I thought I’d discuss the key points of the plot today (instead of writing, like I should be doing):
- Inciting Incident
- Plot Point 1
- Plot Point 3
- Black Moment
I suggested this book earlier, and I’ll do it again: Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell.
There’s no story without this. As a reader, we need to know why the MC is starting on this novel-length journey. What incites them to do so?
Red Riding Hood was told by her mommy to bring Grandma a basket of goodies. Harry Potter finds out that he has magical talents and that he gets to go to wizard school. Odysseus just wants to go home and he’s finally been released by Calypso. Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy have just moved to the area and upset the daily life of Miss Bennett.
So, what event is it that makes your character want to take action?
If you’re writing a book, this should happen within the first chapter. The reader needs to know what’s at stake right up front so they keep reading.
I’m pretty sure my inciting incident sucks, btw.
Plot Point 1
All the elements of the story are set up, and now we have a clear idea of the MC’s goal. We know what the MC wants, why he/she wants it, and what’s standing in the way.
Harry has to find out why all the students are being turned to stone. Frodo has to deliver the ring to Mordor. Dorothy’s gotta get home. Cinderella gets invited to the ball.
When the MC passes the PP1, he/she passes a point of no return. For whatever reason, the MC cannot just walk away now.
This should happen at around the 1/5th point or quarter point of the novel. It ends ACT 1 and heralds ACT 2.
Midpoint (Plot Point 2)
This is the low for your MC. Whatever was supposed to happen after PP1 can’t. You have to introduce some sort of conflict that raises the stakes.
Cinderella can’t go to the ball. Oh no, what will happen? The MC now needs to deal with the new problem.
Plot Point 3
Set the stage for Act 3. Why can’t the MC walk away? Give us hope that he/she will prevail.
Cinderella’s fairy godmother arrives and we think Cinderella has a fighting chance. Harry has uncovered the Chamber of Secrets and he might be able to save Jenny. Frodo is in Mordor and must destroy the ring.
When the MC passes PP3, he/she passes a second point of no return. They are locked onto the path that leads to the climax.
This should be at the 3/4 mark of your book.
Oh no! All hope is lost… Frodo can’t throw the ring in the volcano. Harry can’t defeat Tom Riddle. Cinderella has to flee the ball because she’s past curfew. James Bond is about to be cut in half by Goldfinger’s laser.
You get the point. It’s the climax and the reader is seriously wondering how the MC is going to claw out of this one. However, don’t make it too horrible or else the reader won’t believe it when the MC finally triumphs (if they actually do).
Aaahhhh. Relief. The MC won (or didn’t), and now we can breathe. Or, in the case of Romeo & Juliet, blow our noses.
Think of the most satisfying book endings you’ve read. What was it you liked? Did the MC triumph because he/she had become a better person through the story (e.g. Scrooge)? That leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy inside. And, if your readers feel good, they’ll wanna read your next book.
What about the least satisfying ending? What was missing at the end? Whatever you do, don’t have the MC be saved by some higher power or other character. We want to see the MC do it for his/herself. Example: Twilight’s MC, Bella, is in a horrible black moment where a vampire is about to eat her. She passes out and her vampire lover saves the day. Where’s the fun in that? What does Bella learn other than “someone else will always save me?” (btw, I like Twilight, just not the end)
So, now you know your plot points, what the structure of the story should follow. Do you have it? Or, do you have something similar?
The key is to raise the stakes throughout the story. If you follow this structure (like the type A writers tend to do), fantastic. If not (and you’re more seat-of-the-pants), that’s great too–just make sure it works, of course. Good luck!
What I’m Listening To: Äppelknyckarjazz by the Movits!