About a Boy

Book: By Nick Hornby.

Inciting Event: Will pretends he’s a single father in order to attend Single Parents—Alone Together, so he can meet single mothers, whom he believes are easy romantic targets. He singles out one mother in particular, who, unbeknownst to him, is the best friend of the suicidal Fiona, mother of the story’s co-narrator, twelve-year-old Marcus. In attending SPAT, Will encounters the initial conflict without even realizing it, even as he remains in adamant denial of the Call to Adventure, via his horror of the responsibilities of parenthood.

First Plot Point: Will meets Marcus for the first time in the Key Event. Both Will and Marcus attend the same SPAT picnic with Fiona’s friend Suzie, while Fiona remains home, insisting she doesn’t feel well. The First Plot Point arrives when Will and Suzie take Marcus home, only to find Fiona unconscious after having attempted suicide. From this moment on, Will is involved in Marcus’s life. The turn is subtle here, since, technically, Will could walk away. But he is drawn to the family and finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into their problems.

First Pinch Point: Marcus keeps coming to Will’s house uninvited, and they slip into a passive friendship. After bullies chase Marcus to Will’s house, Will realizes Marcus needs help fitting in at school. He buys Marcus new shoes—only to have the bullies steal the shoes and Fiona find out about and (futilely) forbid Marcus’s relationship with Will.

The real antagonistic forces in this story are those that prevent Marcus from fitting in and Will from taking responsibility in his life. Both are emphasized and challenged in this scene.

Midpoint: After Marcus begins to find a friendship with the school’s “scary” girl Ellie, he plays hookie from school. Will decides to help Marcus learn how to fit in, and he tells him about pop band Nirvana’s lead singer Kurt Cobain. This is the first bit of information that begins helping Marcus find a tentative footing at school and in his relationship to the rebellious Ellie. It also marks Will’s first full-hearted attempt to aid Marcus.

Second Pinch Point: Will meets and instantly falls in love—for the first time ever—with Rachel. He resorts to his old tactics of lying and lets her believe Marcus is his son.

Two things to note about this:

  1. Generally, this is far too late in the story to introduce a character as substantial as a love interest. However, it works here, largely because Rachel remains an ancillary character, there to prove how Will is changing, more than she is to dramatize the relationship itself.
  2. As a turning point, it works fine. As a pinch, it doesn’t pack a whole lot of power. Will’s new love is threatened by his duplicity, but Rachel ends up forgiving him almost effortlessly when she finds out.

Third Plot Point: On the same day Kurt Cobain nearly kills himself from a drug overdose, Marcus recognizes Fiona is growing dangerously depressed once again. The Third Plot Point should always be territory that reeks of death, as it does here with the threat of double suicide.

Climax: Marcus reluctantly goes to visit his injured father, taking Ellie with him, only to have the trip go awry when Ellie gets drunk over Cobain’s second and successful death attempt. Will learns how to be there for Fiona in her hour of need and takes her and Ellie’s mother to rescue Marcus from the police station.

Climactic Moment: Marcus realizes he’s going to be okay without his dad as a real presence in his life, since he has a support network in Will and Ellie. Will realizes there is a point to life.

Resolution: Marcus learns how to fit in, Fiona becomes less depressed, and Will remains a positive influence in their lives.

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