Eight-Segment Story Structure


Per Marshall Plan:

  • 65kword Novel has 31 Hero sections (4 per Segment)
  • 85kword Novel has 41 Hero sections (5 per Segment)
  • 100kword Novel has 48 Hero sections (6 per Segment)

Act 1

Act I basically tells a complete mini-story on how a hero goes from a dead end life to entering a new world.

Segment 1. This segment establishes the Hero is in his ordinary world and we see the setup of the status quo. An INCITING EVENT happens, exposing the Lie Believed, which revealing the emotional growth (Internal Need).

For Segment 1, these four parts are:

  • Grab the audience’s attention right from the start by setting the tone and either setting up details of the story or showing us the villain or hero in pursuit of a goal.
  • Show the villain or hero failing or unable to achieve the desired goal and being stuck in a dead end.
  • Show the villain and hero gradually coming closer together.
  • Have the villain introduce a Symbol of Hope into the hero’s life.

Segment 2. Hero reacts to the INCITING EVENT by using his current worldview to re-establish the status quo. Despite trying a couple different methods, he ultimately fails and believes the lie proved. This establishes the External (Plot) Goal (Surprise 1) and the inability to turn back.

The basic pattern of Segment 2 (the second half of Act I) involves:

  • The hero pursues a Symbol of Hope goal, which leads him to a mentor
  • The mentor offers the hero a way out of his dead end life
  • The hero tries to return to the old way of life, but the villain cuts the hero off from the past
  • The hero chooses to take a Leap of Faith to enter a new world

Act 2

Segment 3. Committed to the External Goal, Hero explores the LIE and someone speaks the TRUTH he will have to believe.

The four parts of Segment 3 are:

  • The hero pursues the Leap of Faith goal and meets an ally
  • The hero experiences the villain’s power
  • The hero learns the Mentor’s Lesson
  • The villain takes control of the hero’s world again

The basic structure of Segment 3 begins and ends like this:

  • The hero appears on the way to achieving the Symbol of Hope goal
  • The hero falls short of the goal due to the villain

Segment 4. Through this segment, Hero enacts plans to change, recruits allies, trains, and then attempts to solve the story goal without having accepted the TRUTH. The setback leads him to DOUBT THE LIE.

The basic four-part story structure of Segment 4 is:

  • The villain jolts the hero’s plan out of whack
  • The hero demonstrates his resourcefulness by surviving the villain’s attack
  • The villain achieves a minor victory by cornering the hero
  • The hero finally achieves the original goal defined by the event that threw him into the new world

Act 3

Segment 5. He retreats to regroup and he explores the TRUTH, and here we focus more on the nature of the opposition and what he’s really up against.

The basic four-part story structure of Segment 5 is:

  • The villain threatens someone the hero cares for, creating a goal for the hero to pursue
  • The villain appears to win a minor victory
  • The hero responds by battling back
  • The hero defeats the villain and achieves a minor victory based on the goal defined at the beginning of Segment 4

Segment 6. Hero reasserts himself with a new plan that shows he has partially changed, but because of how powerful the evil is, he is utterly defeated. The Lie is Exposed for what it is.

The basic four-part story structure of Segment 6 is:

  • The villain raises the stakes by threatening the hero
  • The hero temporarily escapes from the villain
  • The villain achieves a major milestone towards his goal and appears to have crushed the hero once and for all
  • The hero hits rock bottom and feels that all is lost

Act 4

Segment 7. Hero has now come to believe the TRUTH, and creates a new plan fully embracing that TRUTH.

The basic four-part story structure of Segment 7 is:

  • The villain is on the verge of complete and final success
  • The mentor helps lift the hero up and gain strength and courage to attack the villain once more
  • The hero achieves initial success
  • The villain’s henchmen appear to be victorious

Segment 8. Hero enacts this final plan and is forced to confront the Lie fully. There’s a chance he can win with the Lie, but by this point he embraces the TRUTH so completely that he will not let it go, resulting in Triumph.

The basic four-part story structure of Segment 8 is:

  • The hero appears to be winning
  • The hero suddenly starts to lose when the villain takes charge
  • The hero applies his lesson or skill to change and defeat the villain
  • The hero wins (or loses)

Segment 8 always takes your Segment 3 action and ratchets up the battle to a death match.

Die Hard

Act 1

Segment 1

  • (Inciting incident) Bruce Willis arrives in LA for his goal to get back with his wife. Although we don’t see it, the terrorists are busy planning their goal to assault the skyscraper.
  • (Hero Fails, Villain Maybe) Hero fails to achieve a goal while villain fails or achieves a minor goal – Bruce Willis confides in his limo driver that he’s separated from his wife and trying to get back together with her.
  • (Hero and villain coming together) Bruce Willis makes it to the Christmas party that the terrorists are planning to take over.
  • (Symbol of Hope) The terrorists shoot the entrance guard and take over the party.

Segment 2

  • (Hero pursues a Symbol of Hope goal) Bruce Willis escapes from the terrorists and looks for a way to call for help.
  • (Symbol of Hope pursuit leads the hero to a Mentor) Bruce Willis pulls the fire alarm to alert the authorities.
  • (Villain burns the hero’s bridges to the past) Alerted to Bruce Willis’s existence, the terrorists hunt him down to kill him.
  • (Hero takes a Leap of Faith into a new world) Bruce Willis kills the terrorist and sends his dead body back down to taunt the other terrorists.

