Your Outline for a Book!
Welcome to the fourth blog post in the Outlining a Police Procedural series. If you’re new to Fiction Formula, you’ve come across an outlining series for thriller writer’s designed to help you create a comprehensive novel outline with little difficulty.
This outline covers the 4 parts of story structure along with 18 milestones and follows along the hero as he investigates and solves a murder. To get a better idea of the plot and the series so far, visit the links below:
There are four parts of story structure: Set-up, Response, Attack, and Resolution. Each part of story structure has a certain number of milestones. In this post, we’re working through Attack, the third part of story structure and its milestones.
Attack is defined pretty much as it sounds, but to give you context, the four parts of story structure work like this:
Set-up: the beginning of the storyline where the initial story, characters, and plot are set up.
Response: The hero has accepted their role and is beginning to investigate.
Attack: The villain strikes back and the conflict increases
Resolution: The story comes to a close with the hero or villain coming out on top.
Inside of Attack are five of the eighteen very powerful milestones:
9. Hero Changes Course: With a new direction, the hero begins to make calculated moves against the villain. This milestone happens around the 50%-62% mark.
10. Second Pinch Point: Feeling the heat, the villain makes a plan to fight the hero. This milestone is often used as a foreshadow to the second plot point and happens around the 62% mark.
11. Trial and Error, Confrontation: The hero becomes more informed about the situation. Occurs around the 62%-75% mark.
12. Pre Second Plot Point Lull: A lull in the story right before the second plot point. Usually, the hero is seemingly defeated. This occurs at the 74% mark.
13. Second Plot Point: The hero learns something new that takes him one step closer to the investigation. This happens around the 75% mark.
Before moving on to the outline, please download the latest version of the Police Procedural Outlining series located in the vault. This will be your aid when you create an outline for a book.
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Plot Review and Part 4 Attack Plot
It can be confusing keeping up with the plot when we’re this far, so we thought it appropriate to provide the highlights so far using the milestones. If at any time, you need more detail, revert back to the original posts (links above).
Hook: Our hero is introduced to the scene of a dead body. This body is a missing person case he handled in the past.
Character intro and Positioning: All the main characters are introduced. The hero, major side characters, and their respective roles as they pertain to their relationship with the hero.
Foreshadowing, Intro of Stakes and Threat: Background on the missing person (now found deceased) and the situation revolving their disappearance. To help facilitate this background, a flashback is introduced to the storyline and lasts until the middle of Response.
Mechanism of First Plot Turn: A seemingly unrelated murder is committed. The hero reluctantly begins to investigate the death.
First Plot Point: The murder is found to be related to the original investigation pulling the hero through the door of no return.
Hero Responds and Heads Down New Path: Hero uncovers evidence suggesting they’re focusing on the right person.
First Pinch Point: Killer determines he needs to kill again and creates a plan to kill the only survivor to his attacks.
Midpoint: The close confidant of the hero is murdered by the villain in an attempt to kill the only survivor to his attacks.
Here we are in part 3 of story structure called Attack. As you’ve read and understood the plot, the hero has suffered a significant defeat against the villain with the death of someone close to him. In your outline, this should be a devastating blow to the hero that leaves him reeling, but not for long. In attack, the hero is going to get his feet under him and begin leading the charge against the villain.
The hero spends the first part of attack trying to pull himself together and determine next moves. With the help of a sidekick, the hero goes back to the basics. (9)
Tip: Up to this point in the storyline the hero has not yet figured out much about the killer. The hero is unaware of the killer’s true identity or their motivation. Depending on how you’ve created your outline a potential direction here is to have your hero to the basics of the investigation. For example, if your hero was involved in the original investigation of the missing persons than your hero could go back to those original notes to see if they can uncover any information that may have been missed earlier.
The point of the beginning of attack is for the hero and his sidekicks to get together and create a new plan for the investigation. At this point, there should be no new leads, only frustration.
Hero and/or sidekick find evidence that leads them to believe they are on the right track (and they are). (6)
Killer creates an escape plan. (10)
Tip: Despite the actual definition I provided on the second pinch point, the killer doesn’t always have to be proactively moving against the hero. The goal of the killer is to get away with their crime. The purpose of the hero is to catch the killer.
In this second pinch point consider having your killer make a plan to escape. If you are following along the outline as I’ve laid out, the killer made an attempt to kill a victim that previously survived and failed. Now, the killer has one of two options:
- Attack again
- Attempt to escape
This outline will accommodate both scenarios.
Hero and sidekick begin to execute on their new investigation plan. (11)
Several leads do not pan out for the hero.
Tip: It’s essential to have the hero run into some roadblocks as they continue to track down leads and suspects.
One thing that should always be constant are clues that have been building up since the beginning of the story. There should be a consistent theme with the clues that eventually lead to the real killer, so don’t forget to sprinkle them in.
Persistence pays off, and the hero and his team get a break in the identification of the killer. (11)
Hero and sidekick locate the suspected killer and make an attempt to apprehend. (11)
Tip: This person is not the real killer. Leads and clues led the hero to this person, but it’s not all bad. Using hints or information gleaned from the hero and the wrongly identified person, have the true identity of the killer emerge.
For example, a person with the same name could be misidentified as the killer. A person with the same tattoo could also be misidentified as the real killer.
Place a misidentification into your storyline, but have the misidentification be something easily explainable and also something where the misidentified person can provide a new direction for the hero.
Hero suffers a defeat when the suspect turns out not to be the killer (12)
Hero receives killers true identification (13)
Tip: This is the end of Attack. Here the hero gets the true identification of the killer. Most of the clues and leads the hero has received throughout the story have proven to be linked to this newly identified person. Keep in mind, the hero has only identified the killer. He isn’t quite sure where he is. And, if you had your killer planning to escape, the hero will have extra work to do in resolution.
After completing this part of your outline, read from the beginning and fix any potential plot holes. While you’re creating your outline for a book, pay particular attention to the clues left along the way that have led to the identity of the killer. Consider having 2-3 of these clues come up over and over, which leads the hero to believe he has the right person at this point in the novel.
In the final section of our outline, we’ll conclude with the resolution where the hero finally catches up with the elusive killer and takes his revenge.