We have a come a long way so far in regards to structuring a sound story. We have looked at and worked on five of the seven story structure components so far.
- Hook – This structure point hooks the reader and prompts them to turn the next page and keep reading. Usually really early in the story.
- First Plot Point– This structure point forces your lead character out of his normal world. Whether for good or bad is your decision but whatever the reason, your main character can’t go back to normal life after this point.
- Middle– This structure point is where your character moves from being reactionary to proactionary – I just made up that word. Think of Frodo before the council. He continued to be acted upon, forcing his reaction until the council when he decided that he would take the ring to Mount Doom to destroy it – proaction. He decides to do the acting upon. This doesn’t mean that he isn’t still being pursued it only means that now he has a purpose to his mission.
- Second Plot Point– This is where the story takes its last turn toward the resolution. This is where the character knows what needs to be done and then sets out to finish it. In Harry Potter Book #1, Harry finds the Sorcerer’s Stone in his pocket and uses it to defeat Voldemort. In Star Wars, Luke finds outs he has the force and needs to use it if he is going to defeat the Death Star.
- Resolution– This is where you story ends. This is where all the strands of your story’s plot should come together. Harry defeats Voldemort. Luke Skywalker defeats the Death Star. Katniss and Peeta defeat the Capitol with an ingenious trick against them. The story ends here.
But today in our Story Structure we are looking at Pinch Points. This post will cover both point #6 and #7 of the Seven-Point Story Structure.
What is a Pinch Point?
A pinch point is a structure component within your story that gives the reader a glimpse of the dark forces facing your character. In the Seven-Point Story Structure there are two pinch points within your story.
- One in the Second Part of your story and one in the Third Part.
The Pinch Point is a way for you the writer to be able to apply some pressure to your character and also let the reader know that what is after your character is bad and a real threat. It moves the story along by forcing your character into action.
Where does it go in my story?
Since there are two Pinch Points there are two different locations that the Pinch Points are placed. With each one providing a slight twist to your story. First we will look at Pinch Point #1.
Pinch Point #1 goes between your First Plot Point and the Middle of your story. Actually it can technically be thought of as the middle of the Second Part of your story.
Pinch Point #2 goes between the Middle of your story and the Second Plot Point. Once again this would look like the middle portion of the Third Part of your story.
How does it move my story along? Answer… Conflict.
They, the Pinch Points, apply pressure to your character.
The first Pinch Point might be the first time that the villain is introduced so this Pinch Point may give the reader a good idea of what to expect from this villain throughout the rest of your story. The Pinch Point is there to make your character react and also take action.
The second Pinch Point applies more pressure to your character. Maybe a mentor dies like in Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. Maybe the plan fails and your character is rocked by it. The second Pinch Point provides the fuel to move your story to the Second Plot Point on its way to the resolution. The second Pinch Point makes it look like the bad guy could actually win.
Moving Your Story Along
The Pinch Point provides conflict and conflict is what moves a story along.
Think back to Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring.
Here is how the structure points might look like for that story.
Hook – Bilbo disappears and leaves the ring for Frodo. There is a shroud of mystery about the ring. That hooks the reader.
First Plot Point – Frodo is told that he needs to leave the Shire to keep the ring safe. First Plot Point equals no turning back for the character.
Pinch Point #1 – Frodo and his company are attacked by the black riders and Frodo is stabbed. Pressure is applied to Frodo – pun intended.
Middle – Frodo decides to take the ring to Mount Doom to destroy it. Character goes from reactionary to proactionary – again I made up this word.
Pinch Point #2 – Gandalf is pulled down into the black abyss by the Balrog in the Mines of Moria. Things seem bleak now without their leader. The plan looks like it could fail and the enemy may win after all.
Second Plot Point – Frodo feels like he is putting the people in danger especially after Boromir tries to attack him. He decides to break free from his company and set out on his own. The rest of the group is attacked.
Resolution – Sam and Frodo break free from the group and both make it to the path leading into Mordor. Meanwhile, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas all decide to go after the Merry and Pippin to retrieve them from the Orcs.
Structure without Pinch Points
Take the Pinch Points out and what is left?
If you took out the first Pinch Point then after Frodo left the shire what does he do? What is his motivation?
If it, the pinch point, wasn’t there then Frodo and his company have nothing really chasing them or if they are being chased, the enemy doesn’t seem to be a big threat because they haven’t had any real pressure applied to them.
The Pinch Points provide you the writer a milestone to work up to. And after the Pinch Point it provides you a reason to make it to your next milestone.
- Frodo is stabbed and needs to make it to the Elves for healing.
Pinch Points may be small in comparison to the major milestones in your story but they provide the momentum to keep you writing and your reader reading to the next big turn.
Examples of Pinch Points
Pinch Point #1
- Harry Potter – the troll attacks Hogwarts
- Lord of the Rings – Frodo and his company are attacked by the black riders and Frodo is stabbed.
Pinch Point #2
- Harry Potter – The trio must get past the three-headed dog, obtain the flying key, and win at Wizards Chess. These are all trials put against them to stop them from continuing on their journey.
- Lord of the Rings – Gandalf is pulled down into the abyss by the Balrog.
- Batman Begins – Ra’s Al Ghul announces his intentions to destroy Gotham, then burns Bruce Wayne’s mansion and leaves him for dead.
Wrapping things up.
This wraps up the Seven-Point Story Structure model inspired by Dan Wells. Working out these points in your story ahead of time can help you know where your story may start to fail, level out, or fall flat.
You don’t have to outline ahead of time to make it work though. Now that you have an idea of the Seven-Points, then as you write your story you will be more in tuned to the soundness of it – possibly saving you some time on rewrites. After you write your first draft, go back and see if you story meets these Seven-Points of Story Structure.