Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Becoming the Hero-- the Second Plot Point

I should dedicate my current novel to Larry Brooks at This guy has been with me during those long midnight hours until early dawn, helping me with story architecture. (Well, not literally, heh heh, since I am happily married.)

Now as I round the bend on 52,000 words, I'm approaching the second plot point (spp). Why is this one so difficult? First plot point--easy. It's where everything changes for the MC. Mid-point milestone? No problem--that's where the curtain parts, new information is revealed and the stakes are raised. Got it. Done and done.

Now I'm at the second plot point, which Brooks defines as: the final injection of new information into the story, after which no new expository information may enter the story. It puts a final piece of narrative information into play that gives the hero or heroine everything he or she needs to become the final catalyst in the story's conclusion.

Got that? Me neither. Sigh. But that word final must mean something. Like, we're getting close to the end? (Disclaimer: this is a long post. You might want to start thinking of Tom Cruise right about now. So clear your mind, think of Tom Cruise, and keep reading.)

Okay, so take it a step at a time. After the spp, no new information can enter the story. Which means that AT the spp, there IS new information that enters, and it's the last bit that CAN enter, and it is information that gives the MC what he or she needs to BE the HERO (which is what I think final catalyst means.) It means no one will come in and save the hero, or he or she wouldn't BE a hero, now would he or she?

Another way Larry puts it: "it's when the chase scene begins." For example, the spp provides information to the MC of who or what or where the villain is-- therefore MC goes after villain (thus the chase scene) and maybe a fight scene, and then MC turns into a HERO. Voila!

Of course I'm way out of my league here, because I'm writing a character-driven novel with no chase scenes. That's okay too, according to Brooks, because the spp allows the hero to go from warrior to self-sacrificing martyr of all that is good: "At least in terms of the dramatic problem the story is portraying." So it doesn't have to be a chase scene, or the MC dangling from the top of the Empire State Building. It might just be the MC giving up something he or she really wants for the greater good.

I keep thinking of Tom Cruise in The Firm (movie). The spp must be when he finds out who's pulling the strings behind the firm and meets with the mafia-- oooh scary!-- but he's the hero now, he pulls it off brilliantly, and we can smell the ending right around the corner-- (another definition of spp according to Brooks). I love that scene in The Firm where Tom Cruise meets with the mafia. It's the last information that's provided, and Tom Cruise wraps it all up. He's a hero, he's a martyr, he's literally awesomely awesome how he pulls that off. I love Tom Cruise.

So as long as I can think of Tom Cruise, I think I can keep track of what the spp is and how it works to create the story architecture. Whew!

Here's the pop quiz. Name the spp in a movie you've seen recently, or a book you've read. Remember--the spp provides crucial information that allows the MC to become a real hero, and after that no new information can be revealed.

Let's see how well you can do! (If this is too difficult, you can just say how much you love Tom Cruise and how he became a hero in the last movie you saw him in, and you will probably have it right. Or Daniel Craig, if you're British.)


  1. I'm sorry, but I can't say I love Tom Cruise. Because of that, he didn't distract me and I had to read your whole post (Which I would've done anyway).

    Anyway, how about in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"? As soon as Harry and friends realize that the theft of the stone is going to happen that night and Dumbledore has left Hogwarts for the evening, they decide to protect the stone on their own. The rest of the movie is them going through the protections set up by various professors, working together, using their unique strengths until Harry makes it to the stone.

    It's 6:00am - this is what came to me.

  2. Hi

    Am still drooling at the thought of Daniel Craig...

    I'm thinking of his latest bond film "Quantum of Solace" - but it's more the SPP of the heroine - she has the chance to finally kill the guy who hurt her and her family - she could do this but she doesn't! Cos that's what James Bond would do. Cos she's better than that! I loved her!


    But not as much as Mr Craig! *Drool and Swoon*

    Take care

  3. In A Good Year, Russell Crowe makes the decision to not take the partnership, therefore going back to France. No wait, Russell Crowe, writes the letter that will allow his cousin to inherit the chateau. No wait, Russell Crowe, shows up at the restaurant and tells Fanni that he gave up his job.

    I have no idea what an SPP is, I love Tom Cruise. (Actually I don't like Tom Cruise, can I love Daniel Craig instead?)

  4. What an interesting post. I can't think of any movies at this time but I'm going to have to read this information again. I've never really heard it referred to as first or second plot points before.


  5. Oh wow, Karen, you've really made me think! Hm. Can't think of anything at the moment - I'm experiencing a sugar rush from too much chocolate - but I love the info you provide about plotting. Plotting makes my brains hurt!

  6. Theresa, key words to identifying the spp "using their unique strengths until Harry makes it to the stone." After the final input of information, the hero has what he needs to become Tom Cruise-- er-- I mean, the hero.

