I hate Monday mornings. And I hate forgetting things. I especially hate admitting on a Monday morning that I forgot something. Specifically, in my list story structure elements I said I’d be blogging about in this series, I forgot the final confrontation. Duh. However, it’s not that big a deal, since I realized in writing about the first pitch point that I didn’t have much more to say about the second pitch point. Thus my second pitch point post goes bye bye, leaving room for a final confrontation post. For those keeping track, I will say again that the second pitch point comes about 5/8 of the way through the novel, between the mid-point twist and the second plot point.
Speaking of mid-point twists (aka mid-point reversals)… If you recall my fellows, I pointed out that the first plot point was the doorway of no return for the hero. He finds out in the inciting incident that some kind of chaotic change is bearing down on his life, but he doesn’t realize yet that it’s a guided missile headed straight for him in particular. The first plot point disabuses him of his illusion that he can refuse the call to adventure. It also makes it clear to him that his earlier understanding of the main conflict was woefully limited. It was the tip of the iceberg, and someone just pushed his head under the water to give him a better look at what’s really under there.
At the mid-point twist, the hero realizes the problem isn’t the iceberg, it’s the ice shelf that calved the iceberg…and just broke off itself…heading in his direction. The mid-point twist is another point of revelation, new information that does a number of things:
-It changes the hero’s understanding. Someone almost hit the hero with their car. Right, that was the inciting incident. The hero finds out it was intentional. First plot point - check. At the mid-point twist the hero might find out it was a hit man hired by his wife, or a government assassin who wants to kill him because the hero is going to do something in the future that will cause an apocalypse. (Did I mention it’s a time-traveling government assassin?)
-It adds new weight to the story. Now the hero not only has to avoid the assassin, he has to find out what he’s going to do that causes such catastrophe in the future and how to prevent the same mistake.
-And finally, crucially, it shifts the hero from response mode to action mode. The hero is not going to dodge the assassin anymore. He’s going to make ready to engage the enemy directly, maybe with a trap or the use of friends in important places (like the university professor currently studying time-travel or the federal agent with access to top-secret files). He’s going to actively seek out information on how his recent activities and decisions might be leading him down a ruinous path.
Let me talk a little bit about that last one specifically, because it can cause no end of trouble in a story if it’s misinterpreted. Our hero should never be reactive, even before the mid-point twist. He should not be a leaf just blown about on a strong wind. He still needs to encounter a problem, come up with a plan for getting around the problem, and (usually) fail to one degree or another, causing additional complications with the choices he has made.
Why? Well, for one thing, reactive characters frequently come off as weak, habitual victims. It’s hard to believe they could find their way out of a phone booth, let alone deflect the end of the world or thwart the ancient evil. At this point, someone usually has the argument that their character starts out weak and reactive and gets stronger. I can see how that might work in YA, maybe, possibly, sometimes, but I would argue that there needs to be a least a baseline of courage and spine in there from the very beginning if we want the readers to bond with the character and stick around long enough for the transformation. Think about the first Terminator movie, for instance. Is it just me, or was Sarah Connor a whiny annoying character for the first half of the movie? Whiny and reactive. Good thing Kyle Reese was the hero in that film.
The switch from response mode to action mode is not so much one from passive to active but from defensive to aggressive. At the mid-point, the hero will learn things that will make him understand that there is no going around or under or over the trouble ahead, no escaping it. From the mid-point twist to the second plot point, the hero is in ‘lock-and-load mode’. This is when he toughens up, maybe gets pissed off or shamed for his earlier response, and recognizes he got to ‘bring it’.
Of course, he still has to make his way through the second half of Act II, arguably the most dangerous segment of the novel, because it’s there that his inner demons are going to kick his butt royally. Lock-and-load mode doesn’t mean it’s all kicking butt and taking names from here on out, but it is a shift in attitude and commitment.
Other thoughts in mid-point twists, my fellows?
FYI, I put together a writer page on Facebook where I will be announcing the release of my Urban Midgard short story "Dis". Soon. There's a link for 'liking' me on the right, just below my bio. Just sayin'. [coy batting of lashes]