The Story Equation by Susan Warren provides a variation to the 3-part story model, splitting the nebulous second act into two phases.
Act 1: Bio—Introduce the audience to the character: their journey; their victories and losses; the “why” behind the character.
Act 2.1: Cause—Introduce obstacles, as well as the “Noble Quest” that pushes the character beyond those barriers.
The key to building a powerful Noble Quest is to convince the reader that it is a worthy cause through the eyes of the POV character.(Warren 23)
Act 2.2: The Fight—As the character “confronts external obstacles that cause [them] to dig deep and take a look at [themselves],” they’ll face values, secret desires, and sacrifices, in the name of the Noble Quest.
Act 3: Resurrection & Triumph—This is the newness the character brings to the reader’s life. Our struggles are similar; we are defined by how we triumph.
A Shapeshifter, Cyborg, & Wisp: Act 1
- Chapter 1: Reader meets protagonist #2, Lilliputian, a will’o’wisp escaping the dangerous swamp she finds herself trapped in.
- Chapter 2: Reader meets protagonist #1, Eleanora, a shapeshifter who’s trying to lay low as a lamplighter.
- Chapter 3: Reader meets protagonist #3, Lutz, a young fey who can see different points in space-time by staring into pools of water.
- Chapter 4: Lilliputian reveals her fear of homelessness, and her deep need for a safe place, when she occupies one of the gaslights in Eleanora’s district. Meanwhile, Eleanora reveals her competitive spirit by trying to catch Lilli in the act of escaping a lamp. Back in the woods, Lutz reflects on the nature of will’o’wisps, revealing deep knowledge as an observer of the world, as well as developing Lilli’s wispy nature.
- Chapter 5: Once Eleanora, protagonist #1, achieves her first goal of capturing Lilli, protagonist #2, she’s confronted with one of her core values—she wants to protect vulnerable fey- and monster-refugees who’re fleeing abusive homes. This directly reflects on Eleanora’s relationship with her previous homes: a previous life in a politically corrupt elfin court; and her childhood in Tir’a’nog, the sidhe noble society in the Farlands.
- Chapter 6: Once Lilli’s trapped in Eleanora’s home, she’s failed her first goal of securing a safe place—or at least, this is what she believes. In her fear, she reveals vulnerability. But then Lutz appears outside Eleanora’s house, and she brings him in, too. When Lilli sees Eleanora’s helping a lost will’o’wisp and pool-gazer—not exacting revenge for the intrusion on her lamps—their friendship is sealed.
- Chapter 8: Lutz reveals the 21-petal-wings under his robes, a foreshadowing to his true form as a dragon-overseer of space-time. Lilli’s use of color as a method of communication is psychoanalyzed from Lutz’s perspective. Elly transforms into a monster, her first failure vs. the goal of maintaining a stable life in an everyday form.
- Chapter 10: Zinnia, protagonist #4, tries to talk to Melidor, the support character that connects her to Ben, protagonist #5. Since Zinnia and Ben are protagonists with more weight in the second book, their bio-time is not as developed as protagonists #1 – 3, the first book’s main cast.
- Chapter 13: Eleanora, protagonist #1, meets Ben, protagonist #5, who will later play her love interest. While Ben has a bigger role in the second book, in this first scene, he acts as a mirror for Eleanora’s insecurities. After he offers to help Elly, Lilli, and Lutz, she questions his motives, claiming that fey shouldn’t trust humans they just met.
Note that Chapter 7, 9, 11, and 12 are part of Act 2.1, as I blend the model together. This oscillation of intent helps my plot flow…theoretically.