    Old Kitty, this is making me want to watch Quantum of Solace again!

    Piedmont Writer, I saw A Good Year. Man, I barely remember it. A lot of lovely French countryside and Russell Crowe looking clean and crisp, and the French girl in rather see through dresses. I don't remember ANY plot in that movie. Maybe pick another movie? Tom Cruise won't let you down, but sure go ahead and love Daniel Craig-- he's good, too.

    Ann, I never had either before I started on this path of using to apply story structure to my writing. I think it's helped me structure my narrative, I hope so.

    Talli, I know, me too! Which is why I'm up in the wee hours trying to figure it out. During the day there's too many distractions and I just give up and write comments on blogs!

  7. I just watched The Time Traveler's Wife. I think the spp is when Henry learns his wife actually does have a child and the child is healthy AND has his "condition."

    I love the concept of the second plot point. I think if I didn't know about it, I would forget to inject more info into a story at that point. But a reader needs more surprises. It keeps it fun.

  8. M., I love it too, if I can only get my head round the concept thoroughly and completely. Your comment shows that you really do get it! Maybe cuz you're in all those James Bond movies lol?

  9. I just keep thinking of my favorite television show (cringe, when did I become this person?) Solitary. Every episode of Solitary ends with someone giving up and pushing the red button. But in the FINAL episode of Solitary there are only two people left and they are both fighting to hang on as long as they can, but eventually one of them crashes and burns and the hero is left standing.

    (The great thing about this show is that the Hero doesn't know if the other guy has given up yet, so he keeps fighting and fighting to hang on, sometimes even long after the other person is gone.)

    Does this have to do with plot points? I don't know, I got distracted.

  10. Ack! I need to figure out what my second plot point is and make sure it's well defined! Thanks for pointing this out for me.

  11. Omigosh, L.A., I am ROFL. And I thought this post would be too serious for anyone to even comment on!

    B.Miller, you and me both! I wrote this post to help me understand it better. Hopefully I've got it!

  12. TOM CRUISE!!!!!!!


  13. The last movie I watched was so bad I didn't watch the ending. No, I'm not telling the title. The one before that was a DVD of an older movie with Dennis Quaid called Frequency. I 'think' the spp would be when Dennis Quaid shot the man trying to kill his son. But I may be confused. But this did make me think about my WIP, and I think it may actually HAVE a spp. I need to think about it some more, but I'm pretty sure it does.

  14. The concept of plot points has been around for a long time in screenwriting, but I have never seen in touted with that disclaimer that no new information can enter the story after that. That has me a bit puzzled.

    In scriptwriting the plot points are described as "an action or event that occurs to turn the plot in a new direction." There are two, one about 15 minutes into the story and the second about 10 to 15 minutes before the conclusion.

  15. Maryann, those two are what Brooks calls the first and second plot points. His training is in screenwriting, and he uses that and film references to help novelists get their head round it. I have his link on my sidebar if you want to pursue it further.

  16. Ooh, this one's a tough one isn't it? I can usually just about recognise the 'no new information can enter after this' point, but that's really by a process of elimination :)

    Hmm, now a point where the last piece of information enters *and* the hero gets what they need to become a hero... eek! If we throw a few more well-known books at you can you do a big reveal? :)

  17. Mmmmmm, Daniel Craig...

    Okay, I swear I read the whole post, and I think it's very interesting, and I'm still thinking i all through, and...

    Hey, did someone also say Russell Crowe?

  18. I can't think of any movie spp's. I am not sure I would recognize the spp if it bit me. It is all still a bit profound for me.

    I dislike Tom Cruise, to put it mildly. Daniel Craig is a much better choice for hero

  19. hampshireflyer, tall order isn't it? Probably why I struggle with the concept.

    Carrie, I'm not finding a lot of Tom Cruise fans here. Just clicked over to your blog because although I'm a follower I rarely comment since I don't feel intelligent enough compared to your posts and your commenters :) But the nemesis post was brilliant and yes I did read it all in one breath. It read very Hemingway-ish. I suppose I should find a nemesis, someone to hate who can hate me back. Might be hard since I don't twitter.

    Ann, awww, you don't like Tom Cruise? But he's so dang cute and hero-like!

  20. I was distracted. I love Tom Cruise, especially the young one. I also love your new profile pic. You look so much like Xena! :)

    Great taste and great post!

  21. Hi Melissa! Yay, another Tom Cruise fan!

  22. DANIEL CRAIG!! Yum!

    That's the part I understood crystal clear.

    (Plot snags are the hardest part for me.)

  23. Okay, I'm not British, but I'll take Daniel Craig over Tom Cruise any day. I wouldn't turn my nose up at Russell Crowe either. That's about the deepest thing I have to say at this point, sorry!