Master Plot Formula – Plot Theory

Have you ever heard of the Master Plot Formula? Lester Dent was born in the early part of the 1900’s and wrote 159 Doc Savage novels using this formula he created to do so.

Meant for 6000 word stories divided into four equal parts, Dent’s formula can also be expanded to use in full novels.

Divide the total word count goal for your novel into four parts. Let’s use 60000 words as our target. Each part, then, is 15000 Words.


First line, or as near thereto as possible, introduce the hero and swat him with a fistful of trouble. Hint at a mystery, a menace or a problem to be solved–something the hero has to cope with.

The hero pitches in to cope with his fistful of trouble. (He tries to fathom the mystery, defeat the menace, or solve the problem.)

Introduce ALL the other characters as soon as possible. Bring them on in action.

Near the end of the first 15000 words, the hero’s endeavors land him in an actual physical conflict.

Near the end of first 15000 words, there is also a complete surprise twist in the plot development.

SO FAR: Does it have SUSPENSE?
Is there a MENACE to the hero?
Does everything happen logically?

SECOND PART (15001-30000 WORDS)

Shovel more grief onto the hero.

The hero, being heroic, struggles, and his struggles lead up to:

Another physical conflict.

And another surprising plot twist to end the 15000 words.

NOW: Does second part have SUSPENSE?
Does the MENACE grow like a black cloud?
Is the hero getting it in the neck?
Is the second part logical?

THIRD PART (30001-45000 WORDS)

Shovel the grief onto the hero.

The hero makes some headway, and corners the villain or somebody in:

Another physical conflict.

And another surprising plot twist, in which the hero preferably gets it in the neck bad, to end the 15000 words.

DOES: It still have SUSPENSE?
The MENACE getting blacker?
The hero finds himself in a hell of a fix?
It all happens logically?

FOURTH PART (45001 – 60000 WORDS)

Shovel the difficulties more thickly upon the hero.

Get the hero almost buried in his troubles. (Figuratively, the villain has him prisoner and has him framed for a murder rap; the girl is presumably dead, everything is lost, and the DIFFERENT murder method is about to dispose of the suffering protagonist.)

The hero extricates himself using HIS OWN SKILL, training or brawn.

The mysteries remaining–one big one held over to this point will help grip interest–are cleared up in course of final conflict as hero takes the situation in hand.

Final twist, a big surprise, (This can be the villain turning out to be the unexpected person, having the “Treasure” be a dud, etc.)

The snapper, the punch line to end it.

HAS: The SUSPENSE held out to the last line?
The MENACE held out to the last?
Everything been explained?
It all happen logically?
Is the Punch Line enough to leave the reader with that WARM FEELING?
Did God kill the villain? Or the hero?

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

The Hero’s Journey (Monomyth)

7-Point Plot Structure

Snowflake Method

Heart Breathings

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

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: