Identify Your Novel’s Plot Points

A reader asks what a plot point really is.
Writing Tip for Today: Plot points in a story describe the event(s) where your main character’s goal, attitude, adversary or situation changes enough to affect the outcome.

  • Turn, Turn Turn. You can think of these plot points (or “pinch” points ala Larry Brooks) in terms of turning points. Your character runs a maze of events and situations on his/her way to the goal. When there’s a dead end, the character must go another way. A good novel keeps cornering its hero/heroine, but in a way that moves him ever closer to the goal.
  • Don’t Let Off the Gas. If you are cornering your character, you’re not letting him win very often. The early scenes should have complications that keep the pressure on. So every time your character wriggles past an obstacle, three more rise up to take its place. Make your character work hard to win, but if she wins too often, too early in the story, chances are you need to apply more pressure in the form of tension, conflict or untoward events known as complications.
  • Name Five Points. You should, by the time you’ve drafted a novel, be able to identify at least 5 major points in the novel where the character has to change direction, push harder or fight to keep what she already has. The Inciting Incident can be one, as can major complications. Save the CLIMAX scene aka the BIG ONE for last. This scene should come very near the end of the story. No, you shouldn’t have a series of climaxes because that’s well, anticlimactic. In your climax scene, be sure the character ACTS. This is your do or die point. Can you name the plot points of your work-in-progress?

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

4 comments on “Identify Your Novel’s Plot Points

  1. This is really helpful. I’m always looking for ways to strengthen my writing, and in doing so I see many of these terms (i.e. “plot points”) tossed about in blogs, etc. It gets a bit confusing. Needless to say, I appreciate how you simplify things. BTW, you have a great blog. I read it every time you post.

  2. “Plot points” ( unfortunately?) has several meanings.One website says a novel should have about 150 “plot points”. Seems to me these are what I call “events”.
    As with many of our terms, many “shades of gray” exist.

    • Anonymous, You’re correct in saying many terms in writing try to describe the same thing. Plot points/events should number way more than five, but I meant the major turning points. See? You could say turning points as well. Thanks for your comment. ~Linda

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