So You Think You Can Write-Part 4.3: Michael Hauge’s 6 Stages

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Michael Hauge is a story and script consultant who works in Hollywood. He has his own coaching services to help those who want to break into the industry. For this particular outline, I’m going to be sharing examples from Big Hero 6.

Stage 1:

  • Setup: This establishes a character who has little to no desire to change, even though he’s flawed in some shape or form. Hiro is skilled at making robots, but he wastes his time getting money from illegal robot fights.
  • Opportunity: Hiro’s brother, Tadashi, gives him a tour of his college

Stage 2:

  • New Situation:  Through meeting Tadashi’s friends, Hiro gets a glimpse of what he could do if he went to college with them.
  • Change in Plans: Hiro starts working on a robot that he can present at the tech expo, which will give him the opportunity to go to college with his brother and his friends.

Stage 3:

  • Progress: Hiro makes his presentation at the tech expo. However, just as he gets accepted into Tadashi’s school, the expo building is suddenly on fire. Tadashi goes into rescue his professor and dies in the explosion.
  • Turning Point: The action of the movie begins when Hiro accidentally activates Baymax. He also finds a microbot that is still active, in spite of the fact that his machines were supposedly destroyed in the fire. He realizes that a guy in a mask must’ve stolen his microbots and caused the explosion. Hiro turns Baymax into a combat nurse robot.

Stage 4:

  • Complications and Higher Stakes: This particular plot point allows for multiple scenes. In Big Hero 6, Tadashi searches for the man in the mask. Things get complicated when Tadashi’s friends distract from the mission. However, Hiro gets the idea to turn Tadashi’s friends into a superhero team and search for the man in the mask.
  • Major Setback: Tadashi finds out that the man in the mask is really Tadashi’s professor Callaghan, who refuses to take responsibility for Tadashi’s death. Hiro orders Baymax to kill Callaghan, but things go wrong.

Stage 5:

  • The Final Push: This is when the protagonist uses everything he’s learned to solve the problem once and for all. Thanks to Baymax, Hiro finds a sense of closure over Tadashi’s death. He also learns why Callaghan caused the fire and sole the microbots: to get revenge on Krei for the loss of his daughter.
  • Climax:  The final battle occurs when the Big Hero 6 confront Callaghan as he attempts to get revenge on Krei at a public event. A portal to a different dimension opens and Hiro and Baymax rescue Abigail, but Baymax sacrifices himself to get Hiro and Abigail out of the dimension.

Stage 6:

  • Aftermath: Upon discovering that the chip was in Baymax’s rocket-launched hand, he rebuilds Baymax and continues on his heroic adventures with Tadashi’s friends.

This outline works great when you have a character who has to undergo a change in order to become a better person. If you’re someone who likes a character-driven story, this outline might work out for you.

 

So You Think You Can Write-Part 2: Creating a Story

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Once you get the idea for a story, the next thing you need to do is plan out the story.

In the writing world, there are two kinds of people. Or really, three: Plotters, Pantsers, and the In-Betweeners.

Plotters are people who write a thorough, detailed plot outline, complete with character profiles and information on worldbuilding. The details that go into their novels can fill an entire notebook. Pantsers are people who just take the ideas in their head and write out the story as they go, with only a vague idea about where the story is going. I consider myself an Inbetweener. A Plotter with Pants, so to speak. When I create my stories, I create a plot outline with the major events in mind, create character profiles, and research the worlds that my characters live in.  However, once I have a basic outline, my characters, and an idea on where everything will take place, I write out all the major events and then fly by the seat of my pants trying to fill in the gaps in between.

Whether you’re a Plotter, Pantser, or an Inbetweener, research is an important part of the pre-writing process. Read books within your genre and look into the stuff that relates to the events and people in your story. Even if your novel takes place in high school, you will want to research potential places for your characters to hang out, the music your characters listen to, the kind of movies they like, etc. These details will enrich your story.

If you’re not sure how to organize all these details, I highly recommend that you read John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story. Even though the book is for screenwriters and movie makers, it gives you a lot of details about what makes a great story. Movies make for a great template because the best movies out there all tell unique, compelling stories.

So which kind of writer are you? Are you a Plotter? A Pantser? Or somewhere in between?