Tag Archives | plot points

How to get the biggest bang for your plot point.

The inciting incident, the first plot point, the midpoint, the second turning point, the climax – these scenes are the skeleton of your novel. Everything rests on these. Or I guess I should say hangs.

  • First turning point: At the end of Act I.
  • Midpoint: Middle of Act II or smack dab in the center of your novel.
  • Second turning point: At the end of Act II.

These scenes seem to be pretty important. But how do we make sure they are doing what they are supposed to do. And what the heck are they supposed to do?

Here’s what we know about them in a shallow, superficial kind of way:

  • After a plot point, the game should change.
  • The story heads in a new direction.
  • We should learn new information, secrets revealed, or a disaster happens – something that moves the story forward.
  • The main character, faced with a decision, moves forward and eventually deals with the consequences of her choice.
  • The reader should get excited, grip the book tighter, and start flipping pages – reading every word, of course.
  • The event should be big enough that if looking for it the reader can easily pick it out, but written well enough and blended with previous scenes so that it doesn’t stick out. Total contradiction, I know.
  • As Donald Maass says – go BIG!

That covers the basics. I’m sure you could add to it. But let’s dig deeper. These scenes hold incredible power in your book and are one of the reasons readers either fall in love or walk away saying, “Eh.”

Digging into the dark, muddy waters of plot points.

  • It’s not just about the action/event. It’s about what’s going on inside the head and heart of your character – technically, the internal arc.
  • Show the main character making a decision, but don’t just have her make it and move on.
  • Show the doubts. Your character should be conflicted.
  • Show the emotion and rationale behind the decision.
  • Show the risk she’s taking and the reason she makes the decision despite these risks.
  • In the preceding scenes, show the main character experiencing life in a way that when she/he makes the big decision, despite the risks, the reader understands. This will make it believable.
  • During the plot point, show the internal thoughts.
  • Show the visceral response using strong verbs and nouns and the five senses.
  • Use original, specific phrasing. Get rid of the blah.

More than anything you want your reader to connect with your character during these plot points. What I’m trying to say is it’s all about believable emotion.

Use and abuse these plot points, the scenes preceding them, and the scenes after them to endear your reader to your character. Go for it!

So, what’d I miss? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? (Okay, so you know what decade I was in high school. Big deal.)

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How I Write: Muddled middles and motivation.

I feel really bad for the “middle”. It has a bad reputation. Seriously, it must have a huge guilt complex. And I don’t blame it.

The middle will make or break your novel. (No wonder we curse it so often.)

If you craft your novel well, the middle is the part where readers give a contented sigh and race to the end with their fingers gripped on the ereader device book. If you have a saggy middle – a reader just might close the book.

I’m a plotter. So when I’m writing I have motivation to finish because I know where I’m going. I’m excited to see how everything unfolds and to reach the climax. But when I’m plotting I struggle with the middle just like pantsers who are writing through the middle.

What I think makes a good middle: (or Act II)

  • plants for later payoffs or revelations
  • main character hunting down false clues or trying to reach goals, and they make mistakes
  • introduction or furthering of the inside character arc
  • disasters and complications
  • plot points and information that push the story forward
  • developing relationships

The middle middle: the big twist, reversal, huge revelation; the part where the reader gasps and the story takes off in a whole different direction.

  • real clues and plot developments
  • increased stakes in the outer and inner plot
  • everything goes wrong
  • payoffs from earlier plants
  • any subplots or separate storylines start connecting
  • devastation and the main character’s dark moment
  • mc makes plans

After the middle, the story heads into Act III and the climax.

There you have it. I find motivation through the middle by constantly asking how I can make it bigger, better, more suprising  – while moving the plot forward.  

Do you struggle with your middles? And what aspect of the middle is the hardest? How have you learned  to perfect your middles? (Srsly tell all because I’m stuck in a middle right now.)

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