Writers Write creates writing resources. In this post, we look at the six indispensable plot pivots you need when you’re writing a novel.
Welcome to week 32 of Anthony’s series that aims to help you write a novel in a year. Read last week’s post here.
- Continue writing the scenes or chapters of your novel.
Breaking it down
In the beginning
In Novel Shortcuts, a great guide to drafting a novel, Laura Whitcomb talks about story ‘crosshair moments’ that fall on the turning points of a story. Those moments when your main character is in the firing line – figuratively or literally.
- The Inciting Incident
- The First Major Turning Point
- The Midpoint
- The Second Major Turning Point
- The Climax
- The Denouement
As I’m reshuffling or rewriting some scenes in my novel, I’m looking for these pivotal moments throughout my manuscript. Keep in mind a pivot is something that can turn – so these are moments that should ‘spin’ your story in a new or different direction.
But it’s important, I think, to first focus on the six indispensable plot moments in your novel. Once you isolate these moments you can see what you have to build towards.
The most important plot point in the beginning of your novel is the inciting incident. To remind you, this is the moment you main character brushes up against the thing or person that will eventually change their world irrevocably.
At the end of the beginning of your novel, you also need to have the first major turning point. The scene that propels the main character into the middle of the story.
It is the first real crisis in the story and stems from the inciting incident. This crisis usually ends in a mini-climax of its own. The main character, after accepting what has happened, is forced to make new decision or is determined to pursue a new course of action.
In the middle
Right in the middle of your novel, you have to write a strong midpoint – this is one of the most important plot points in your novel. This is the first culmination of your novel. This is probably the most pivotal moment. So much hinges on this moment or plot point.
At the midpoint, your main character should feel like they’re at their lowest point — they feel like they’re losing. Alternatively, at this point, they should feel like they’re at their highest point – they feel like they’re winning.
And then later, just before you move into the end of your novel, you have the second major turning point. This is the second culmination of your story. Showdown time!
This moment is usually predicated by what happens in the midpoint of your novel. It is usually the opposite of the midpoint.
So, if your main character felt they were at their lowest and losing at the midpoint – here they are their highest and winning. If they left like they were at their highest and winning at the midpoint – here they are there lowest and losing.
Whatever happens here must push the character into the final stretch of the story. The tension should still be high. What decision or action will they take to test if they truly win – or truly lose?
In the end
The two most important plot points at the end of your novel are the climax and the denouement. The climax is the last test for your main character. You can spin in another direction – and bring in a twist – but after that your character has reached the end of their journey or fight. They’ve learned their lesson – for better or worse. The tension is finally released.
Sometimes the climax is a ‘mirror’ of the midpoint. If the main character was losing at the midpoint, they’ve lost now. If they were winning at the midpoint, they’ve won now.
The last few scenes is the denouement. Here you must wrap up and tie up all the loose ends. What does the main character’s life look like now after the action is over? What glimpse can we give of their future?
Timelock — 2.5 to 5 hours
Write for a half hour or an hour a day on your scenes or chapters.
5 Quick Hacks
- Brainstorm as many ideas for plot points as possible – don’t worry if you can use them in your story, just get them down.
- Take the scenes you’ve already written or planned. Shuffle these and see if they would work better as one of the other six plot points.
- Create a ‘power chart’ – track which of your characters have the most power and at what point in the story. Shifting balances of power are great ways to develop the six major plot points.
- Write down your main character’s goal – the goal that drives them – and see how each of the turning points in the story affects that goal – either in a negative or positive way.
- Try to find the six plot points in a fairy tale like Cinderella or Red Riding Hood – sometimes simplifying things makes you see the structure more clearly.
Pin it, quote it, believe it:
‘The crosshairs of a story, like the crosshairs in the scope of a rifle, must be precisely aimed at your target – that most pivotal moment in your plot.’ — Laura Whitcomb
Look out for next week’s instalment of Write Your Novel In A Year!