Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day 5: Turning Points

Door Number 1
When we begin a book or movie we always start with a setup of our hero's life.  We're shown how wonderful that person's family is, how fabulous his job is, how attractive his girlfriend is...  Sometimes we're shown just the opposite.  Maybe the person's life is terrible and they're just surviving from day to day.  Either way, the storyteller gives us a nice full picture of what "normal" life is like for the main character.

Then comes the turning point.  Something happens that makes your character's entire world change it's course.  (In a well-paced novel we should expect to see this at the one-quarter mark).  For Snow White it was when the hunter tried to kill her in the woods, for Belle it was when she decided to take her father's place as captive of the beast.  (I thought as Mommies we'd all be able to relate to Disney flicks....)  The Write Your Novel in 30 Days packet calls these points the first "Doorway of No Return," titled such because the change should be significant enough that our character cannot continue life as it was (even if they wanted to).  In the case of my own novel the doorway of no return occurs when she realizes she has fallen in love.

Paradigm Shift.
When we first meet a character we are allowed the opportunity to get to know them a bit before their Doorway of No Return hits them.  This "getting to know you" stage involves figuring out their goals and ambitions for the future.  Snow White's goals: find a hunky prince to marry.  But when (and this is exactly how you'll see it on the back cover of a novel.  "But when...") Snow White is about to be murdered, her plans for the future are dashed. She's not looking for a Prince now, she's looking for a way to survive her stepmother's wrath.  For Belle, her goals are to find a way out of her small-town life and find adventure.  But when (there it is again) she finds her father has been taken captive by a beast she must save him by taking his place as captive, forever giving up her dreams of adventure.  To her this isn't a castle full of a life of excitement, but a prison which she must endure - possibly for the rest of her life!  

In my own story my character's goals are to go to the royal court and seek out a potential political ally to assist in the release of a prominent leader of the Reformationist movement.  But when she finds herself falling for a peasant her dedication to the cause disappears and her only desire is to stay happily beside the man she loves.  

Door Number 2
You've finished the middle (occasionally termed 'the muddle') and have reached the final quarter of your novel.  Now to whip out Doorway of No Return number 2.  This is where an event occurs which will set the stage for the final confrontation between your protagonist and your antagonist.  Going back to our earlier examples:  Snow White has been hanging out with the dwarfs, rather content with her new life.  The queen has been enjoying herself as well until *doorway #2* the mirror informs her that Snow White is, in fact, still alive.  Can the queen just kick back and say, "Who cares"?  Only if she's had a significant change of heart since the first time she tried to off Snow!  But since we know she hasn't her character demands that she act, and as a result of her actions we get to witness the final showdown between herself and Snow White/ dwarfs.

How about Belle?  Do you think you understand these principles well enough to tell me where her second Doorway of No Return is?  I have my own opinion but I'd like to hear yours.

*Day by day assignments and worksheets given during the 30 day challenge come from the Writer's Digest manual "Write Your Novel in 30 Days."  Click here to purchase it!

MY DAY 5:  After day 4 I was feeling that my progress was far too slow, which I mentioned at the end of Day 4's post.  Fellow blogger Mallory Snow left a comment suggesting I take a break from the outlining and get to the actual writing part as it might be more motivating.  Initially I resisted the idea; I have the type of personality that thrives on order.  To not outline is like driving around Portland without a GPS.... impossible!

But as I thought on it longer I realized she was right.  The outline was becoming boring and I needed a rejuvenating writing activity.  So I decided to make a compromise:  Work on my draft until I get stuck, then go to my outline until I get stuck, then back to the draft.  Rotating projects like this allows my subconscious to think over the problem so that when I come back to it I've got a ready solution waiting.


  1. That sounds like a great plan! Very similar to the way I write. I outline in a sort of pyramid scheme. I plot the major points first and then fill in any scenes I already know...and then I just start writing. As I go along and get to know the story and characters better, I can see further and further ahead, filling in the outline as I go.

  2. I would call your style the "headlights outliner." You see a few feet in front of you and write up to that point, then, voila! You suddenly see another few feet ahead.

  3. That sounds exactly right. Lol!

    By the way, the website is looking great!