Turning Points and The Road Map of a Story by Tinthia Clemant
Let’s welcome back monthly columnist, Tinthia Clemant as she shares with us “Turning Points and The Road Map of a Story.” Enjoy!
I’d like you to think about the last time you were in a car driving to a destination. I added that last part about actually driving in case you like to sit in cars listening to music.
Now, assuming you’re not just idling in one spot, think about the route you took to get to your destination.
You probably made a right at some point and possibly a left hand turn too. Perhaps you made several turns before you arrived at where you where headed.
Each time you took a right or a left you changed direction, at one point heading east then north, maybe north to west… A few wrong turns and you could have ended up someplace you hadn’t meant to go.
If you’re thinking: “What does driving have to do with a fiction story’s turning points?” you haven’t gleaned the subtle nuances of my analogy.
Driving and Turning Points
Driving can be compared to the turning points in a story in that turning points are when the story takes a new direction, much like your right and left hand turns. If used correctly, turning points give your story interest and deliver your reader to his or her intended destination.
Let’s face it, a straight road will get you to where you’re going, but driving along a curving road will be a whole lot more interesting.
Turning points fall under the umbrella of Plot Points, which includes the inciting incident, midpoint, and climax. Some authors even refer to the inciting incident as a turning point. Argh!
Tomatoes, tomahtoes, plot points and turning points do the same thing.
They take the plot in a new and different direction.
For example, in The Hunger Games, the first plot point, i.e. the inciting incident, is when Katniss volunteers to take her sister’s place in the games. The second plot point, i.e. the first turning point, is when she shoots an apple out of the roasted pig’s mouth, thus securing her spot in the games.
Placement of each turning point is key to guaranteeing the story flows in a way that keeps readers engrossed until the very last page.
In a three act story, the inciting incident should occur at about the 10% mark, first turning point at about 25%, with the second turning point at about the 75% mark.
Author Jami Gold offers free, interactive worksheets to help you get the placement perfect. Thank you, Jami!
If written correctly, turning points heighten a story’s tension, but they can only accomplish this by relating back to the protagonist’s new goal; the one the character formed after the inciting incident.
Let’s go back to Katniss. Her initial goal was to keep her family alive and safe. After her sister is chosen for the games and Katniss takers her place, Katniss’s new goal is to survive the games, which becomes the focus of subsequent turning points.
My suggestion, before you start writing your story, use some time to create a plot line showing the two main turning points, along with the inciting incident, midpoint, and climax. This simple step will save you a ton of time in revisions. Take if from a reformed panster. It works.
Happy writing and blessed be :}
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Author of The Summer of Annah series, Tinthia Clemant lives in a secluded spot on the Concord River in Massachusetts. Her companions include a black Labrador/Coonhound named Harlee; Shadow, an elderly black cat who still rocks at catching mice that have wandered into the house; a few hundred wild Mallards; assorted turtles, songbirds, snakes; and hawks, two Great Blue herons, and an American bald eagle.
Besides writing she enjoys baking, gardening, reading (of course), painting and photography, laughing, and movies (the more explosions the better). Tinthia is an ice cream aficionado and insists that Ben and Jerry are the most perfect men ever created. She inherited my father’s temper and her mother’s view on life: It’s meant to be lived, embraced, savored, inhaled, and not given back until every last drop of wonder is claimed. If you visit Tinthia make sure you bring a bottle of bourbon and, of course, ice cream. Her favorite flavor is Chunky Monkey.