Structure Series #6: Part Two (and Pinch Point One)

Story Begins Here!

Story Engineering Model (four-part story model): Part Two, the next ~25% of our story.

Our second box is our response box. This is where the story truly begins. We’re past the point of no return and we must plunge on. We’ve introduced our world, our hero and some other characters, we’ve alluded to some problems to come, and we’ve endeared ourselves to our readers, hooking them for the rest of the ride. Now it is time to deliver!

Part Two is all about response: the good, the bad and the ugly. Our Hero has gone from an orphan that our readers have adopted to a wanderer, doing just that. He is wandering fairly aimlessly, contemplating his fate, trying to navigate his world – his new world. Here our hero is responding to the First Plot Point. What happened there? It was something irreversible, something that kicked it up a few notches, and which our hero has to respond to in some way. He may try to ignore it, may be in denial, but this is not a deniable event we are dealing with.

Part Two also houses Pinch Point One, about halfway through, where our readers are reminded of the antagonistic forces in play. Just a little peek behind the curtain, bringing the reality home and raising the stakes.

Here is our packing list:

  • Story Begins Here! – Seems impossible that we’ve come 1/4 of the way through our novel and the story hasn’t yet begun, but in truth, it has not. We’ve been working up to that tipping point, the inciting incident that incites the story. To Incite is to encourage or stir up violence. Our inciting incident is when we, the authors of our own chaos, stir the pot to the point that something must happen. This is when the story begins.
  • Hero Responds to First Plot Point – Yep, no choice. Unless he didn’t notice (and if he didn’t then the plot point was terribly ineffective), he has to respond in some way.
    • He might (probably) be reluctant, because reluctance is human, and so is your hero.
    • He’s not ready to resolve the problem (that would be an unsatisfying, and very short story), or even attack in earnest at this point, but is doing something, even if just floundering
      • This something has to involve action, whatever it is
        • Don’t let him save the day yet – we’ve got a ways to go
        • If he does put forth effort, let him learn something in the failure
          • Key word: failure; NO success yet.
  • Acceleration – Again, we are working up to the Midpoint… tension needs to be building yet again.
  • Pinch Point One – Midway through Part Two is where we need to strategically drop in a pinch point, a reminder of who the bad guy is. What is the nature of the antagonistic force we’re dealing with? What are the implications of that force in the hero’s life?
    • The pinch point, like so many essential components, raises the stakes; it gives a flash of the storm that is raging.
    • Important: Pinch points should be simple, direct, tangible experiences NOT filtered by the hero’s experience, but seen in direct form.
      • Seeing the hero’s reaction to this reminder is not enough. This reminder is for the reader, and they need to see it firsthand.
      • Pinch points can be shown through scene, or through dialogue.

As long as we pack carefully, and make sure we get everything in there, Part Two should go off without a hitch. 25% of our story is a long time to waffle around reacting to this thing that has happened, but we know that in real life, we do not immediately stand up and attack when things are thrown our way. We take some time to process, we run away, we appeal to higher authorities, we blame, we deny, we think of every possible way to avoid confrontation.

And if we are hot tempered, and we do react immediately and explosively, how does that go for us? Yup, not so sublimely. So if our hero flies into attack mode too soon, that’s OK. Watch him fail spectacularly and then learn from his mistakes. Now he has time to process, run, appeal, blame, deny, and avoid. One way or another, he’ll deal with his new situation through a series of reactions that fill our second story box to the brim.

Here’s a slightly more abbreviated outline of Part Two and its missions, all in a neat little pdf package, complete with space for you to make some notes on your own story: Four-Part Story Structure – Part Two (#3)

To view a chronological listing of the posts in this series, continue below:

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