Heart Breathings – Case Study

Last week we talked about the cool plotting method that I found by author Sarah Cannon of Heart Breathings. Her entire plotting method can be found over on YouTube, starting with this video. I again want to highly recommend checking her out and subscribing to her channel! Go buy all her books. Leave her comments and reviews. I binge read the book in her series which she gives as an example to see how it all came together, and actually ended up loving the book.

Now, if you are familiar with the three act formula, the Save the Cat beatsheet, and character arcs, this may seem familiar to you. However, this is a different way of putting them all together that really made it click in my brain for one of the stories I’ve had on a backburner for ages.

Sarah goes through the method step-by-step for her own book, Deep Dark Secrets. I’m summarizing how it works here, so there are obviously spoilers. I absolutely want you to go watch her video series for yourself and buy her books if you want to learn more.

Act I

Opening Scene/Hook

Short prologue that sets up the main inciting event for the story. There was an accident with the Main Character’s best friend, and she saw black tears running down her friend’s face. Then, one year later, she’s checking out of rehab, and we don’t know if she’s crazy or not.  No one believes her.

The Setting

Mental institution. Twin Rivers. Small town where MC lives. Hiking trails, mountains, waterfalls. Twin Rivers High School.


Dr. Millner (psychologist at the Longview Rehab center)

Kimi MC’s younger sister

Jordan Greycloud – Native american, good looking, tall, new to town.

Nicole – Main Character’s only friend.

The Dramatic Question

Will the Main Character find out the truth of what happened that night? Was her friend Hailey murdered? Are the Main Character’s memories reliable?

The Argument Against Transformation

She really wants to know what’s real but she’s afraid to find out.

Meet the Antagonist/Introduce Mystery

What really happened that night? Why the black tears? Why would she purposefully drive them off the bridge? Dreams–stranger in the river–medallion he gave her that night.

The Stakes

If she doesn’t figure out the truth, she won’t trust herself again. She will be broken forever. Strange symbols and nightmares that point to the antagonist and she wants to know if she will survive.

First Doorway of No Return

Decides to investigate and find out what really happened that night.

Inciting Event

Accident that happened 1 year ago.

Key Event

She finds a note in her locker from her dead friend that basically says, “If anything happens to me, it wasn’t an accident.”

Act II

Into the New World

Her reaction to the letter, her thoughts and emotions. Goes through everything that happens that night and tries to figure out what is real.

The Plan

A plan she writes out: Keep it secret. Investigate the truth. Investigate the medallion. Talk to Hailey’s mom. Get her driving privileges back to drive to investigate.

Tests and Challenges/Reactions

She gets the car back and goes to see Hailey’s mom. She finds strange drawings/symbols in the closet similar to ones she drew after a scary nightmare. She researches the symbols online.

Talks to the coach–red herring–is he involved? Her anger physically harms someone?

She asks for information on the new guy, Jordan, but she has to go through her ex who is working in the school’s records office.

Investigates the medallion and finds out about spirit walkers.

Mom is worried and wants her to go back to her therapist.

The First Pinch Point/Antagonist Attack

Has a run in with the ex boyfriend’s new girlfriend. In her anger, a dark shadow slithers around the girl’s boot. 

The Midpoint

Decides to go back to the scene of the accident, and remembers a lot of things about that night. The darkness coaxes her to try to kill herself, but is saved by Jordan who admits the person she remembers is his brother who has also been missing for the last year. 

The Mirror Moment

Change or die. If she doesn’t trust Jordan, she might lose her life in this.

Reaction to Midpoint

She begins to talk to Jordan and discuss what happened to them that night.

The New Plan

She’s going to lie to her mom, and go see Jordan after school to investigate.

Hard Choices, More Tests, and the Push to the Goal

Sees Jordan shift into a wolf. He is a spirit walker.

Actively explores Hailey’s runs and her patterns. A run in with the ex boyfriend, but now she’s growing stronger.

She’s still struggling with lying to her parents, guilt. Decides to open up to her sister.

Escalating tension with her friend Nicole.

Second Pinch Point/Antagonist Attack

She asks Nicole what happened at the party, what she remembers. Nicole tells her a story she’s never heard that Hailey purposefully drugged her. She is shocked, so much that her anger comes up again, and when Nicole touches her arm in concern, the MC faints, overcome by the darkness.

Second Doorway of No Return

Jordan takes her to a medicine woman, who can sense that an evil spirit which Spirit walkers used to contain was set free in some way, and took residence in Hailey’s body. When Hailey died, the spirit went into the next person–the Main Character–and the reason she can fight it, and has been fighting it this whole time, is because the Main Character is a Spirit Walker herself.


Increased Danger/Mounting Forces

Main Character and Jordan have a bit of romantic development, and she realizes she has something to live for.

Investigate Hailey’s run with her GPS and they find a cave that holds an idol, but there are two sets of footprints there. The spirit may have been split in two. Is there another spirit out there wanting to kill her?

Final Plan

Find out who else was running with Hailey and who has the other half of the spirit, as they are out to kill her.

Storm the Castle

Goes to the ex’s new girlfriend’s house thinking the other runner was her. No obvious symbols or markings, but she and Jordan fight. She decides to cool off by going to study with Nicole.

Black Moment

Nicole gives her a bottle of something to drink, and the Main Character realizes that she’s been drugged. Nicole is the one who has the other side of the soul. She realizes that Nicole is the one who drugged them at the party one night. She wakes up alone, tied up in the woods with Nicole. 

Q Factor

She remembers the medallion she has, and calls upon her ancestors for help. 

Final Battle

Main Character is embracing her spirit walker self for the first time. Her chains are broken and she embraces her light to defeat Nicole, and takes the full force of the spirit into herself.


Her and Jordan bury the body, Nicole’s funeral, one totem goes to the medicine woman, the other is broken but there’s a footprint in the ooze. 


If you’re interested in other posts in this series, check them out:

The Hero’s Journey (Monomyth)

7-Point Plot Structure

Snowflake Method

What do you think about this plotting method? Let me know in the comments below!

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