Master Plot Formula – Case Study

Hello lovelies! This week I am going over the Master Plot Formula Case study. If you aren’t familiar with this method, you can read more about it in this post, but to summarize, 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.

Today we are going to walk through a story from Lester’s own mind. Let’s get into it.

Part One

Action should do something besides advance the hero over the scenery. Suppose the hero has learned the dastards of villains have seized somebody named Eloise, who can explain the secret of what is behind all these sinister events. The hero corners villains, they fight, and villains get away. Not so hot.

Hero should accomplish something with his tearing around, if only to rescue Eloise, and surprise! Eloise is a ring-tailed monkey. The hero counts the rings on Eloise’s tail, if nothing better comes to mind.

They’re not real. The rings are painted there. Why?

Part Two

When writing, it helps to get at least one minor surprise to the printed page. It is reasonable to to expect these minor surprises to sort of inveigle the reader into keeping on. They need not be such profound efforts. One method of accomplishing one now and then is to be gently misleading. Hero is examining the murder room. The door behind him begins slowly to open.

He does not see it. He conducts his examination blissfully. Door eases open, wider and wider, until–surprise! The glass pane falls out of the big window across the room. It must have fallen slowly, and air blowing into the room caused the door to open. Then what the heck made the pane fall so slowly? More mystery.

Characterizing a story actor consists of giving him some things which make him stick in the reader’s mind. TAG HIM.

Part Three

These outlines or master formulas are only something to make you certain of inserting some physical conflict, and some genuine plot twists, with a little suspense and menace thrown in.

Without them, there is no pulp story.

These physical conflicts in each part might be DIFFERENT, too. If one fight is with fists, that can take care of the pugilism until next the next yarn. Same for poison gas and swords.

There may, naturally, be exceptions. A hero with a peculiar punch, or a quick draw, might use it more than once.

The idea is to avoid monotony.


Vivid, swift, no words wasted. Create suspense, make the reader see and feel the action.


Hear, smell, see, feel and taste.


Trees, wind, scenery and water.


Part Four

Ask yourself 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 liked this, you can see more in this series by following the links below:

The Hero’s Journey – Case Study

Heart Breathings – Case Study

7-Point Plot Structure – Case Study

Snowflake Method – Case Study

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