Get it written.  Get it right.  Get it published. 

Click HERE to have your story plan evaluated and empowered. Ridiculously affordable, astoundingly valuable.

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. 



Filed under Uncategorized

Part 6… of a 10-Part 101-level Review of Writing Your Novel

Part 6: Gaining Dramatic Altitude – Welcome to the Part 2 Second Quartile of Your Story

Story structure is all about making your narrative – and thus, the reading experience – more effective. More intense, more emotional and more engaging. These are goals that apply to any and all genres, and thus, it renders the essential nature of story structure a universal truth.

Basic story structure breaks the arc of a story down into four roughly equal (relative to length) quartiles. You’ve probably heard of the 3-Act structural model, which is used by Hollywood and virtually every 101-level writing class that acknowledges structure in the first place (many don’t, including most MFA programs, thus handicapping their students at the very core of the understanding of what makes a story work).

Each of the four quartiles has a specific and unique mission: to impart a context to all of the scenes that appear within it.
The second quartile’s mission is to show your hero responding to the new presence of a story path that emerges at the First Plot Point, which is located at the intersection of your Part 1 (setup) and your Part 2 (response) quartiles.

Every scene in the Part 2 second quartile unfolds in context to this mission: your hero now has something to do, a a problem to deal with, a danger to flee from, a puzzle to solve, an opportunity to pursue.

In other words, after the Part 1 quartile has setup all the requisite pieces of the story, and the First Plot Point has toppled those dominoes into a sequence of action, you now engage with the Part 2 second quartile to show us the hero in motion.

Not necessarily showing the hero in battle or confrontation (it’s too soon for that (this is the mission of the Part 3 “attack” quartile), but rather, Part 2 is where we show how the hero reacts to the call to action (via the First Plot Point separating Part 1 from Part 2) and the presence of need, driven by motivation (often threat or danger) and stakes (love or even survival).  The hero will get their hero on soon, in Part 3, but for now, here in Part 2, we need to deepen a sense of threat and danger and establish the nature of the antagonistic force (or character) that is posing those threats.

The Part 2 quartile isn’t the whole ballgame, but it is one fourth of it. But like all four of the quartiles, there is a mission at hand and specific milestone moments within, the sum of which equals optimized dramatic tension and pace, which is the life-blood of genre fiction.

If you’d like to go deeper, join us in Portland, OR, April 3 -7, for a massively comprehensive workshop (when was the last time you saw a four-day writing workshop?) that will change your entire writing life. Click HERE for more information, including the agenda and a huge tuition discount.



Filed under 10 Part 101 craft series