Back to writing posts, or is it writing writing posts? How about, back to writing about story structure? I've discussed the hook, the set-up, and what your characters have at stake. What comes next is the most important scene. Everything coming before builds up to it, making this scene plausible and believable when it happens, while everything that comes after is a response to it.
It is called The First Plot Point, and it is what Larry Brooks calls "the most important moment in your story." (Link is for his storyfix.com series on story structure.) Brooks says, "Because the First Plot Point is the moment when the story’s primary conflict makes its initial center-stage appearance. It may be the first full frontal view of it, or it may be the escalation and shifting of something already present. In either case, nothing about the story is the same from that moment forward. "
Brooks suggests watching movies to see this story structure displayed before our eyes. Really, really good advice. Especially considering that a novel has so many things happening and going on, and in a character-driven story, the first plot point may be subtle and nearly hidden. Since a movie only has 90 minutes to get it all in, story structure can be obvious once you know what to look for.
Here's how it goes in movies-- you're seeing the main characters in their normal lives, you "meet" them and you find them interesting and likeable. Think of Ghost with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. They're moving into this great loft apartment, she's an artist, he's a corporate guy, they're in love (not married), but you recognize this incredible chemistry between them and so of course you want them to be together. You want her to say yes to his repeated marriage proposals.
First plot point: They're mugged late at night in a deserted street, and Patrick Swayze is killed. Everything changes for our two main characters. The rest of the movie is based on this one incident. It is the first plot point.
In my current wip, there are two sisters, with Cindy's story as subplot and Marcie's story as the main plot. When they find out what's wrong with Cindy's baby, that changes everything for Cindy. Marcie is affected and touched by the news, but it's not the first plot point for her story. Marcie's turning point is much later in the story, and it happens so subtly that a reader might miss it. I won't tell you what it is. But it's my job to make sure that this event becomes the single most important moment for Marcie.
If you're having trouble identifying what the first plot point is in your story, here's my advice. Take a break and go to the movies! My husband and I just saw 2012. It was more difficult to identify the first plot point, probably because there are so many characters and the main character doesn't come in until later. But we did it--we identified the point in the movie where everything changes for the main character. Of course, then we had to identify the mid-point milestone and the 2nd plot point as well. 2012 was a challenge, but we figured it out!
Next post I'll discuss the mid-point milestone-- where the curtain parts, new information is revealed, and everyone steps up their game.
Oops! I forgot my question, which is: What book or movie can you recall where the first plot point is either a) so subtle you almost miss it, or b) so obvious you can't miss it?
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown
"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it." ~Jesse Stuart
"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf