Word Count for Each Section of an Archplot Structure

In my last blog post, I talked about this archplot structure put together by Ingred Sandburg. Many writers resist this type of thing as formulaic, afraid that they will write like 'Hollywood' not themselves. To be clear, I don't believe that following an archplot structure is something you MUST do. It is simply one idea-transportation-system out of many. However, it is an efficient, tried and tested method, and so is well worth looking at, even if you do decide that it is not for you.

Today, I thought it would be useful to break down these sections into the recommended word counts.

When I used this method for editing my own novel, I was struck how the parts which weren't working were the areas in which I had written over the suggested word count. That is to say, I was forced to consider pace. Moments of crisis are intense scenes; longer run ups can involve more reflection. This was something I already knew but having a word-count clarified this and gave me a useful tool for editing.

I have taken an 80,000 word novel as the basis as this is the average size for a novel, and have rounded the word count up. I have mainly used Christopher Vogler's, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, Third Edition, (California: Michael Wise Productions, 1998) for the notes under the chapter headings.


ORDINARY WORLD: approx 6,700 words

This is the world in which your character begins. It may be extra-ordinary (e.g. an alien planet) but is ordinary for your character. Without establishing where the character is at home, it is difficult to convey how surprising the next parts of the story are. CALL TO ADVENTURE: approx 3,300 words

Characters are called to adventure. It doesn’t have to be an adventure in the traditional sense (although it can be). It could be something as simple as starting a new job.

REFUSAL OF THE CALL: approx 6,700 words

Often the characters do not want to go on the adventure – they fight against it. (Think for example of Macbeth horrified by what the witches have prophesied). Sometimes a character is a ‘willing hero’ and other people in the story must express ‘the fear, warning the hero and the audience of what may happen on the road ahead.’ (P110 The Writer's Journey)


The ordinary world has disappeared. Everything has changed. The character must learn and overcome new challenges.

TESTS, ALLIES, ENEMIES: approx 16,700 words

There are tests that the character must pass. They learn who to trust and who are their enemies.

MIDPOINT: approx 3,300 words

This is Aristotle's tipping point: the moment from which either everything gets worse (tragedy) or better (comedy)

APPROACH TO THE INMOST CAVE: approx 16,700 words

Things are getting tricky, but the character’s goal is only achievable through entry to the inmost cave (a physical or psychological entity). They have come too far to turn back.

THE INMOST CAVE: approx 3,300 words

This is the worst thing that has happened to your character so far. It must be something that is extremely personal difficult for them. What they learn here prepares them for the final moment of crisis.

FINAL PUSH: approx 6,700 words

Your character is at the very limits of their strength. They need to carry on to be victorious.

SEIZING THE SWORD: approx 3,300 words

Your character wins through/ is defeated.


What is your character’s reward for having survived the ordeal? They returns home with their prize and/ or their new-found knowledge which they impart. The character is able to reflect what has happened to them.

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