Welcome back to our series on story structure.
As I’ve said before, this is only one of many options to choose from when it comes to plotting your stories. In the last two posts, I covered the inciting incident and Plot Point 1.
I left poor Oliver attacked outside the restaurant with a head wound and a warning to “let the dead stay dead.” Someone doesn’t want the skull reconstructed. Oliver’s response? “Whoever didn’t want her face to be revealed just made a huge mistake. I’m going to be working on that reconstruction day and night now.”
Because that’s how heroes respond, right?
Now, I did a little research (because that’s what good authors do!); and I discovered it really doesn’t take long to reconstruct the skull as long as one can work pretty consistently. Here’s what one forensic artist and author, Carrie Stuart Parks, said, “It took Betty Pat Gatliff, the gal who trained most of us, three days with clay. It takes my students about that same amount of time in class. To do a drawing (2D reconstruction), more like a day to day and a half (depending on hair–corn rows take forever!). Using an iPad and a program might be even faster–a day?”
So, now I have a little bit of a timeline to work with. Timelines are very important, and sometimes you have to stop and figure stuff like this out before you can move forward. But we now have an answer. Because I’d like to drag this out a bit, I’m going to have a few interruptions along the way, delaying the completion of the reconstruction despite Oliver’s good intentions to get it done warp-speed fast. At this point, I may take the time to brainstorm what some of those interruptions could be.
But somewhere between the end of act one and the midpoint of the story (for me, the midpoint is usually around 40,000 words), we’re going to have Pinch Point #1.
A “pinch point” in a story is a moment when the antagonist’s power is showcased, applying pressure to the protagonist and emphasizing the stakes at hand. Pinch point #1 usually occurs around the midpoint of the first half of the story, serving as a reminder of the antagonist’s strength and the challenges the protagonist must overcome.
Here are two well-known examples of pinch points:
1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling:
- Pinch Point #1: Harry’s first encounter with Voldemort in the Forbidden Forest serves as a pinch point. Here, the audience sees the power and malevolence of the antagonist, emphasizing the danger Harry is in.
2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien:
- Pinch Point #1: The encounter with the Ringwraiths in the Shire is a pinch point. It shows the power and determination of Sauron’s forces, emphasizing the perilous journey ahead for Frodo.
So, let’s figure out what our first pinch point is for Oliver and Sophia. This is what I came up with. Oliver’s at the lab working on the reconstruction, determined to get it done now that he can work without his head spinning. There’s security; he’s in a locked room. Yet the antagonist still manages to get in and leave a mysterious package outside the door. Inside the package, Oliver finds a detailed, eerie painting that mirrors the incomplete facial reconstruction of the Jane Doe he’s been working on. The only difference is the painting has a single tear painted on Jane Doe’s partially finished face. The message is clear. Someone is watching him closely and is aware of his progress.
And the investigation would ramp up from there, racing us to the midpoint of the story—which I will talk about next time.
Someone left a comment about the lack of subplots in this outline. That’s true for now. As I said at the beginning of this series, I build the foundation first, using this method. First, the characters and their backgrounds, their conflicts (which will involve the subplots that you’ll weave in after you get your foundation laid), and then I move on to layering the story with more. Again, this is my method. You may use something else, and that’s perfectly fine. Use what works for you.
On that note, take a look at your manuscript; see if you can pinpoint your first pinch point. It should be somewhere between the end of Act I and the midpoint. Since my midpoint is 40K words (50%), my first pinch point lands around the 25K mark (37-40%). Again, sometimes this will be a little off. Sometimes it happens a little earlier or a little later. And that’s okay as long as it doesn’t hamper the flow of the story.
I hope you’re enjoying this series. I’m having a blast writing it. And I want to know what happens with the skull he’s reconstructing because, honestly, I have no idea. So, now I’m going to write the next blog post and see if I can figure it out. If you have some input on who it needs to be, feel free to let me know that too! Does it need to be the heroine’s sister, Cassidy? Or…? Also, who is the villain?? Anyone? Bueller?
Yes, this is how I plot a story. And yes, it works for me. But whether or not this particular process works for you, maybe you can pull a little piece of helpful information from the post. I sure hope so.
Now, you go do you and write something spectacular.