Aurelia Rowl on Story Craft

Posted on Posted in Story Structure

You probably already know that I am a total story craft junkie and it is always fascinating to hear about how other authors structure their novels.

So here is a treat. I have invited my fellow Carina UK author Aurelia Rowl to chat about how she uses plot turning points to help her develop the storyline for her debut release for Carina UK, Popping the Cherry.

You can find out more about Aurelia over on her website.

Over to you Aurelia.


Hi Nina, and thank you for hosting me today; it’s lovely to be here.

Anybody who has ever popped by my blog may have spotted my ‘twenty questions’ game in which I interview authors. One of the questions in my quick-fire round is “plotter versus pantser?” so I guess it was only a matter of time before I faced that same question myself.

So which am I… plotter or pantser?

I’m actually a little bit of both, but the actual percentages vary from project to project.

When I sat down to write Popping the Cherry, I had the benefit of knowing some of the key scenes and a general overview of the entire story it was just a case of connecting the scenes and making it work.

I pantsered the first three chapters to get a real feel for my characters but as soon as I decided to submit those same three chapters to Carina, I knew I needed a synopsis so it was time to write my outline.

For book two in the series, I only had a snippet of an idea for the story but I needed to submit an outline to Carina for approval before I could even get started. On the upside, I already knew the main character. On the downside, she is particularly guarded and did not want to let me inside her head at all but I managed pull enough information to get a synopsis together.

Having got a few chapters into her story I can already see why she gave me so much trouble but she’s slowly coming around. As an aside, I’m not the only writer that thinks of my characters as real people, am I?

One thing that has made my plotting life a lot easier is the W-plot storyboard, but what exactly is it?

The W-plot still follows the classic three-act structure, but it splits the middle act into two smaller acts – sometimes equal but more often not—so that the outline forms the shape of a W. If you do an internet search on ‘W-plot’ you will get page after page of results, but the following is my amalgamation of some of those suggestions, pulled together into something that works for me:

First, take a W and split it into what Mary Carroll Moore refers to as ‘islands’ and incorporate the classic three-act structure:

(Source: How to Write A Book Now)

Then overlay it with Laurie Ryan’s simple grid:

(Source: Jeannie Ruesch)

Finally, pull the two theories together then add in the classic three-act structure so that the storyboard looks like this:

A – C = setting up the problem

C – E = recovering from the problem

E – G = deepening the problem

G – I = resolving the problem

  • A = Goal recognition (opening trigger event / inciting incident / ordinary world)
  • B = Initial barrier (pinch point / call to adventure)
  • C = Low point (1st turning point / refusal of the call)
  • D = Progress (obstacles / trials and tests / emotional push-pull)
  • E = High point or Grey moment (2nd trigger event / grey moment)
  • F = Rug pull (false sense of security / secrets revealed / rethinking of goals)
  • G = Black moment (2nd turning point / black moment)
  • H = Final struggle (epiphany)
  • I = Happily ever after (resolution / climax)

Best of all, it still works for the pantser side of me because it allows for flexibility. What actually happens from A-B, B-C, C-D, etc, is still flexible and it doesn’t really matter how I get to each point—each island—just so long as I arrive in one piece. It’s even okay to deviate from the original synopsis provided the crux of the story is still there, which was definitely the case with Popping the Cherry. The synopsis for book two has already become something very different in places having had feedback from my editor, but because of the W-plot structure, I’ve been able to work in the changes without having to write out a new synopsis.

If you want to hear more about the W-plot style of storyboarding, I highly recommend watching this video by Mary Carroll Moore who explains it far more succinctly than me.

Video link:


Many thanks Aurelia – great stuff. And perfect timing. Today is story brainstorm day!

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