For the next few weeks I will be talking about the different plot points and story structure.
This is all my own personal way of planning a novel and how it basically works is I start with the basic plot points and then add scenes around that until I have a decent story.
Before I start with the three act structure and the three main plot points that go with it I normally ask myself two questions.
1. What does my character’s day to day life look before the story starts?
This is not really a plot point but it is where most stories start. Stories start here because it gives you a chance to introduce your characters before they need to handle tough situations.
So what does your character’s normal look like? If you are planning to turn this into the first scene of your story just make sure that there is still conflict and a little bit of tension in it so that there is that draw into your story.
2. What does your character’s life look like at the end of the story?
Your main character has walked into a new life and overcome challenges. They have change their life as they know it, so what does their happily ever after look like.
I prefer it when this last bit of story is not too happy but still a victory. How happy you want it is completely up to you but just remember that your character will have changed. They have completed their character arc so what are they like now?
Each plot point occurs in a certain part of the three act structure. To plan this right I have created my own plotting board but because it’s already filled I will simply be showing you an example of how it will look on paper.
As the picture will show you I have taken my paper and divided it into quarters.
The first quarter in the first act, the second and third is the second act and the last one is the third act.
Now the first main plot point is well known as the inciting incident.
It is where your MC is introduced to a question. It is the place in the story where your character is taken out of the ordinary and given a new opportunity.
Every story has an inciting incident so I can give you an example from every book I’ve ever read but for the purpose of this post I will simply be giving you the well known stories.
In the hunger games it is when Prims name is pulled in the reaping.
In Harry Potter it is when Hagrid comes to get Harry.
In paper towns it is when Margo takes Quentin out that first night.
The one thing these examples have in common is that it takes the main character out of their normal life and puts them in new circumstances with new possibilities.
Things your Inciting incident should do.
1. Change your main characters life.
This can be for better like in Harry potter or it could be for worse like it did in the hunger games.
The point of the matter is that there should be change.
2. Focus on what your character wants.
As writers we like to talk about what a character wants and what they will do to get that. The inciting incident should really put focus on this even if your main character didn’t even know they wanted it.
If I use Hunger games as an example again then the inciting incident highlights Katniss’s desire of keeping her family and friends alive.
3. Force your main character to react.
When the inciting incident happens your main character can’t just stand there, they have to do something about it.
The inciting incident falls at the end of act one.
You have shown your character and the struggles with their normal life but now change is starting and they are thrown into the second act.
The second main plot point is the midpoint.
Just like the inciting incident the midpoint will shake your character and their understanding of the story. The difference is that the inciting incident put’s your character in reaction mode while the midpoint is where your main character starts taking charge.
It makes your character go from reaction to action. Your main character starts taking deliberate action against the antagonist instead of just trying to protect themselves.
They are no longer confused and they are no longer just trying to survive. They are now attacking the enemy head on.
The midpoint should provide:
1. New information.
2. New determination.
3. New challenge.
The midpoint as the name states goes in the middle of the story which happens to be the middle of the second act.
Now the third and last plot point will be…
The darkest hour
This is where all the action your main character did in response to the Midpoint seems useless. It appears as if your MC is losing and all is lost.
This is the part where the mentor dies and they are all dragged off to prison or something like that.
Who here has watched the last twilight movie?
In the battle in that movie they show us an alternate future where everyone dies and I remember sitting in that cinema with my heart pounding as it seemed like all the hard work they had done up until then had been chucked out of the window.
That is what the darkest hour is. It is that moment when they realize something and that changes their perception of the story but this time for the worse.
The darkest hour falls about 75% into the story.
Now you have your three main plot points so what you do next is ask yourself how do I get from one plot point to the next.
How do you go from your darkest hour to your happily ever after?
How do you get from your normal life to your inciting incident?
What kind of action does your main character take after the midpoint?
If you have any scene ideas but don’t know where to put them, write them down and stick them to your board anyway because you can worry about placement later.
As always I hope this helps. Next week I will be talking about character arcs so come back for that because I’m really excited about it.
Do you have your own plotting methods? If so do share.
Would you like me to write a proper tutorial post on my plotting board?
How well are you peppered for NaNoWriMo so far?