pinch point midway through 4. – reminder of what is at stake

With no fear of consequences and knowing the day will continue forever he changes behaviour and starts doing bad things.

6. Mid-point – 50%

Phil becomes despondent and changes behaviour again.

7. Fight back ending with an all hope is lost moment

Phil gives ridiculous reports, kidnaps Punxsutawney Phil, drives off a cliff, continues more attempts at suicide as he has lost hope.

8. Second plot point – Protagonist learns what he needs to know to resolve the story – 75%

Phil tells Rita what is going on, she spends the day with him, she falls asleep with him and he wakes again on Groundhog day alone but her positive outlook inspires him.

9. Resolution

He tries to improve himself and he uses his vast knowledge of the day to help everyone he can.  He learns skills like piano playing, ice sculpting and more.

In the end he befriends almost everyone he meets in the day.  He gets closer to Rita, delivers a brilliant and eloquent report on the Groundhog day.  When he makes an ice sculpture of Rita’s face they kiss and snow falls for the first time on Groundhog day… something just changed and time loop is broken.

Rita stays the night and they wake up to a new day and Rita is still there.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope – Story structure breakdown

As suggested on this web site’s home page, one of the subjects this blog explores are the nine points of story structure that screenplay writers and many novelists use when creating their stories.

Every story structure designed this way can be broken down into nine sentences or short paragraphs that capture the essence of the entire plot.

All good protagonists also need an inner weakness to overcome to succeed against the antagonistic force in the story.
Simple examples are Indiana Jones and snakes or Disney’s Dumbo and the feather he thought he needed to fly.
There are many other sometimes subtle, often psychological and more sophisticated weaknesses than these examples out there.

What follows lays bare the plot of George Lucas’s Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. If you have never seen or read it and don’t want the story spoiled for you, stop reading now.  I am guessing most people know this story.

Protagonist: Luke Skywalker – Inner Demon/Weakness – Learning to trust “The Force”.

1. The hook

A rebel starship carrying stolen secret plans to a battle station known as the Death Star capable of destroying a planet is captured by Darth Vader, but not before the plucky Princess Leia secures the plans with two droids who use an escape pod to flee to the nearby planet of Tatooine.

2. The setup – what is normal life like for the protagonist?

Luke Skywalker, a farm boy who dreams of becoming a starship pilot, carries out his daily chores on a moisture farm looking after the escaped droids he purchased from the diminutive Jawa’s who captured them. The inciting incident in this story is the purchase of the droids – Luke connects with the story here.

3. First Plot Point – the protagonist’s plans have to change here at around the 20%-25% point in the story

On discovering that imperial storm troopers seeking the droids with the battle station plans have killed his aunt and uncle, Luke decides to accompany the mysterious Ben Kenobi on a quest to return the plans to the rebel alliance.

4. Wandering response – reaction to the inciting incident

Ben and Luke evade capture by the Imperial Storm Troopers and secure the services of Han Solo, a shady smuggler and his sidekick Chewbacca, a hairy Wookie.  They flee Tatooine bound for Alderaan, but find the Death Star has already destroyed the planet when they arrive.  They are captured.

5. Pinch-point – half way through the wandering response stage a reminder of what is at stake if the protagonist fails

Governor Tarkin aboard the Death Star with Princess Leia orders the destruction of Alderaan which is totally blown away creating a disturbance in the force sensed by Ben Kenobi.

6. Mid-point – at around the 50% mark in the story – the story has to turn around with the protagonist going on the offensive

Captured by the Death Star they discover the Princess is held captive and scheduled for execution.  Luke insists they mount an unlikely and heroic rescue of Princess Leia and then escape.

7. Fight back culminating in all is lost pre second plot point lull – an “it has all gone horribly wrong” moment.

Han, Luke, Leia and Chewbacca escape the Death Star as Ben Kenobi sacrifices himself keeping Darth Vader at bay.  The empire has secured a tracking device on their ship, the Millennium Falcon, and the Death Star tracks them to their rebel base.  They will surely be destroyed…

8. Second plot point – The protagonists learn the last new information they need in order bring resolution to the story – around the 75% point in the story

The rebels analyse the stolen Death Star plans and discover a weakness that can be exploited by small fighter craft.

9. Resolution where protagonist (Luke) must be the main catalyst for the event

Luke joins the desperate attack against the Death Star.  After R2D2 is destroyed and Han Solo, shamed by Luke’s earlier words into helping, fends off Darth Vader.  Luke switches off his targeting computer trusting only on the force to guide him as he fires his proton torpedoes scoring a hit on the Death Star exhaust port destroying it.

In Larry Brook’s terms  in his book Story Engineering, there are 6 core competencies to master, but the above is a good start with the most fundamental principle and is probably a revelation to any new possibly struggling author who has never come across this before.

It certainly was for me…