So this mini-series of structure posts has looked at the inciting incident, the first sign of trouble in the story, the introduction of the disquiet that is going to eventually drive the main character away from the safe, familiar world. This event needs to occur before or at least at the same time as the first plot point, when the true nature of the story’s main conflict reveals itself to the main character in a direct and unmistakable event. This event will change everything for the character, making it clear to him that his only option is to resist or face utter defeat, the loss of all he holds dear. It is a point of no return. The character must now commit to action.
At the 3/8 and 5/8 section of the novel are what screenwriters call pitch or pinch points. Well-known screenwriter Syd Field, in his seminal work Screenplay, described these points as reminders of the central conflict, sharing a common motif.
What does that mean? Well, if our novel is about 90,000 words, it means that the antagonist or antagonistic force needs to exert another hard push on the story at about page 135, or about halfway between the first plot point and the mid-point twist.
Larry Brooks has a fabulous post on pitch points, which is where I first encountered the idea. He points out that this event really needs to be something the readers can see, something that hits them in the chest, so to speak. They need to see just how antagonistic the antagonist is, engaged in some act that obviously and directly threatens what the main character has at stake.
Syd Field, in studying screenplays, noted that the middle act was generally the longest and the most boring. As novelists we should be familiar with the idea of the ‘saggy middle’. Same thing. Field suggested the pitch/pinch points as a way to keep the middle act moving. He also specified that the pitch point needed to revolve around the central conflict rather than subplots, which can get a little out of control and overly prominent as we struggle to extend the story through the complexities of that long second act. The pitch points bring the focus back in on that big threat with the highest stakes.
Keep in mind that there will be another of these points at the 5/8 mark, and that these two points will need to share a common motif to link them, providing a sense of symmetry and resonance, a significance through association and strong emotion.
I will close by mentioning that the Bransforum’s own Cookie (aka Caitlin) has a wicked guest post up at Wicked & Tricksy today, that David Gaughran is looking at putting together a book of his popular blog posts on indie publishing for international writers, that favorite blogger Elizabeth Twist has placed a piece at One Buck Horror, and Steph Sinkhorn of maybe genius has a flash fiction piece entitled “Language Barriers” up at agent Sarah LaPolla’s blog Glass Cases.
Happy Friday, everyone. And happy birthday, Polymath, wherever you are.