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Part 7… of a 101-level Series on the Basics of Story

How to “Pinch” Your Story for Greater Dramatic Effectiveness

Register now for a FREE tele-seminar on March 16, on Story Structure.\ Details await at the end of today’s post on Pinch Points.

(As an introductory tutorial, go HERE to read my guest post on on basic story engineering.  But please come back to learn more about a highly effective secret weapon in the war against reader apathy and waning dramatic tension.)

An Introduction to Pinch Points

Story structure exists to help us keep our narrative sequence on track, relative to exposition and pace.  All four quartiles of a well-executed story have specific contextual missions that imbue each scene within them with just the right focus, avoiding the story-killing tendency to ramble or jump the gun relative to your hero’s proactive confrontation with the core dramatic issue.

Two of those specific quartile-empowering contexts — Part 2 and Part 3 — get a little help with a specific narrative moment that brings the story’s core dramatic focus back to the forefront – called a Pinch Point.

The pinch point resides in the exact middle of its assigned quartile, one each for Parts 2 and 3.  The reason why, like much of story structure itself, connects to other aspects of how a story should unfold.

Let’s look at Part 2 to better understand this. 

The context of every scene in your Part 2 quartile is showing your hero responding to a new story path, in the presence of pressure, threat, danger or opportunity, which was put into play – as the primary focus of everything – at the First Plot Point.  Which was, as you should know, the transition moment from the Part 1 setup and the Part 2 hero’s response to the First Plot Point twist (new information that enters the story at that point).

With this focus on the hero’s response, it would be easy to actually push the source of the story’s conflict, the core dramatic element, toward the background.  Which is not good.

Let’s say your story is about a family running from a bear, which appears at the First Plot Point to disrupt the family outing and is now chasing them through the forest.  Very tense, right?  But you have to do more than show us the family running away.

You have to show us the bear, as well.

Within the quartile mission being showing the hero’s response, we need a time and place to remind the reader of the source of antagonism (the bear, in our example).  The Part 2 Pinch Point does just that, literally putting the focus back on the source of antagonism (the bear) to remind us of the proximity and threat of the danger at hand.

The hero hasn’t forgotten about that –   he’s running from the bear, after all — but the reader might have, so we need to get the villain back into the game.

But what if there’s no bear, you ask. 

No villain at all.  What if my story  is driven by a horrible disease or an approaching storm?  Same thing, each of those is the source of the story’s antagonism and threat, which creates drama and conflict in the story.  The Pinch Point functions exactly the same… show us the disease and its power to destroy lives, or show us the storm and the violence that approaches.

In Part 3, also in the precise middle of the quartile, you need to show us the villain (source of antagonism) once again.  Yes, you can show it to us as much as you like in other places, which means you use the Pinch Points to show the antagonism in an evolved, much closer proximity, which in turn heightens drama in doing so.

Pinch Points become a secret weapon in the war to win the reader’s emotional engagement. 

Why?  Because fiction is based on conflict that causes drama, and these two structural milestones give that drama it’s moment back on center stage. In the case of the Part 2 Pinch Point, it might even be the reader’s first glimpse of what threatens the story’s hero.

Join us in Portland, OR, April 3 -7, for a massively intense and interactive workshop that brings all of these structural and character-driven story essences together into one cohesive story plan, regardless of your story development process.


Free Teleconference Workshop on Story Structure!

Join story coach Jennifer Blanchard and me for a lively hour of discussion on the critical realm of story structure, including how it applies with flexibility to any story, every time.

Massive value.  Zero cost.  What could go wrong?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Live at 7:00 pm Eastern time (adjust your arrival accordingly)

Click HERE to register.

If you receive a “you’re already subscribed” message, that means you’re still subscribed from the last call we did… so you’re all set.

All registrants will receive call-in details via email on the day of the call… which is Wednesday, March 16th. 



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Writers… Ever Been on the Verge of Quitting?

If so – and you aren’t alone – read this guest post from story coach Jennifer Blanchard.

The first time I sent my Story Coach, Larry Brooks, a story plan for him to analyze, I thought I’d nailed it. I was waiting to receive his email saying I had a great story and my genre would eat it up.

What I got back, was heartache.

Not only did he say I didn’t have a story, but he pointed out several really big plot holes and one particular scene that, if I used it, would ruin the whole story.

It was bad.

And he didn’t give much positive feedback, if any. Not because he’s mean and wants me to suffer, but because positive feedback isn’t going to help me improve. (What’s good doesn’t need to be fixed, everything else does.)

I haven’t ever admitted this before, but a small part of me wanted to quit in that moment. To throw in the towel and say that I would leave the writing up to people with actual talent.

Except I wouldn’t be where I am in my life today if I listened to the voice that tells me to quit. So I pushed through and decided maybe that wasn’t the right story, and I worked on another one. 

A few short years later, my debut novel is out in the world (a story that Larry also analyzed, told me had potential, and he made a small tweak that changed everything).

Being a novelist–especially a pro novelist–isn’t for quitters. It’s for writers who know they can get better and improve by learning craft, by studying story, and by not trying to do it all alone. 

That’s where I found myself in the moment I felt like quitting. I knew I could quit and find another hobby to focus on (God knows I have plenty of them!). But in my heart I knew I was a novelist. So I had to go on.

What I did instead of quitting was practice more. I re-read Story Engineering. I watched more movies and deconstructed the plot points. I re-read the novels I love, to see how they did it.

Three things you’ve gotta have if you want to be a pro novelist:

    1      Thick Skin–as thick as possible. The thicker the better. You have to be able to hear really bad things said about your story and not even flinch. (REALLY TOUGH, I know.)

    2      The Ability to Brush Things Off–you can’t take anything personally. Ever. Because it’s never really about you. It may be about your work or your writing, but it’s not about you as a person. Making mistakes, in writing or elsewhere, doesn’t mean you’re flawed and not meant to be a novelist. It just means you have more to learn.

    3      A Strong Grasp On Craft–period. There’s no way around this. You have to know craft, understand craft and master implementing it in your stories. If you can’t do that, you’ll never make it. (Harsh, maybe. But I’m here to help you cut years off your learning curve, not keep you spinning your wheels forever.)

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that being a good writer is enough or that you can write a really good story without knowing craft. It’s not and you can’t. 

There are opportunities everywhere to learn more about craft. Books. Workshops. Coaching programs. Writing groups.

If you’re ready to learn craft, here’s an enormous opportunity for you to do so:

Your Story On Steroids

One bestselling novelist. One pro story planner. Four days. Portland, Oregon. April 3-7. The Benson Hotel. Your writing will never be the same again. (And there’s a special massively discounted price available until Valentine’s Day!)

>> Learn More

About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is an author and story development coach who helps emerging novelists be more effective storytellers and cut years off their learning curves, so they can write kick-ass books and get published faster. Grab her free story structure cheat sheet and start writing better stories today.


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