Plot It: 4 Process Methods for Writers

 Plotter? Pantster? Puzzler? Muse Muffin?

Which writing process method is best?

You ask, "Do I have to pick just one?"

RIGHT Answer. In this episode, we find out why.

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Dean Wesley Smith's Writing into the Dark 

The Workshop Series Writing into the Dark Online Workshop | WMG Publishing Lectures and (

The Classic Lecture  Writing into the Dark | WMG Publishing Lectures and Workshops (

The Book Writing into the Dark: How to Write a Novel without an Outline (WMG Writer's Guides) - Kindle edition by Smith, Dean Wesley. Reference Kindle eBooks @

M.A. Lee's Think like a Pro Think like a Pro: New Advent for Writers (Think like a Pro Writer Book 1) - Kindle edition by Lee, M.A.. Reference Kindle eBooks @

    and the Think/Pro Planner  Think / Pro: A Planner for Writers (Think like a Pro Writer): Lee, M.A.: 9781983248672: Books

James Scott Bell's Super Structure Super Structure: The Key to Unleashing the Power of Story (Bell on Writing Book 3) - Kindle edition by Bell, James Scott. Reference Kindle eBooks @

Snowflake Method Pros and cons of the Snowflake Method | Jordan McCollum 

The Archetypal Story Pattern by Christopher Vogler: a raison d'etre The Hero's Journey and Archetypes in Literature (

Joseph Campbell's ASP The Hero’s Journey Archetypal Pattern (


Plot It / 2nd 3 Plotting Methods

We're on to the best or most interesting plotting methods today: the one most used, the one capturing attention, and the one that I recommend.

 We finish 6 plotting methods today with the 4-Act Structure, Kishotenketsu, and the Archetypal Story Structure. On the previous episode we discussed Freytag's Pyramid, Shakespeare's 5-Act Structure, and Complex Plot.

Information is taken from M.A. Lee's Think like a Pro. This is the 4th part (D) of chapter 3, "One Guiding Decision: Plot It."

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Archetypal Story Pattern 

4-Act Method 


 Ki. Shō. Ten. Ketsu.

Yes, that’s right. Kishōtenketsu. A Japanese word.

This is the plotting method about which I’ve just learned.

According to research, it is the plotting method of Asian narratives. Originating in China, the method is also used in Korea. The word Kishōtenketsu (which I have no idea how to pronounce, having only read it … and online pronunciation machines only get me so far.) is the Japanese word for that nation’s method.

All three follow the same 4-Act Structure, and supposedly the structure is not bound to conflict. The stages are


  •      Introduction, then
  •          Hardship or Complications (this is sounding very like Shakespearean 5-Act structures or Complex Plot),
  •         Reversal or Twist or Turning Point is the 3rd Act, the first moment where we have a difference … although Shakespearean structure has a Reversal. But it’s not.
  •         The difference continues into the 4th act, which is the Conclusion or where the 3rd Act Twist resolves with Acts I and II. It’s a Reconciliation of the Beginning with the Twist.

That 3rd Act Twist is an unexpected development of the story. It contains the most important element, the yama or climax.

Example 1

As explanation, Wikipedia presents a story from Sanyo Rai, “Daughters of Itoya” which is in the Honmachi of Osaka. Sanyo Rai lived 1780-1832, so his work is in the public domain. I’m going to use his “Daughters of Itoya” as an example of Kishōtenketsu.

  • In Acts I and II, we meet the two daughters, one 16 and the other 14. The development presents their youth and how they are associated with violence.
  • Remember that Act III Twist? In the Twist, we discover that, let me quote, “Throughout history, daimyos (powerful feudal lords, under the rule of a shogun and the emperor, protected the people) killed the enemy with bows and arrows.” This is totally not expected after two acts with the sweet young daughters of Itoya. We can anticipate, however, that they are the daimyos.
  • Sure enough, in Act IV, we discover that “the daughters of Itoya kill with their eyes” (still Wikipedia). I assume they are magical daimyos that bad people would not expect. According to Wikipedia, ”they seduce men with their eyes, killing them just as the, until now, unrelated generals who kill with bows and arrows.”

Now, supposedly this is a story structure without conflict. Actually, the conflict—the young women’s special power—is hidden. Acts I and II apparently have no foreshadowing. Without seeing a translation of the “Daughters of Itoya” and other stories in the Honmachi of Osaka, I cannot state with any certainty that there is no conflict or foreshadowing. They might be there as hidden metaphors.

The 3rd Act Twist or Turning Point may be an unexpected complication. It certainly directs us to the end—which is actually expected now that we know the pattern.

Example 2

Nils Odlund in an article entitled “Kishōtenketsu for Beginners” has a made-up story to explain this Asian plotting method, which is flooding the writing world. You can find the article at Mythic Scribes: the Art of Fantasy Story-telling. I will have the link in the Show Notes … as well as the link to the Wikipedia article.

  •        Act I or Ki introduces as fisherman on his sea-faring boat. He hasn’t caught enough.
  •         In Act II or Shō, the fisherman decides to return hom to his family which he loves even more than he loves the sea.
  •          Ten (Act III) gives us the unexpected Twist. Let me quote Odlund. “The third act is about a woman hiding in the forest with two crying children. She’s the fisherman’s wife, and she’s hiding because their village got attacked by brigands.”
  •          Act IV, Ketsu, unites the fisherman and his wife and children in the destroyed village. They use his boat to find another village.

I have greatly paraphrased Odlund, but we can see how his story matches to the “Daughters of Itoya” in that unpredicted Act III.

