Plot Point 1 In The Context Of The Story Arc

You’re heading into Act II of writing or editing your novel. So how are you going to keep readers engaged? You need a great plot point to drive them forward.

 

In an earlier post, I talked about the inciting incident in the context of a story arc. Today we’ll examine plot point 1.

What Is Plot Point 1?

Plot Point 1 is the point of no return. The character can’t back out of the central conflict. This is the moment when the setup of the story ends and Act I is over.

But there’s more. There must be something at stake. If the character doesn’t care about the outcome, a reader won’t care either.

Example plot point types (there a many more):

  • The character is obligated to take action.
  • The character is trapped.
  • Tuning back means returning to a life of unhappiness.
  • The character’s desire for something overrules all else.

 


Famous First Plot Points:

Note: there are story spoilers, so don’t read this section if you want to read the book or see the movie.

Gone Girl: Amy’s first treasure hunt clue is found. Nick has no choice but to follow it. Amy’s life is at stake (as far as the reader knows).

The Martian: Mark Watney decides he won’t die on Mars. Now he gets proactive. To back out means to die — that’s a lot a stake.

The Philosopher’s Stone: Harry Potter arrives a Hogwarts. He can’t turn back. He can’t get back on the train. That would mean life back with the Muggles and unhappiness.

Twilight: Bella learns what Edward is a vampire, but she loves him and decides to pursue him. Edward has emotional power over Bella.

See Inciting Incident in the Context Of The Story Arc for the Inciting Incident in each of the above stories.


Placement Of Plot Point 1

 

The story arc is the structure of your story and the timing of the events in that story.

The arc takes the reader from one state at the beginning to a changed state at the end.

Plot Point 1 should be somewhere around the 25% mark in your novel. If this plot point comes too late, the story will feel like it’s dragging. If it comes too early, the story may feel rushed or lacking in depth.


 

Here’s an example of a story arc from Fictionary. The brown line shows the recommended story arc, and the green line shows the actual story arc for the novel.

You can see above, the inciting incident occurs too late in the story.

After that, plot point 1 is reached too quickly, denying the reader story depth. By appearing too early, it also means the middle is dragging. Act II is going on for too long.

And on it goes until the climax is too late, and there isn’t enough time for a satisfactory resolution. Meaning the reader won’t read the writer’s next book.

I’ll cover other key events such as the midpoint, plot point 2 and the climax in future blogs.

I’ve love to know what you think and if you have any questions 🙂

 


Fictionary is online software that simplifies story editing. Why not check out Fictionary’s free 14-day trial and tell better stories?

To Plot or Not To Plot

Do you plot your story before writing it or do you write and then plot?

I write first. Then I get serious and look at my plot after I have a first draft written.

There is lots of writing advice out there telling writers to have major events at 25%, 50% and 75%. These are major plot points where something happens to change the direction of the story or the character arc.

So I went through my novels to see if I’d done this and was surprised to find I was close. I ended up with plot points between 22% and 27%, 45% and 53% and again between 72% and 77%. I figure this is close enough. There must be something about reading many books that makes this structure appear naturally when writing.

I used the kindle to find look at the percentages. This was easier than counting words. Now in my scrivener, I add a per cent number at each chapter heading. One more way to see if my writing is on track.

So, how to you know if you’re plot is laid out properly? and does it matter?

Thanks for reading . . .

Before the Story Begins . . .

For any author, the starting point of a novel is a big decision. Do you start before the beginning, at the beginning or after the beginning? And how do you decide?

For my fourth novel, Look the Other Way, I’m trying something new. I wrote 20,000 words of the story. With 20,000 words on paper, I have a good idea who the characters are.

The characters come to life, but not fully at this point. Next, I write character synopses that include the basic details, but also the story of the character’s life up to the beginning of the novel. Each synopsis ends up being three to five pages.

The synopsis format is informal. Point form will do. I don’t worry about typos or grammar, but I do get to know my characters.

This process helps me decide where to begin my novel. It’s a creative process. As I write each synopsis, I keep a separate document open that contains plot points or ideas. By the time I have all the synopses written, I have the full novel outline done too.

From this process, I somehow know where the starting point should be and what the inciting incident is. I chose the point that will drive the characters through the story. Too early, and the scene’s aren’t needed. Too late, and an important scene might be excluded.

Next comes scene writing.

Everybody has a different process for writing a novel. What’s yours?