I’ve come to realize that without a map, one can get very lost. Especially if you’re traveling somewhere new. Now, a seasoned traveler would of course not need as much instruction as say, someone on their very first trip away from home. I like to think of writing as an adventure, one that some have traveled along with for decades, and then there’s the others who have just begun. And herewith is the purpose of this post, to shed some light on the meandering path of writing and some light posts to guide you on your way. A simple skeleton i will call it, to set you in the right direction. After all, to travel from point A to point B, there has to be some kind of road, albeit a rough one. Ive learned from friends, fellow writers and the internet that everything can be subjective, but i believe this one thing is hard and true. Your manuscript contains a map, one you might not see or the reader for that matter. But invisible or not, its there, and its unwavering. It is how your story pushes forward and stays interesting, otherwise, it will fall flat on its proverbial face.
First and foremost – The Hook. To keep a reader reading, it’s in your best interest to have one, and a kick ass one to boot. The earlier, the better. Like first chapter, even first line.
The inciting Incident – This can also be the 1st plot point (more on that in a minute), this, in most genre’s, kicks off your MC’s adventure, no matter what it might be. Ideally it should be around the 15% mark in your manuscript.
Plot point 1 – You must have this. Repeat. You must have this. It is where your story BEGINS. The preceding is all set-up (which is necessary) for the reader to know the MC. But the 1st PP is the beginning of the actual story. This ideally is at the 20-25% of your manuscript. This is where your MC’s life changes, and there’s no going back at this point. This can also be your inciting incident, there is much debate about it. But if kept separate, this must follow the Inc. Incident, never will it come before. Placement is the key. 20-25% into the story.
1st pinch point – Yes, there is pinching. Metaphorically. This is a pinch of the antagonist, just a slice of what they’re up to. To keep the reader in the loop. Ex. The kidnapper calls the family making his/ her demands, informing the reader of the predicament the MC is really in. Just a friendly reminder of who the antagonist is, keeps the story moving forward. This takes place around 30% into the manuscript.
And then we reach the middle. Where there is a midpoint shift— a what? you say. A shift my friend. Could be anything, but it should just have put your character into more trouble than he had in the beginning. No mercy. The midpoint reversal, also known as the midpoint shift, basically you are adding more trouble and new information. Use this part to get out what you need the reader to know. But of course with a streamlined delivery of information. This is your time to add in a plot twist, which adds depth and interest to the story that’s already been captivating your reader. Pull them in farther, they will thank you for it. This is 50% into your story.
2nd pinch point – More pinching, another reminder of the antagonists presence, which should already be shadowing your story, but an appearance with a direct view of the antagonists conflict with the MC is needed to drive home the stakes the MC is up against. This is about 60% into your story.
2nd plot point – This is the last chance to deliver any new information, it is also the time when your MC turns from a victim to a challenger. All that crap he/she has been through is now pissed him/her off so much that they are now in attack mode. Its escalation time, the tick, tick of the roller coaster cart heading for the tip of the 200 foot high hill. To really drive this home, your MC should be in a place that they think all hope is lost, use the 2nd pinch point to make this happen, then the 2nd plot point to have your reader finally be able to sheer your MC on. This is 75% into your story.
Resolution – This is where any foreshadowing you sprinkled around in the story comes to fruition. Do not add any new info here, it will come out of left field and kill your pace. Pacing is rhythm, rhythm is a dancer…you know what i mean. Keep your rhythm. No new info, or characters. This is the MC’s moment, whether they live or die, they defeat the bad guy etc etc. Make them shine, and if you can get your reader to cry, laugh, agonize, you’ve done it seemlessly. This is also about closure, that big huge conflict the MC has been trying to resolve, this is the time to resolve it. Unless of course there is a sequel, then there still must be an important conflict that is resolved. And the book must be able to stand alone, esp if you are a first time novelist. Seasoned authors can get away with this, you cannot.
If you can pull off all that with an original idea and keep the rhythm going smooth, you’ll be ahead of the game and hopefully on the road to the bestseller list. Til next time.