Michael Hauge’s Six-Stage Plot Structure

When I was offered a two-book deal in April, I was both thrilled and terrified. Thrilled the editor loved my story enough to buy it, and terrified she wanted the sequel, which hasn’t been written yet. Yikes! I’m such a slow writer. How am I going to get this book done in six months when it took years to finish the others?

Frankly, I learned two things: (A) Fear is a great motivator. And (B) I needed structure. No more wasting time writing, rewriting, and polishing scenes or chapters that only ended up getting changed or deleted altogether because the story veered off in a different direction. I had to know my plot, my character arcs, and what direction the story was headed from the moment I sat down to write. But what tool would help me do all that?

Hello, Michael Hauge’s Six-Stage Plot Structure.

I took out my notes from Michael Hauge’s workshop at last year’s RWA nationals and read what he had to say about character arcs and plotting. The following are my notes taken from his workshop, as well as his website and YouTube videos. I hope it helps you as much as it helped me. (It enabled me to clearly outline an entire 100,000 word story in only three weeks. My editor gave her approval the next day to start writing it with no suggested changes. Woo hoo!)

A character arcs when he moves from his identity to essence.

Identity = emotional armor (facade) worn to protect himself from some wound.

Essence = who the character is when the emotional armor is stripped. True self.

What is your hero’s wound? From the wound grows a fear. This fear gives IDENTITY (emotional armor) to the character.

The character should have a physical goal, but that goal is primarily a symbol. It represents an emotional need (the true goal). The end reward must satisfy the character’s emotional need.

The only way the character can get to his longing (his emotional need) is to step out of his IDENTITY (emotional armor) and into his ESSENCE (true self).

Once you’ve established your hero’s WOUND, FEAR, IDENTITY, ESSENCE, EMOTIONAL NEED and PHYSICAL OUTER GOAL, we can move onto The Six Stage Plot Structure. Note: Stages are the Inner Journey. Since I write romance, I’ve included two Inner journeys–one for the hero and one for the heroine. Turning Points are the Outer Journey (the physical goal).

Stage ISet up: Living fully within Identity (facade)

  • Heroine:
  • Hero:

First Turning PointOpportunity: Change from stable to unstable world

Stage II – The New Situation: This is where we…

  • Glimpse the hero’s essence (true self):
  • Glimpse the heroine’s essence (true self):
  • Introduce Nemesis:
  • Introduce Reflection character: (sidekick, mentor, partner who helps hero achieve outer goal)

Second Turning PointChange of Plans: Something happens that makes the hero realize he must do “this” (a specific, visible, established goal).

Stage III - Progress: Moving towards Essence without leaving identity. Hero/ Heroine makes a plan to accomplish goal, which seems to be working until…TP3.

  • Heroine:
  • Hero:

Third Turning Point - Point of No Return: (in a romance this could also be the 1st kiss/date/sex) traveler is closer to destination than origin. Hero is so committed to his goal that there is no turning back. Character has changed so much she can’t go back to who she was at the beginning.

Stage IV – Complications and Higher Stakes: Fully committed to Essence but growing fear. It’s more important to achieve goal, but more difficult. There is more to lose than “failure,” they will lose their Destiny.

  • Heroine:
  • Hero:

Fourth Turning Point - Black Moment: All is lost (H/H will never be together)

Stage VFinal Push: Last attempt to achieve goal or die trying. Living one’s truth (ESSENCE) with everything to lose.

  • Heroine:
  • Hero:

Fifth Turning PointClimax: Turns everything back to stability. “Wins”

Stage VIAftermath: The Journey complete. Destiny achieved.

  • Heroine:
  • Hero:

For more information on Michael Hauges Six-Stage Plot structure, please visit his website at www.Storymastery.com. If you will be at the RWA national Conference in Anaheim, CA this July, be sure to attend his workshop!

~K.M. Fawcett

8 responses to “Michael Hauge’s Six-Stage Plot Structure

  1. Thanks for posting, Kathy! Great breakdown and great timing..

  2. Thanks for posting. I’m determined to find a plotting tool that works for me. Hopefully this is the one.

    • Cynthia – This tool gave me that ah-ha light bulb moment. It enabled me to weave the characters’ inner emotional growth with the outer goal, which took me a long time to figure out before. BONUS: after filling in the six stage plot structure “chart,” I had my synopsis! Synopsis writing had never been so easy. I hope this tool works for you too!

  3. Great post, Kathy.

  4. Pingback: Anna Adams » Cloudy Days and Writing Ways

  5. Pingback: Character Arc ala Michael Hauge | Attacking the Page