What I Learned From Michael Hauge Part 2

Last week, I shared my notes on Michael’s opening comments and his insight into the Hero’s inner Journey during his Master Class. Today I’m sharing my notes on his six-stage Plot Structure and at which point the hero’s Transformation occurs.


If you’ve visit Mr. Hauge’s website, you can see his Six-Stage Plot Structure chart.

It’s broken down into Set-up, New situation, Progress, Complications & Higher Stakes, Final Push and Aftermath. In between each he’s labeled 10% Opportunity, 25% change of Plans, 50% Point of No Return, 75% Major Setback and 90-99% Climax.

Setup-Stage One:

We introduce are hero in his everyday life, the life he has lead for years. He is stuck.

During the intro we need to create empathy for the character and this must be done before any character flaws are revealed. The reader must like or sympathize with the character before flaws are shown.

The character must be put into jeopardy. Not necessarily life threatening, but in danger of losing something of importance to character

Character must be likeable. Good hearted toward others.

Or, there should be humor. Character has the courage to say what we would not.

Also, we need to show that hero has the skills to overcome what will stand in his way.

 At 10% mark: Hero is stuck in his identity.

Opportunity happens (1st turning point) and creates an immediate desire to enter new situation and a need to react. This is not the main goal for the character. It is a primarily goal that sets him on a path. It can be either a curse or a blessing.  

New Situation-Stage Two: opportunity forces character to react while keeping in his identity. However, in reacting he gets a glimpse of his essence. He could get a glimpse of his essence from the point of view of a secondary character.  (Hero reacts and secondary character states, “Man that was so cool. I can’t believe you just did that.”)

 At 25% mark: Change of Plans

Your hero starts his journey, believing he will remain in his identity, which actually forces him toward his essence. This is where the outer motivation begins. The Hero defines his success.  In Braveheart, it’s the moment his bride is killed.

Stage Three: Process

Our hero starts to take on elements of essence. He defines a plan to accomplish goal. During this stage he wavers between identity and essence. He feels vulnerable in essence and retreats to identity.

At 50% mark: Point of No Return

Something must happen to make our hero totally commit. At this point, they let go of their identity and accept the change and move forward. Example in romance, their declaration of love.

In Pride and Prejudice, it when Mr. Darcy reveals his love for Elizabeth. In Hunt For Red October, it’s when Jack Ryan jumps out of the helicopter and into the sea, determined to save the world from a nuclear war.

Stage Four: Complications & Higher Stakes

Our hero steadily evolves toward essence. He makes a promise to someone or vows to himself. “As God as my witness. I will never go hungry again.” Scarlett in Gone With The Wind.

The ticking clock gets louder. Obstacles get bigger. Pace quickens. More conflict is add.

At 75%: Major Setback

Something has to happen that makes the hero stop dead in his tracks. He retreats to old life/identity and discovers that you can never go home again. The truth he’s been searching for comes out.

During this section of the story a secondary character will come to the hero and say “Why are you not acting like you?” In Notting Hill, it’s the scene where Will is sitting with his friends and has told them about Anna baring her soul to him and Spike enters and states, “You draft prick!” It the wake up moment for Will.

Stage Five: Final Push

Your hero must pull up his bootstraps and go for the goal. No holding back.

In Independence Day, Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum get on the alien ship and take off to destroy the mother ship.

Depending on your story, between 90% and 99% the Climax will occur.

The main goal will be resolved. He wins the girl. He defeats the villain. In You’ve Got Mail, It’s the moment when Kathleen and Joe meet in the park and she realizes her on-line friend has been Joe the whole time.

Stage Six: Aftermath

We see our hero in his essence enjoying his new life. Again using Notting Hill, it the end of the movie where we see Will participating in Anna’s world and both of them comfortable in their new roles.

And there you have my notes. I hope I’ve helped you in understanding story structure.


His Witness To Evil

Autumn Jordon is the award-winning author of romantic suspense-mystery-thrillers such as her Golden Heart Finalist and Golden Leaf winner His Witness To Evil. After her family business was comprised by The Russian Mafia and the FBI investigated, she grabbed her note pad and pen and went on to interview the agents. Join her newsletter at and be privy to upcoming releases, sales, and events. Also, you’ll receive free reads and be entered into her monthly contest for great prizes

19 responses to “What I Learned From Michael Hauge Part 2”

  1. Elizabeth Langston says:

    Thanks for this post. As I read thru it, I compared it to my current WIP, and I may have a few spots to tighten up.

    • You’re welcome, lady.

      I compared my first draft to it also and I was amazed that I was within pages of matching the % marks, except for one area. And wow, it was the area that bothered me. I rewrote a few scenes and it reads much better.

  2. Tamara Hogan says:

    Autumn, such great information from Hauge. His workshop was a revelation to me.

    I teach a workshop on scene and story structure at The Loft Literary Center in the Twin Cities. Part of the workshop time is spent familiarizing genre writers with various approaches to story structure. Hauge, Larry Brooks, Blake Snyder, Joseph Campbell/Chris Vogler, Alexandra Sokoloff…so many writers have very generously published information about their approach. Whether we use spreadsheets, flow charts, spiral notebooks, storyboarding software, or sticky notes…which approach resonates? Now that you’ve seen some examples, pick one and give it a try. 😉 There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here, especially when people like Hauge have already done it so well.

    • You’ve thrown some new names at me, Tammy. Thanks. I’ve read/studied a few you mentioned and my eyes have crossed over on some. I know I’m definitely not a spreadsheet person.

      Everyone should try different approaches and see what is right for them, at that time. Sometimes, what doesn’t make sense today might tomorrow.

      Thanks for posting all those suggestions again.

    • Rita Henuber says:

      Tammy I feel the same way. There are many brilliant instructors who say the same thing in different ways. Finding one to connect with is the important part. Or even taking a bit from each.

  3. Great information, Autumn. Thank you for sharing!

  4. So much goodness here, Autumn! Every time I study Hauge’s story structure techniques, I take away something new. The one line from your notes that really stood out for me today was: “we need to show that hero has the skills to overcome what will stand in his way.” So off to make sure I SHOW that my hero has skillz! Thanks for sharing!

    • That was a golden tidbit for me also, Shelly. Showing something as simple as the hero figuring out a Cubix Cube, will tell the reader that he has the ability to solve a mystery.

      Remember Michael’s words. Keep it simple.

  5. Cynthia Huscroft says:

    As always, thanks for sharing the info. Have printed “Part 2” out as well.

  6. Rita Henuber says:

    Thank you Autumn. I’ve taken notes. It all seems so simple until I sit down to write. Sigh.
    I’m coming back with a PS. Taking Autumn’s notes and using them in a brainstorming plotting session could be very helpful.

    • “Keep it simple” will always remind me of Hauge’s workshop. I think sometimes we bog ourselves down over thinking our plots. Yes they can twisty and have complexity but if we make them too much readers will get lost and not enjoy the real story. So keep it simple, Rita.

  7. Vivi Andrews says:

    This is fascinating, Autumn. I will have to check out one of his workshops. So much information! I feel like this is the kind of thing you have to hear more than once in order to process. Or at least I do! 🙂

    • It’s funny you say that, Vivi, because I heard so many say the same thing at the event. I know I would sit through the same workshop again in a heartbeat. Hmmm, I’ve never been to Colorado.

  8. Great refresher for me! Loved that workshop.

  9. Liz Talley says:

    Sounds like you got some amazing insight into the process of storytelling. I hope I can attend one of his workshops some day. Everyone raves.


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