#9 of only 12 sentences you need to define your entire novel.
To amp the moment when our hero finds the last piece of the puzzle and begins the chase, provide some contrast: just before the Second Plot Point, slam your readers with an All is Lost moment. Yank the rug out. If you’ve put your hero up a tree and thrown rocks at them, this is the point to have angry woodsmen chainsawing the trunk as they set it on fire. Preferably with flamethrowers. And one of the good guys up the tree with our here might turn out to be in cahoots with the enemy and shove them off the branch, where they hang by one hand above the flaming chainsaws.
Getting from here to your Second Plot Point is one of the toughest parts of writing. Get it right, and your readers will worship the water you walk on.
Write a sentence to explain what goes wrong to throw your hero into the pit of despair which is the All is Lost moment.
Tomorrow, #10: the Second Plot Point.
#8 of only 12 sentences you need to define your entire novel.
Midway through the Attack comes the Second Pinch Point, where we share another glimpse into the evil of our antagonist. Just like during Response as our hero was flailing and failing, reveal another vivid first-hand look at what our hero is up against. As before, simple and direct is best.
Write one sentence describing this clear look into the antagonist’s actions and how it raises the stakes for our hero.
Tomorrow, #9: the All is Lost Moment.
#7 of only 12 sentences you need to define your entire novel.
Based on the new information introduced at the Midpoint, the hero shifts from wanderer, reacting uselessly, to warrior, attacking the problem head on.
The magnitude of this shift reminds us how significant the Midpoint is. A weak Midpoint makes the Attack less believable.
… more … “Attack (#7 of 12 Sentences)”
#6 of only 12 sentences you need to define your entire novel.
If your novel were a play, the Setup would be Act I. Act II would be split in two: Response and Attack. In Response we saw the hero flail and fail. In Attack, they’re no longer reacting to what’s done to them, to circumstances. Instead, they’ll become a driver for the action, attacking the problem head on. They’re no longer an aimless wanderer.
The event which changes all that is the Midpoint.
… more … “The Midpoint (#6 of 12 Sentences)”
#5 of only 12 sentences you need to define your entire novel.
Midway through the flailing and failing of the Response is the First Pinch Point: the reader is given direct insight into the antagonistic forces for themselves. New information emphasizes, even raises the stakes. According to Larry Brooks, the simpler and more direct it is, the more effective it is.
Write one sentence which describes what new insight into the antagonist will raise the stakes, at least in the reader’s mind.
Tomorrow, #6: The Midpoint.
#4 of only 12 sentences you need to define your entire novel.
After the First Plot Point the hero reacts without success. For the next 25% of your book, they flounder, fight, and fail, reacting to this unwanted quest which has been thrust upon them. They are a wanderer, trying to make sense of the new world they find themselves in.
Write one (perhaps long and rambling) sentence which describes how your hero will flail and fail.
Tomorrow, #5: the First Pinch Point.
#3 of only 12 sentences you need to define your entire novel.
25% of the way into your novel is the First Plot Point, where your hero realizes they’re on a journey, whether they like it or not.
Watch a television drama. About 15 minutes in, something happens just before they cut to the commercial which tells you exactly what the show is going to be about. The main character learns something that makes their path for the next 45 obvious and unavoidable.
That moment is the First Plot Point.
… more … “The First Plot Point (#3 of 12 Sentences)”
#2 of only 12 sentences you need to define your entire novel.
The first part of your novel is the Setup. It has 5 missions. The first is setting a killer hook, giving the reader something so compelling they don’t even consider not reading your book.
The Setup makes up the first 25% of your novel. It takes that long to meet the 5 missions. Shortchange your readers in the Setup and you’ll struggle to create empathy for your characters. Without that emotional connection the stakes fall flat.
Besides the Hook, the Setup has 4 more missions:
… more … “The Setup (#2 of 12 Sentences)”
#1 of only 12 sentences you need to define your entire novel.
The first part of your novel is the Setup. It has 5 missions. Four of them will be covered in tomorrow’s post, but the first is so important it gets its own slot.
… more … “The Hook (#1 of 12 Sentences)”
I fully know the joys of completely winging it through an entire novel. That’s how I wrote Through the Fog. I had no idea how the story would end. Most days I had no idea how that chapter would end.
It’s fun, but it results in one of two things
- endless rewrites, or
- a substandard story.
I am well aware that Through the Fog falls into the latter category. Foreshadowing? Theme? Supreme stakes? Pretty much missing.
When I learned more writing craft I realized I could retrofit Through the Fog or do better next time.
Then from Larry Brooks I learned another way.
… more … “The Ultimate Plotting Tool for Pantsers: Your Novel in 12 Sentences”