While the 4th Act of the “Daughters of Itoya” clearly links the first two acts with the third, we don’t have that in Odlund’s story. The hiding wife and children and the attacking brigands are not at all hinted or foreshadowed in the first acts. I suppose we could have hidden symbols: a red sun burning his flesh or swimming sharks that make it impossible to bring in a catch or such things. Odlund does not provide them.

He calls the third act not a conflict but presenting a Tension. The contrast, I’m quoting here, “the contrast between what we’ve seen in the past (the fisherman on his way home after a day on the sea) and what we’re seeing at the moment (the village being ransacked)” as well as the fearful mother trying to keep terrified children quiet.

Odlund tells us to plan a Kishōtenketsu story by making a list of what each of the four acts need to achieve.


Kishōtenketsu is not Shakespeare’s structure or any occidental story structure that depends on the early introduction of the conflict. Romeo and Juliet starts with a street fight to introduce the feud between the families. Hamlet opens with the ghost; Macbeth, with the witches. In western stories, conflict is the predominant Action and its Reaction, antagonist outwitting the protagonist and often destroying the protagonist’s dearest desire—which sets the protagonist on the Hero’s Journey.

In this Asian narrative, we open with a character in seeming or actual harmony with the universe. We have serenity and knowledge that the characters are content with their purpose. Act III gives us the disruption of that harmony. We the audience—and the aware writer reading to learn—may guess at the coming reconciliation of Act III with the first two acts, but we don’t know, not until we have Act IV. Then we should go back and look for hidden clues.

Whatever we think, notice that the characters in Act IV—the fisherman and his family, the daughters of Itoya—are fulfilling the purpose that restores their harmony. In Sanyo Rai, we may have an actual conflict between the daughters and the men; I need a translation to confirm or deny. In Odlund’s fisherman story, we only see the after-result of the brigand’s attack. We don’t “have” the fisherman confronting the brigands. We would have that confrontation in a western story, especially Shakespeare or Aristotle or any other western plotting method.

I can’t say which is better. It’s just different.

And that is its attraction.


Wikipedia contributors. "Kishōtenketsu." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 16 Dec. 2020. Web. 18 Dec. 2020.

Odlund, Nils. “Kishōtenketsu for Beginners.” Mythic Scribes: the Art of Fantasy Story Telling. Mythic Scribes Community. No Post Date/2020. Web. 18 Dec. 2020.


Links are to Amazon. Choose your own book dealer. Indeed, pick a small one or buy local. Vogler’s and Campbell’s books are best-sellers.

Lee, M.A. Think like a Pro 

Vogler, Christopher. The Writer’s Journey  

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a 1,000 Faces

For an in-depth discussion of the 5 plotting methods, check out Discovering Your Plot, by me!, at

Thank you for listening to the podcast episode and reading this blog.

Plot It / 3C / 1st 3 Plotting Methods to Build Story

Of all the plots that writers write (!),

their structural methods are only 6 in number.

This episode we have the pros and cons of 3 Plot Methods. It's Part C of chapter 3, One Guiding Decison: Plot It of Think like a Pro: New Advent for Writers.

In the next episode, we'll cover the other methods, 2 of the best plus one that I just learned about, kishotenketsu. (Give us a listen, and hear me mangle a Japanese word.)

Contact us at with questions, comments, and speculations.

Write on.

Listen to the episode on Podbean 

or on YouTube


Nancy Duarte's TED Talk: Nancy Duarte: The secret structure of great talks | TED Talk

Find an ebook or paperback of Think like a Pro at this link.

Plot It > part B of chapter 3 / Think like a Pro

We're Bookcasting with Think like a Pro by M.A. Lee.

We're still in chapter 3, One Guiding Decision: Plot It. Part B ... with four parts of this chapter. Hey! Plot's important. It's the foundation of the story.

This episode is a reboot of the 7 types of plot, with the simple key to developing your story and additional example stories. We also propose an exercise for the 7 plot types that will build story-crafting skills.

Write for questions, comments, and speculations.

Listen on Podbean here at this link 

 and on YouTube by clicking here.


Think like a Pro: New Advent for Writers, available in ebook or paperback at this link.

Think/Pro: A Planner for Writers, only in print.

Christopher Booker The 7 Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories. Here.

Free Novella to Start the New Year

 Happy New Year! Let's start 2021 with a freebie.

We have the first scene in the novella The Lion's Den, set in London after the Great War. It's from M.A.

Lee, which means it's a mystery!

Here's the Teaser:

Jack Portman had never forgotten Filly Malvaise. Then she walked into his local pub and into the clutches of a loan shark. Can he rescue her before she falls victim to evil?

Listen on Podbean or YouTube. It's less than 15 minutes [which is our goal although we rarely achieve less than. =) ]

The Lion's Den is connected by a single thread to the Into Death series, which features the artist Isabella Newcombe. Jack and Filly first appeared in the mystery Christmas with Death.

If you enjoy this excerpt, write to to receive a free copy of The Lion's Den and to subscribe to our newsletter. We won't bombard you with emails, promise, just quick monthly announcements of what's new and what's relevant in the Writers Ink world, composed to M.A. Lee, Edie Roones, and Remi Black.

Visit to find more works by these three writers.


At the first of the year--and the end of the year--M.A. Lee always promotes the Think/Pro Planner for Writers. The planner offers daily incentives to track word counts and a project's progression, with monthly and yearly reviews and previews to keep us advancing toward our publication goals.

Purchase it here!

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