Example of 3-Act Outline

Example of 3-Act Outline

Using the old favorite, The Wizard of Oz, here is an example of how to use the 3-act outline to form the bare bones of your story. There is a blank worksheet in Learning Tools to help you outline your story.


Hook: Dorothy is running away from her Aunty and Uncles’ farm to save her dog, Toto, from mean Miss Gulch.

Backstory: Dorothy is persuaded to return home by Professor Marvel. On the way she is caught in a cyclone that transport her and the house to Munchkinland. The house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East, killing her and freeing the munchkins from her terror.

Trigger: Dorothy is forced to travel alone to find the Wizard of Oz so she can get home. This triggers her lack of self-confidence.


Crisis: Dorothy is overcome by her main flaw, her lack of self-confidence. She is terrified and doesn’t know what to do.

Struggle: Dorothy has to travel down the yellow-brick road. She meets friends along the way and takes them with her on her journey to find the Wizard of Oz in the hope that he can help them all. On the way Dorothy is captured by the Wicked Witch and her friends come to her rescue. The Wicked Witch sets the scarecrow on fire.

Epiphany: Dorothy realizes her flaw, her lack of self-confidence, and that only she can overcome this by changing.


Plan: Dorothy must act fast to save Scarecrow from burning. She grabs a bucket of water and throws it on him.

Climax: Dorothy accidentally splashes the witch with water and the witch melts away. The witch’s own flaw is her undoing. She was overly confident and this brings about her demise.

Ending: Dorothy and her friends return to the Emerald City, only to discover that the wizard is a fake and cannot send Dorothy home. The Good Witch, Glenda, comes to her aid and reveals that Dorothy has had the power to solve the problem herself and return home. Then of course there is the famous scene of tapping her ruby-red heels together and chanting “There’s no place like home” until she wakes up in her own bed in Kansas.


Keep in mind that the 3-act structure is a simple outline. You can flesh it our more when you go on to develop the story outline. But these points help to get your thoughts and ideas into a logical order and to make sure you develop a strong, solid and coherent novel.



Are you flying by the seat of your pants when writing your novel? Are you a rebel who doesn’t sit down to plot before writing your story? Instead of just writing whatever pops into your head and seeing where it leads you, have you thought about plotting first? I am not saying that you should not let your creativity take you wherever you want to go, but following some plan and structure can help take your novel to the next level. By following a rough road map for your story you ensure it follows a logical course of action, and it really does help to develop the emotional and physical aspects of your novel. It gives it more depth then just wallowing along.

I used to have an idea for a story and just sit down and write. Now I spend the time creating a rough plot, structure and developing characters. It sounds time consuming, but I find it so helpful. My writing has improved tremendously and my novels are now multi-dimensional instead of rather simplistic. Please don’t think I am accusing anyone who doesn’t plot of writing trash. If that works for you and you create great writing then fantastic! I envy you. My problem with not having a plot to guide me is I tend to get lost in my writing and waffle. If you find the same, then keep reading.

I have developed the following tips and knowledge about plotting from research, writing courses and experimenting with various methods. Like I have said many times before, writing is a very individual process and you need to find what works for you. Borrow tips and advice from the web, fellow writers and books until you develop a method that works for you.

What is Plot?

First of all, make sure you know the difference between plot and story structure. They are terms that can often be used interchangeably, however they are very different. They are both vital to the telling of your story and it is important if you want to sketch out your novel before writing it, that you know the difference between them.

Fundamentally plot is the “what” and “why” of your story, and structure is how you tell your reader about it. Structure can be changed to suit the way you would like to tell the story, whereas plot tends to be linear. Plot is a roadmap from point A to point B that helps to organize the events and information of your novel in a logical manner; essentially it is the sequence of your story. Plot is what you use to draw the reader into your story and the character’s lives; it is the mechanism for drawing the readers’ interest.

The Elements of Plot.

Traditionally a plot contains 5 elements. This part is a bit dry and clinical, but is important to understand if you would like help to develop a great plot that is logical and makes sense to your reader. The 5 elements:

  1. Exposition: or introduction. This is the beginning of your story where you establish characters and the setting. Traditionally this is also where you first introduce the conflict or main problem that is central to your novel.
  2. Rising action: This is the part of your novel where a series of events lead up to the conflict or climax. This is the main part of the story where you build upon the readers’ emotions using excitement, tension, fear and all those other emotions.
  3. Climax: The climax is the main point of the plot; it is the turning point of the story.
  4. Falling action: This is where you wind up the story. There is resolution for the main characters of your story.
  5. Denouement: The end of the novel, either happy or tragic.


If you find the traditional 5 plot elements hard to use, or too restrictive, then don’t worry. You can reduce your plot down to 3 simple elements and base your story around that:

  1. An initial problem (beginning).
  2. Added complication (middle).
  3. A resolution (end).

I tend to use the 3 elements as I find it less dry and restrictive. You will find worksheets for the 5 elements and the 3 elements plotting styles on the Learning Tools page. They are blank worksheets you can print out in order to help with plotting.

How Do You Design An Interesting Plot?

So, you now know the elements of plotting but how do you design a good and interesting plot? A good plot draws your reader in, maintains their interest, and creates long-lasting impressions and memories of your book. I have found that there are 3 basic ways to help create a good plot:

  1. You can use a traditional story or anecdote from real life, whether yours or someone else’s.
  2. You can start with the initial situation, or conflict, and work forward.
  3. You can pick your climax and work back from there.

So you can see from this, that plot sketching is usually event orientated.

Useful Links:

A Writer’s Cheat Sheet to Plot and Structure

Learn the Elements of a Novel: Structure and Plot.

Plot vs Structure

That concludes the first blog post in the Build Your Novel Blog Series. Tomorrow we will cover story structure, which tends to be more emotional and character orientated. This is the next step in plotting and outlining your best selling novel!

Building Your Novel Blog Series


Over the next week I will be posting a blog series on structuring your fiction novel and how to make it interesting. It will also include tips and rules for paragraph and sentence structuring.

Through each of the posts in this series you will learn how to plot, structure and outline your novel. Each post will build upon the one before, so that you will flesh out your ideas, weed out any that don’t work, and form a cohesive and emotional story that readers will find easy to follow and relate too.

At the end of the series, you will have a great arsenal of tools to help with your novel writing. I have said it before, and I will say it again, writing is very personal. You can choose to use these tools, or not. It is your creative process, and how you develop your story is up to you.

Building Your Novel Blog Series:


Story structure.

The Dramatic Elements.

Paragraph Structure.

Sentence Structure.