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Six-Stage Structure

Plot and Structure: Michael Hauge’s Six-Stage Structure

I’ve been wanting to write a blog post about Michael Hauge’s Six-Stage Structure since attending his all-day session at the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference in August 2016. I did write a summary post (Identity, Essence, and God), but I didn’t cover the detail of his approach to writing novels and screenplays.

I couldn’t. Because it can’t be boiled down to a 600-word blog post. But over the last year I have come across some free and paid resources where Michael Hauge explains his approach to plot. So I’m going to share those instead of trying to cover everything myself.

Michael Hauge is best known as a screenwriting consultant, and his books do tend to focus on screenplays. But (as he argues), the essential elements of fiction are the same, whether the medium is novel or film or TV. And many writers would like to see their novels adapted into a film—it seems to me that we give ourselves the best chance of making that possible if we start by writing a novel that is structured like a film.

Yes, structure is the key.

A lot of writing instructors focus entirely on plot or structure. It’s not that they ignore character. It’s more that they place structure first. Plot then falls out of that, then character. But if you’ve tried to write a book like that, you’ve probably found it more difficult than it sounds. I think the reason is that it’s easy to explain structure: it’s a formula (and that’s not a bad thing). It’s engineering, and there is a right way to build a story.

Character is harder. Everyone is unique, and our characters also have to be unique. But trying to develop unique characters can’t be reduced to a formula. And that’s where Michael Hauge’s Six Stage Structure can help. (Click here to download a copy.)

Hauge’s methodology complements the work of many other leading writing teachers, e.g.

Here are a few key lessons from Michael Hauge:

  • Your role as a writer is to elicit emotion in the reader. That’s it.
  • The way you elicit emotion is by introducing conflict. Internal and external conflict is what engages your reader (or viewer) and gets them to care.
  • You can manipulate conflict using techniques such as a ticking close, or superior knowledge.
  • All stories are about a character who wants something, but something stands in their way. This must be a visible goal.
  • All characters have an emotional wound they are trying to overcome, and the best way to reveal the wound is through dialogue i.e. show, don’t tell.
  • Avoid multiple-hero stories.

For more information:

Film Courage Interview

Film Courage interviewed Michael in January 2017, and the 90-minute recording is available on YouTube. It’s their most-viewed interview of 2017, and I can see why.

Udemy Course

The interview references some work Michael Hauge did with Chris Vogler, integrating Hauge’s Story Structure with Vogler’s Hero’s Journey. This is available via Udemy. The full course includes over six hours of video. The full price is $175, but Udemy hold regular sales (I got it for $10). I suggest signing up for Udemy’s newsletter so you get notified when they hold a sale.

Writing Screenplays that Sell

Michael Hauge has several books. I’ve read Writing Screenplays That Sell, which I recommend. Hauge goes into a lot of detail about character development, theme, and structure, then moves into how to write and format a screenplay. This section is of less use to novelists but is still worth reading for the occasional relevant nugget. But the book is worth the price for the information in the first section.

You can read the introduction below:

Best of the Blogs

Christian Editing Services | Best of the Blogs | 18 November 2017

We’re more than halfway through November already! For those of you attempting NaNoWriMo this month, how are you going?

I’ve flunked. But I have written and loaded a heap of blog posts, almost finished the visual rebranding for a group blog (we’ll roll that out over the Christmas break), and I’m currently doing two online courses with Lawson Writer’s Academy, one on writing craft, and one on marketing. The writing course has shown me how little I know my characters … which is why I’ve flunked NaNo.

Anyway, on with the news …



Michael Hauge asks What’s Your Theme? A novel needs an overall theme … but it’s something a lot of authors either skim over, or try and shoehorn in at the end.

What Are You Writing?

David Farland asks Are You Writing a Book, or a Movie? He goes on to explain the differences in point of view for novels and movies. As it happens, I’m currently writing a blog post on this subject, inspired by a course I’m taking through Lawson Writers Academy.


Cover Design

Paul Barrett, Art Director of Girl Friday Productions, visits Author Marketing Experts to share Book Marketing 101: 10 Things Not to Do on Your Book Cover. There are so many bad book covers out there! Unfortunately, the authors don’t know they’re bad (because surely you wouldn’t deliberately allow your book to go out with an awful cover?).

I suspect that’s because many newbie authors can’t see beyond it’s a book! With my name on the cover!

They don’t know the principles of good design … and it’s something you need to know before you start designing your first book cover (actually, for many authors, that’s their first mistake. Designing their own cover).

Fighting Piracy

Following Maggie Stiefvater’s blog post about her experience with book pirates, Jana Oliver visits Fiction University to share what she’s doing to fight the book pirates in Why eBook Piracy Matters.



Belinda Griffin of SmartAuthorsLab visits The Creative Penn to share 7 Best Ways to Build an Authentic Author Brand.

If you’re interested in learning how to build your brand from nothing, I have two suggestions:

1. Follow my blog. I have a blog series on branding coming up in February 2018.

2. Click here to sign up to my Kick Start Your Author Platform information list. I’ll be running the programme again in March 2018 … and there will be more information about it coming up soon!

Cross Promotion

Diana Urban visits the BookBub blog to share 14 Ways Authors can Cross-Promote Each Other’s Books. You will note none of them include commenting on blog posts (although that’s always welcome!).

Facebook Chatbots

Louise Harnby introduces Facebook Chatbots in How To Market Your Book and Build Your Author Platform Using a Chatbot. What are chatbots? Are they the next big thing in book marketing? Who knows? But they are currently underutilised, and if there is one thing I’ve learned about book marketing, it’s that it pays to be at the leading edge of the curve.

That’s my top seven posts for this week. What’s the best post you’ve read this week on writing, editing, publishing, or marketing?