The 6 Plot Points Your Story Needs

5 min read
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Storytelling is great because it's captivating. We all want our audiences to engage with our content and work. While most stories differ, the methods for telling those stories remain the same.

With your story in mind, you must define the narrative arc. The flow and order of your story help keep an audience engaged over a sustained period. This flow is usually in 6 plot points.

There are many names for the 6 essential plot points

There are various names and terms to describe the narrative flow. Let's explore three variations. Each provides different perspectives on the structure of stories and presented.

The Hero with A Thousand Faces

This book by Joseph Campbell explores the common patterns in myths and stories from different cultures worldwide.

Framework Explanation: The Hero's Journey includes 12 steps, but for brevity's sake, here's the gist.

  • the hero starts in an ordinary world
  • receiving a call to adventure
  • facing challenges and tests
  • finding guidance from mentors
  • and returning transformed.

Dan Harmon Story Circle

The Story Circle is a simplified version of The Hero's Journey. TV Writer of Rick and Morty, Dan Harmon, created this adaptation.

Framework Explanation: The Story Circle involves

  1. The introduction of a character in their everyday life.
  2. The character desires something.
  3. The character faces a problem or a challenge.
  4. The character attempts to solve the problem.
  5. As a result of their actions, the character experiences a consequence.
  6. The character learns something important from their experience.
  7. The character applies what they've learned and faces a climax.
  8. Finally, the character returns to their everyday life, but things are different now.

Narrative Arcs or Plot Diagrams:

Like Dan Harmon's approach, this approach presents a rise-and-fall diagram instead of a circle. This six-part arc uses conventional terms that you'd find across myriad storytelling mediums.

Framework Explanation: The Plot Diagram involves

  1. Exposition
  2. Conflict
  3. Rising action
  4. Climax
  5. Falling action
  6. Resolution

The 6 Plot Points You Can Use

For nonprofit video storytelling, we prefer the terminology used by Muse Storytelling. Why these terms? They're easy to understand. These 6 plot points are the backbone of all the stories we craft at BariStories.

Hook

The hook captures your audience's intention. It's the thing or thing that immediately pulls your audience into your story. Usually, the creation of the hook happens after the other plot points.

  • Purpose: The hook intrigues you and makes you want to keep reading or watching. It sets the story's stage and excites you about what's to come.
  • Audience Benefit: Curious
  • Location: At the beginning of your story.

Conflict

Oh boy, this is where things start getting messy! Conflict is all about problems, disagreements, or obstacles your character or organization faces. Despite the importance of conflict, many organizations sprint away from it. MLK said, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." This applies to the conflict that arises in your organization's life.

  • Purpose: To create tension and keep your audience on the edge of their seat, wondering, "What's gonna happen?"
  • Audience Benefit: Suspense, curiosity, and empathy (emotional investment as they root for the character to succeed).
  • Location: At the beginning of your story, after the hook.

Initiation

This is when your character or organization decides to take action to overcome the conflict. The initiation is like when your characters get pulled into the main adventure.

  • Purpose: Push your characters or organization into action and set them on their journey. It's the starting point of something big.
  • Audience Benefit: A sense of purpose and direction. The feeling of "we're going somewhere."
  • Location: At the beginning of your story, after the conflict.

Journey

The journey is about the ups and downs, challenges, and lessons they learn. The journey is central to the story where your organization works towards resolving the conflict.

  • Purpose: Provide a series of adventures, setbacks, and character development that propel the story forward.
  • Audience Benefit: Lost in the world through narrative transportation. They are on the journey with your character.
  • Location: At the middle of your story after the initiation.

Resolution

Ahh, the moment we've all been waiting for! The resolution is like the climax or the big finale of the story. It's where the conflicts and problems are finally resolved, and you tie up loose ends.

  • Purpose: Provide closure to the story
  • Audience Benefit: Satisfaction and fulfillment. The big sigh of relief.
  • Location: At the end of your story after the journey.

Jab (Call to Action)

In the world of storytelling for nonprofits, here we call people to action. This is the final part of your story, where the audience is inspired or encouraged to take action or reflect on the story's message. This could be something or text on the screen that tells the audience what to do next.

  • Purpose: Invite people to action to leave a lasting impact
  • Audience Benefit: Motivation and encouragement to make a difference
  • Location: At the end of your story.

Example Time

Here are two examples of this framework in action. Let's start with a story you're familiar with, The Lion King, followed by one of our films.

The Lion King follows the framework of the 6 plot points: It begins with the captivating presentation of Simba, the future king, at Pride Rock. The conflict arises when Scar plots to take over the throne. Simba's journey in the jungle with Timon and Pumbaa leads to personal growth and a new perspective on life.

Simba returns to confront Scar and reclaims his rightful place as king, restoring the Pride Lands. The movie ends with a call to action, inspiring the audience to embrace their identity, learn from the past, and fulfill their potential.

The Ripple of Cars

explores the connection between car repairs, economic opportunity, and environmental impact. This short doc emphasizes transportation challenges as a conflict. This conflict impacts lives and careers.

Our main character Joe Mackenzie embarks on a journey to address these challenges. He leverages his transferable skills and builds community trust. Through partnering with Environmental Initiative and raising funds, Joe found a solution that repairs emission systems, provides reliable transportation, and reduces air pollution.

The film concludes with a call to action, inspiring collaboration and emphasizing the ripple effect of positive change in the community.

Let's wrap this up

Understanding the 6 plot points will help you create more engaging stories for your nonprofit. As you develop each plot point, it will serve a purpose to move your story forward and provide a specific benefit for your viewing audience.

So what are you waiting on? Get out there and tell great stories. If you need help crafting those stories, we're here for you. Schedule a call to chat about how we can help.

We're a Minnesota-based storytelling agency serving the Midwestern United States.

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