This is an outline of the article ‘Story Structure’ by Larry Brooks. Although written for crime-fiction amateurs, we can surely apply elements of it for other fiction genres:
The first box: Part 1 of your story… the Set-up.
Part 1’s job is to introduce the hero and show us what she or he has going on in their life…
This is where the story really starts. Everything that happens prior to the end of Part 1 is a SET-UP for what happens to the hero afterPart 1.
The second box: Part 2 of your story… the Response.
Part 2 is the hero’s response to the introduction of this new situation, as represented by the conflict itself. It’s too early to have them attack the problem; Part 2 is exclusively about a reaction to the antagonistic force.
The hero is running, hiding, analyzing, observing, recalculating, planning, recruiting or anything else required before she or he can move forward.
The third box: Part 3 of your story… the Attack.
In Part 3 the hero begins to try to fix things.
And then, the final piece of the puzzle arrives at the end of Part 3 (the Second Plot Point). And everything changes again. The chase is on, and the hero is not to be denied.
The fourth box: Part 4 of your story… the Resolution.
The thing to remember about Part 4 is that no new information can enter the story here. Everything the hero needs to know, to work with, or to work alongside (as in, another character) is already in play.
Part 4 shows how the hero summons the courage and growth to come forward with a solution to the problem, to reach the goal, to save the day or even the world, to attain the fame and riches associated with victory, and to generally beat down and conquer the story’s antagonistic force.
The Whole of the Four Parts
Each part of this structure is of roughly the same length, though you do cheat the first and fourth Parts to a fewer number of pages, made up for in the middle two parts. In 3-act movie structure, Parts 2 and 3 as described here are simply combined – but with the same unique contextual essences – to comprise Act 2, known in Hollywood and beyond as The Confrontation.
Rent some DVDs tonight and watch this 4-part paradigm play out before your eyes. Sometimes it’s subtle, but I assure you, it’s there. Same with the books you’re reading. Four parts, four contexts, four completely separate missions for their scenes.
Clarifying as all this is, it gets even better when you throw in a whole menu of story milestones and mid-Part structural elements that help you along the way.
You can see the full article at storyfix.com if you’re interested.