Structure Series #5: First Plot Point

Time to get things rolling…

Story Engineering Model (four-part story model): First Plot Point, the turning point at the 25% mark of your story.

The First Plot Point, the moment we’ve been working up to. But what have we been working up to?

Here, we have a context shift, we go from setup mode into response mode. But response to what, exactly?  This is where we encounter the inciting incident, that event, enormous or barely audible, that commences the dance itself. It defines and shifts the hero’s needs and quest from this point forward. It is… the moment… when something enters the story in a manner that affects the hero’s status, his plans, his beliefs, forcing him to take action in response.  That story problem that we’ve been alluding to? It now must be addressed. There is no more time to deny it, or remain blissfully ignorant. It’s time.

Here is our checklist:

  • Opening the Can – This is the opening of the dramatic can of worms, the point of no return, the tipping point of the story. This is huge. No kidding. If we want it to be silent, so be it, but it’d better be deadly too. Our hero’s world is turned on its head – nothing is ever the same.
  • Catalyst for Change of Context – First Plot Point ushers us from setup mode into response mode, but our hero is also transformed here from his orphan self to his wanderer self, stumbling through his many attempts to run away or otherwise get out of his situation
    • Each of our Plot Points (First, Mid-, Second) are context shifts.
      • Our story focus goes from:
        • Setup -> Response -> Attack -> Resolution
      • And our hero goes from being:
        • Orphan -> Wanderer -> Warrior -> Martyr
    • We will continually refer to these context shifts.
    • Think of them as the thick poles of a heavy teepee, 3 essential to stability.
      • Remember that plot twists can be anywhere, but MUST be at these designated spots!
  • Full Frontal Conflict – This is the moment when our story’s primary conflict makes its first center stage appearance. It is our readers’ first full frontal view.
    • It may be something already present, but there is an escalation or shifting that changes the game completely, bringing the darkness to light, fear to the forefront.
  • Full-On Appearance of Antagonistic Force – We’ve foreshadowed it some in our setup, that nasty opposition to our hero’s goals, needs, or actions. Now our reader must see it. There is no room for doubt. Opposition must be present, looming, threatening, from here on out.
    •  What is it? Could be our hero’s arch nemesis, sure, but could just as easily be a force, not a person. What about the status quo, the cultural walls that hem us in, our own fears, the love that eludes us, a disability, a race against the clock, threatened secrets? Our antagonistic force can be anything that gets in the way. Maybe even a best friend that has our hero’s same goal when only one of them will fit in the winner’s circle.
    • Again, our tension or antagonistic force may have already been present, but the First Plot Point makes it more urgent, forcing action on the hero’s part.

That seems like a lot to fit into a point, but relax, our plot point can just as easily be an entire scene unfolding as it can be one single instant in time. We get to decide.


Here’s a slightly more abbreviated outline of the First Plot Point and its missions, all in a neat little pdf package, complete with space for you to make some notes on your own story: Four-Part Story Structure – First Plot point (#2)

To view a chronological listing of the posts in this series, continue below:

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