Act 2

Segment 3

  • (Initial success) When the terrorists invade, Bruce Willis escapes to an empty floor. The terrorists are unaware of Bruce Willis’s existence, so they continue with their original plan.
  • (Experience the villain’s power) Because he knows about the terrorists, Bruce Willis trips a fire alarm to alert the authorities. The terrorists call the fire department and claim it’s a false alarm so the trucks turn back.
  • (Mentor’s Lesson) The terrorists hunt Bruce Willis down, but he kills them and takes their radio to contact the police (which will lead him to the black police officer who is his Mentor). The terrorists hear his calls and hunt him down.
  • (Hero’s goal in doubt) Bruce Willis escapes. The terrorists believe they have him trapped and neutralized. Bruce Willis is still trying to get help.

Segment 4

  • (Villain Worsens Hero’s Life) Hans sends some terrorists to hunt down Bruce Willis.
  • (Hero Demonstrates Resourcefulness) Bruce Willis kills them instead using just his revolver.
  • (Hero Cornered) Bruce Willis has managed to contact the police so they send a police officer to investigate. Yet everything appears normal because the terrorists are impersonating the security guards and acting like nothing’s wrong. Disgusted, the police officer decides to leave, which makes Bruce Willis’s attempt to defeat the terrorists look hopeless.
  • (False Victory) Bruce Willis has been trying to contact the authorities, His False Victory occurs when he throws the body of a dead terrorist out the window and on to the police car. Now he’s finally alerted the police about the terrorists’ existence, which is his False Victory.

Act 3

Segment 5 - Threaten the Hero

  • (Villain Threatens Hero) The FBI and SWAT teams arrive to take control of the police response. The SWAT team goes in and everything looks good until the terrorists, waiting patiently, ambush the SWAT team members. The hero’s goal at the beginning of Segment 5 is to help the SWAT team.
  • (Hero Responds) The SWAT team responds by sending in an armored car, which the terrorists are also ready for with an anti-tank gun, blowing it up.
  • (Hero Minor Victory) Bruce Willis suddenly realizes he has some detonators, so he builds a bomb, straps it to a chair, and drops it down the elevator shaft.
  • Boom! More terrorists are killed as Bruce Willis succeeds in his goal of helping the SWAT team.

Segment 6 - Raised Stakes

  • (Raise Stakes) Hans the terrorist kills Ellis, who has told Hans who Bruce Willis is. Now that Hans knows who Bruce Willis is, there’s a growing threat that Hans will find out his wife is one of the hostages.
  • (Villain Attacks Hero) the terrorists start hunting Bruce Willis down and Hans, the head terrorist, actually runs into him, but pretends to be a frightened hostage who has escaped, so Bruce Willis gives him a gun.
  • (Villain Achieves Milestone) Hans the terrorist gets the detonators back from Bruce Willis, opens the vault containing the bonds, which was the original goal in the first place, and prepares to make his escape.
  • (Hero’s Rock Bottom) Bruce Willis has staggered away from the firefight with the terrorists and is holed up in a bathroom with glass shards in his feet. His chance of winning looks completely hopeless as he confesses to the black police officer that he wasn’t a good husband to his wife.

Act 4

Segment 7 - Hero Strikes Back

  • (Villain on Verge of Success) the villain is herding the hostages to the roof to blow them up to cover his own escape. Not only does this cold-blooded tactic seem horrible by itself, but it also threatens Bruce Willis’s wife. By blowing up the hostages on the roof, the terrorists can escape in the chaos, completing their final goal.
  • (Moment of Revelation) this moment comes when Bruce Willis is listening to the black police officer’s confession that he accidentally shot a kid who had a toy gun, and he hasn’t been able to shoot his gun ever since. This moment gives Bruce Willis a chance to think about something other than himself. When he hears the terrorists moving the hostages upstairs, he suddenly realizes what the dynamite is for and he’s motivated to battle the villains again.
  • (Into Villain’s Lair) Bruce Willis takes out the remaining terrorists including the one who wants to kill Bruce Willis in revenge for his brother’s death.
  • (Hero’s Initial Success) Bruce Willis is taking out the terrorists as they herd the hostages to the roof and he arrives just in time to scare them back down, thereby foiling the terrorist’s plan.

Segment 8 - s

  • (Hero Almost Wins) Bruce Willis has a pistol taped to his back as he staggers towards the terrorists.
  • (Villain Take’s Control)
  • (Mentor’s Lesson Heeded) the head terrorist grabs Bruce Willis’s wife and threatens to kill her. Then Bruce Willis gives his wife a clue to smack Hans and disarm him. Now we think that Bruce Willis might succeed after all.
  • (Hero Defeats Villain) the head terrorist tries to take Bruce Willis’s wife down with him by holding on to her watch, but Bruce Willis releases the watch and saves his wife, letting the terrorist fall to his death.

Eight Key Scenes

  1. (8) Ending — Triumph! Luke has destroyed the Death Star and is a hero.
  2. (1) Opening — Luke is the opposite of a hero. He thinks of himself as a nobody stuck on an out of the way planet where nothing exciting ever happens.
  3. (2) Symbol of Hope — Luke sees the hologram of Princess Leia.
  4. (3) Mentor’s Lesson— Learning the power of the Force.
  5. (4) Leap of Faith— Luke leaves his dead end planet on the Millennium Falcon.
  6. (5) False Victory – Luke rescues Princess Leia.
  7. (6) Rock Bottom/ Faces Facts — Luke watches helplessly as Darth Vader kills Obi-wan.
  8. (7) Moment of Revelation – Luke uses the Force to help him destroy the Death Star
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