Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Power of Turning Points

Recently I blogged about how to cure sagging middles (the writing kind!) by using main turning points.  From experience, I know that the words "turning points" can strike fear in the heart of many writers.  I've been there.  I overcame the fear.  And I'm going to share how anyone can, too.

The first thing to learning how to use a turning point is to understand what it is.  Simply put, a turning point is a place/point in a story (often an event) where the plot takes a new (sometimes unexpected) direction.  

Besides the main turning point that usually occurs in the middle of the story, there are others, and they are just as important in keeping the story moving along and interesting to the reader as the main turning point is.

Back in July, I blogged about Growing the Story.  That blog post included the 8 Plot Points of a story and the storyboard I use to keep me on track during pre-writing (plotting or just thinking ahead) and writing.  Let's take another look.

  1. Opening
  2. Inciting Incident
  3. Turning Points (1 or 2)
  4. Main Turning Point
  5. Black Moment
  6. Sacrifice
  7. Resolution
  8. HEA

In a romance, a turning point will be something that happens (external) that brings about a new emotional (internal) direction.  Sometimes it's something that will push the hero and heroine together, when one or neither wants it to happen.

Christmas is looking bleak for Becca Tyler and her three young children. Money is tight for this single mom, and the house where they live has been sold to a new owner, meaning they must move. Throw in an encounter with the guy Becca heartlessly dumped in high school, and not only Christmas but life seems to be handing out lemons.
First Turning Point
 Nick, the new owner and the guy Becca dumped in high school, learns he's the cause of her predicament and offers her a job.

Why?  Nick's secretary quits, and although Nick might be able to ignore that Becca may not have a home to live in, her three children make the difference.  They'll be working together on a daily basis, not exactly what a man wants to do with the woman who spurned him in the past.

It's been almost twenty years since Tucker O'Brien left the Rocking O Ranch at the age of fifteen, and the only reason he's returned, physically and emotionally scarred, is to get to know the son he never knew he had. But once Shawn graduates from high school, Tucker plans to leave...until he meets Paige Miles, Desperation's new doctor, who forces him to take an honest look at himself and makes him want to risk becoming the man he's always wanted to be.
First Turning Point
Tucker relents and tells Paige he'll do Physical Therapy, but only if she's his therapist.

Why?  Tucker recognizes that he doesn't have a choice about doing the PT, and there's no one close who can oversee it but Paige. They may be seeing each other often because of it, but he's sure she's as much against getting involved in any other way than she is.

Two of the best places to watch for turning points are TV shows and movies.  I can almost set my watch to Criminal Minds.  The main turning point--where information learned makes a big change in who the unsub (unknown subject) might be, and they're off in a new direction of finding him--comes at the half hour, just before the commercial.  There's another turning point near the 3/4 of an hour mark, when they know who the unsub is and they go after him.  They were in a rut during last season when quite often this TP is a rush to a house with their guns drawn and vests on, only to find that the house is empty.  A good reminder to vary your turning points!  Author Elizabeth Sinclair loves the movie The American President and uses it to help teach plotting.  One of these days, I'm going to watch it! ☺

Whether you use television, movies or books, try to watch for those moments when something happens that changes the direction of the story or even changes the way a character sees things in a different way (an AHA! moment).

Using turning points throughout your story will strengthen it, earn the attention of editors, and cause readers to never want to put down the book.
Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. - E. L. Doctorow


Joanie said...

Excellent post! As usual, of course. You not only give us great direction, you give us a template to work from. Kudos! And thanks!


Rox Delaney said...

Thanks, Joanie! And good to see you and your blog posts again. :) There are as many ways to write, plot, revise, etc. as there are writers. I share my way, but I honestly expect it to be reformed and redesigned, if it's found usable. It's a starting place.