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The 27 Chapter Blueprint: Exploring a Method to Novel Writing

October 25, 2023

Kat O’Keefe’s 9 Blocks, 27 Chapter Method gives writers a strategic framework to build their novel around. Using the basis of Three Act Structure, the method uses the power of three to divide each act into three blocks, and each block into three beats. These beats can each be turned into a chapter, giving you a comprehensive story in 27 Chapters.

Let’s break it down.

Act I: Establishing the World and Its Challenges

The first act introduces your audience to the characters and their familiar environments. It also sets up the conflicts your characters may find and lays the necessary elements in place to push your characters’ stories into motion.

Block 1: Introduction

The introduction reveals the main character’s ordinary world. In this block, the audience will learn about their daily life, the environment they live in, their personality, and their outlook on life. This setup allows the audience to get to know them before everything changes. And everything will change.

The inciting incident – the moment that kicks off any story – occurs anywhere from the middle to the end of this block. Here, something will disrupt the main character’s ordinary life, typically in the form of a problem.

he introduction ends with the character’s initial reaction to this problem and the changes that might immediately result from it.

Block 2: First Conflicts

This block follows what happens after the inciting incident in the introduction. The main character deals with long-term consequences of the problem now, as it pushes them into new circumstances. These are often uncomfortable for them. Because of this, they begin to see just how much the problem has affected their life and the world around them. To deal with this, they begin to plan out their next steps.

After planning, the main character makes a decision to take action. This could be an attempt to navigate through or solve the problem from the inciting incident. Whatever it is, it will impact the trajectory of the story. Before they can get too far, however, something prevents them from carrying out the full plan. This chapter is crucial for dramatizing their struggle and resilience in chaos.

The block ends as the character is faced with the consequences of their decisions and actions. They must deal with the results of their plan being stopped halfway through. This push and pull of setbacks and successes show the turmoil within the character as they grapple with their new reality.

Block 3: No Turning Back

In the resolution of the first act, the main character begins to feel increasing stress to complete the tasks in front of them. Their internal and external battles should highlight their vulnerability and humanity.

In the middle of this block, the main character experiences a pinch. This is when something complicates the plot – a new problem arises or a plot twist is revealed.They begin to wonder if the decisions they’ve been making have been the right ones. At this point, the audience and the main character learn more about the antagonist.

Because of the pinch, the main character is pushed towards a significant change or decision. This is the point of no return. They enter a new world, leaving their ordinary world behind.

Act II: Venturing Into the Unknown

The second act explores the new world your main character finds themselves in, comparing and contrasting it to their former situation. Here, conflicts continue to escalate until the midpoint changes everything, again, and your character must find a new determination to finish the journey they set out on in Act I. 

Block 1: Exploration

Now in their new world, the main character begins to explore. They find themselves in new situations, new environments, facing new challenges, and among new people. This is a time of discovery, learning, and transition.

Through fun and games, the character experiences a reprieve from the challenges around them. They build new relationships and strengthen old bonds. They discover more about themselves as a person. This chapter is a convenient place to add comedy to relieve the stress of the inevitable tension in following chapters.

As the main character explores this world, they compare it to their old world and are reminded of how much everything has changed. This can happen internally, with the character’s thoughts and feelings. It can also be shown through their environment and the people they interact with.

Block 2: New World, New Problems

In this block, the main character is reminded that even though they are in a new situation, their problems must still be dealt with. A struggle, internal or external, motivates them to take matters into their own hands. This acts as a build-up to the midpoint of the story.

At the midpoint, new complications appear. For the second time, everything changes.

The reversal explores these changes. This is a major turning point – the character is propelled into a new direction by a big reveal. Something that appeared to be one thing has turned out to be another. For example, a good guy is revealed to be a bad guy. Whatever it is, it dramatically shifts the character’s perceptions and loyalties.

Block 3: Determination

After the big reveal in Block 2, the story covers the main character’s initial reaction. This can include their thoughts, their feelings, or the actions they take in response to such a big change.

The second chapter in this block explores a time for action. The main character decides to solve the problem that the reversal created or find a way to go around it. This can take the form of a series of trials that show character growth.

At this point, the main character has come into a fresh determination to finally face the problem introduced at the beginning of the story. They regroup with other characters and prepare for the final battle. This can include learning new skills, gathering materials or information, or forming new alliances.

Act III: The Climactic Convergence

In the third act, the main character experiences a crushing defeat and doesn’t know if they can continue. Their character and resolve are tested more than ever before. If they find a new resolve, they bounce into action one more time. This leads to the final battle, where they either succeed or fail, and explores what happens afterwards.

Block 1: All Hope Is Lost

At the beginning of Act III, the main character has the solution to the main conflict. They use the  quiet calm before the impending climax to resolve lingering doubts and tie off loose ends.

One final plot twist creates more tension that complicates the main character’s course of action. They are stopped from doing what they need to do and everything becomes worse as a consequence. This can also take the form of a conflict gone wrong, where the main character faces defeat.

Because of this roadblock, all hope seems lost. The stakes are at their highest, but the character is unable to see the right path.

Block 2: The Resurgence

Somehow, your character must muster up a new courage and determination to carry on. This is a pivotal moment in their arc and signifies a transformation into who they have become. 

This determination to see the fight to the end causes them to take action, overcome the problem the plot twist in Block 1 introduced, and turn their attention to the main conflict once again.

At this point, every part of your story must come together. All subplots should resolve or merge with the main plot. The characters gather together one last time and your reader anticipates the impending final showdown.

Block 3: Triumph in Ruins

The final stretch of Act III sees the main character confronting the antagonist or main conflict head-on. 

At the climax of their battle, the character either fails or succeeds. This is the culmination of their journey and the story itself.

Whatever happens, the resolution reveals the aftermath of the final battle. All loose ends are resolved, and among them, the reader is shown just how much the main character has changed over the course of their story. This metamorphosis allows for a cohesive, satisfying conclusion.

Closing Thoughts

The 27 Chapter Method is an extensive blueprint for how to write a full novel, mapping out each step of the process for you. By following each block and chapter, you can create a compelling narrative that encompasses your protagonist’s journey from their ordinary world to a triumphant (or tragic) ending. The framework over the basic 3 Act structure allows for a balanced approach, which combines character development, plot progression, and an exploration of themes that is sure to engage your readers.

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