Sanity Snippet #10

It’s time to determine our story’s first act break. But first, let’s summarize.

We are using the three-act structure to develop our novel. Why? Because all stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is well-established the beginning (Act I) comprises 25% of our story; the middle (Act II) is 50%; and the ending (Act III) fills the remaining 25%.

Act I is the setup, where we introduce our protagonist in his ordinary world. It’s where we learn a lot about him and develop a favorable attachment. He has an external problem and is called to do something about it. Even though, at first, he is reluctant, a mentor convinces him to go forward.

We are now at the end of Act I, close to the 25% mark. This is where our protagonist commits to the journey. In other words, he reacts to the Call to Action/Inciting Incident that occurred around the 12% mark. The first plot point is the point of no return. Some say this is when our hero crosses his personal Rubicon (Dictionary: “a line that when crossed permits of no return and typically results in irrevocable commitment”). Everything changes. It is a personal turning point for the protagonist. Often, it involves a change in physical setting.

Here’s an example provided by K.M. Weiland’s website:
“It’s a Wonderful Life directed by Frank Capra (1947): Throughout the first quarter of the story, George Bailey’s plans for his life have progressed uninterrupted. Despite his various misadventures in Bedford Falls, he’s on the fast track to a European vacation and a college education. Then the first plot point hits, and his life is forever changed. When his father dies of a stroke, George’s plans are dashed. As in Pride & Prejudice, the standards that have already been established in the story are dramatically altered. This is no longer a story about a carefree young man freewheeling around town. From here on out, this is a story about a man forced to take responsibility by working at the Bailey Brothers’ Building & Loan.”

Notice, the protagonist thought his life was on one path (European vacation and on to college), then his father dies and the family business lands in our hero’s lap, an inescapable personal turning point. George’s life will never be the same.

What about you? What’s your novel’s first plot point? Take out pencil and paper and do some brainstorming.

Here’s more about the First Plot Point:

Photo by Pixabay on

Author: Richard L. Fricks

Former CPA, attorney, and lifelong wanderer. I'm now a full-time skeptic and part-time novelist. The rest of my time I spend biking, gardening, meditating, photographing, reading, writing, and encouraging others to adopt The Pencil Driven Life.

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