Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Day 27: Second Turning Point

Congratulations!  You've officially reached the final quarter of your novel!  From this point until the climax (second to last scene or chapter in most novels) the energy level is just going to be cranking up higher and higher and things will be moving quite quickly.  Because of the rapid pace it's important to remember that now is not the time to philosophize, wax poetical, or close up secondary plot lines.
"This area is really just about the protagonist making the movement toward final mastery at the crowning glory of the entire project, which is the climax" (Martha Alderson, How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, or Screenplay).
In other words,
"The main character is usually forced into making a decision...  This way, he actively creates the events of the story and gets involved in setting up the final climax" (Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Book in a Month, page 181).
It's all so exciting!  Are you ready to get started?  Great!

Quick Recap:
In the previous step, the threshold, the character had some time to sit and ponder over how his life had come to such a mess (the "mess" being all that he's just gone through during the "all hope is lost" moment).  Now that he's had a think, he has come to realize that he, himself was part of the problem all along.  That somehow his own weaknesses or lack of understanding has kept him from taking the right course to achieve his goal.  (I am addressing character-driven stories here.  For action-driven stories it is more likely that the hero gets new insight or knowledge as to how he can best the antagonist).  

The Second Turning Point:
It is important to note that this turning point is the last time you are allowed to add new information to the story.  The character must already have been introduced to whatever they will need to conquer in the end, with this point being only the final piece of information they will need to succeed.  Often this final piece of information isn't new information at all, but a skill the protagonist had at some point but lost (aka inner demons).  For example the protagonist is a great swimmer, but after witnessing his father drown, has never been in the water again.  This would be the point in the story where the hero realizes he's not subject to his fears, but can and must conquer them in order to obtain his goal in the end.

The main purpose of this scene, however, is to show the protagonist recommitting to his goal or redefining it in some way.
"Because of what happens at the crisis [the character has] sort of redefined their entire lives...  That's why it's important to redefine the goal so that we understand who the protagonist is now, what is important to them now that they have sort of been awakened into who they were meant to be" (Martha Alderson, How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, or Screenplay).
At this point in the story the heroine has one of two options: either she can commit with more zeal to the goal she has had from the beginning of the story, or she can abandon her goal in favor of a new one.  

Your heroine has quite recently gone through a dark moment in her story where everything she thought she'd gain was taken from her and all her power was handed over to the antagonist.  While wallowing in misery it's easy for your heroine to decide that there is nothing left for her; that the only course of action is to give up, throw in the towel, and let the antagonist have their glory.

But after going through the threshold your heroine realizes there is something she can do.  She comes up with a game plan and (at the second turning point) begins to take proactive steps to bring about her own victory.  It is important for both the heroine and the reader to take a minute and restate what the heroine's goal is for the rest of this journey.  
"The protagonist re[commits to] their goal... so that there is no confusion about what they are doing... [and] the reader is really aware and... can viscerally take part in the story.  [The reader] get[s] to feel every step forward, every fall back, every time the protagonist is successful, or sit on the edge of their seat in horror when they see the bad guy coming up behind the protagonist" (Martha Alderson, How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, or Screenplay).
I like to think of this moment as the protagonist's vow that she will see her dreams achieved and will never again consider the possibility of surrender.

As Martha Alderson mentioned above, the hero's dark moment prior to this scene should have had a profound impact on him, changing him and maturing him into a new and better person.  So what if this change makes the hero realize that the goal he's been shooting for the entire time is actually a hollow one?  That becoming popular and having the gorgeous girl like him doesn't mean as much as learning to love himself for who he is (and of course his nerdy little girl friend whom he's never thought of in that way before suddenly turns into an ultra-babe, so it's a win-win).  If that is what happens to your hero, the this is the scene where he's going to need to redefine what it means to succeed.  Often in scenarios like this the hero is actually presented with the opportunity to achieve his original goal, but he turns it down in favor of the newer, higher goal.  One glaring example of this is in the movie Legally Blonde where Reese Witherspoon's ex-boyfriend, the one she's been trying to snag the entire movie, tells her he wants her back and she lets him know that she's realized he's shallow and she can do better than him.  

You will also want to redefine the goal in stories where the hero actually achieves his goal prior to the second turning point. I've mentioned this before but it's worth repeating.  In David Warfield's article on story structure he points out that the second plot point often answers the surface problem, or as he terms it, the "dramatic question." The problem that was plaguing the hero from the beginning, the one that kept readers wondering "Will he ever be able to solve this?" gets solved right here.  If the hero's goal is already solved, what is he to do for the last quarter of the story?  Get a new one.
"Example[s]: In Seven, at the end of Act II the Serial Killer comes to the police station and turns himself in! Mystery solved! Dramatic Question (will the detectives stop the Serial Killer?) answered. Story over? Not quite… In Wedding Crashers, the hero’s sins are exposed (by the antagonist fiancé) and the girl he loves now hates him: she’s sure to marry the fiancé!" (Story Structure in 17 Steps, Warfield).
Alright people, figure out your character's goal and really bring it out in this scene.  Good luck!

MY DAY 27:  Just picked away at the book.  One thing I've learned through all of this is to recognize when it's time to take a break.  If you start surfing facebook because you're having a tough time thinking of what you want to write, then get up and do something else.  Don't sit on the computer.  Give yourself a 10-15 minute break and you'll come back feeling refreshed.  Or you have the option to force yourself through the next 10 minutes forbidding yourself to look at facebook until your done.  Either way don't waste your writing time by internet browsing.  

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