Dreamlander

Inciting Event: After waking up in the strange world of Lael and discovering that this is the world in which all human live when “dreaming,” Chris tries to shut off the dreams using his ability as a “Gifted”—someone whose consciousness is the same in both worlds and who is able to transport physical objects between worlds—to “resurrect” the warlord Mactalde.

So why is this the Inciting Event and not the obviously big and life-changing moment when Chris first wakes up in Lael and realizes there are two worlds? Because this is the moment where Chris first brushes with the conflict. He rejects his calling as a Gifted (the Call to Adventure) and tries to escape it by bringing the antagonist Mactalde back into Lael. Without the antagonist, there can be no conflict. This is where the conflict begins; everything prior, even Chris’s crossing into the dream world, is ultimately just setup.

First Plot Point: Princess Allara, the Searcher, fulfills her duty of finding Chris. She frees him from Mactalde and takes him to begin training at the palace in Réon Couteau. In many ways, this plot point is smaller than the Inciting Event that preceded it. Although I don’t always count that as ideal, that’s just how it works in some stories.

We can identify this as the First Plot Point because it is the moment when Chris finally leaves the Normal World (as set up in the First Act) of being a clueless stranger in Lael. Allara is the main relationship character, so her meeting up with Chris here pulls the story around into its main focus: their relationship and their mutual goal of stopping Mactalde and the worlds-breaking imbalance caused by his presence. This is also where the story shifts to its main setting in the world of the Laeler royals.

First Pinch Point: The obvious Pinch Point here is the scene in which Mactalde forces Orias—the Cherazii warrior who originally manipulated Chris into bringing Mactalde across, so that he could save his people from genocide—to join his army against his will. This is the emotional Pinch Point that drives home to readers the stakes and the antagonist’s power, but it’s focus is actually more on Orias’s subplot than the main conflict.

The true Pinch Point is actually the earlier scene in which Chris, back in Chicago, learns from the former Gifted Harrison Garnett that the increasingly inclement weather is indicative that the two worlds are tearing apart at the seams.

There’s also another nice subplot Pinch Point, emphasizing the power of the minor antagonist Crofton Steadman (leader of a fanatical uprising against the Laeler government). I really dig how everything ended up being grouped together so nicely right here around the 3/8th mark.

Midpoint: Chris’s period of training with Allara ends, and he finally shifts into full-blown action mode when he joins the Battle of Aiden River and rallies the troops to victory. Up to this point, he’s been in a very reactionary role, as he struggles to learn how to fight and how to understand his new surroundings. He’s also been largely sidelined and underestimated by everyone around him. But this is where he proves he can and will make a difference in the war and that he can be the leader everyone is needing him to be. His attitude and his actions markedly change after this point.

Second Pinch Point: Again, the obvious Pinch Point is the one in which Mactalde sends Orias on a mission to kill Chris. But we’ve also got a nice back-up Pinch Point grouped in here with Crofton Steadman’s Nateros faction attacking Chris and Allara.

Third Plot Point: The Third Plot Point comes a little late here (around the 82% mark). There is a big turning point (the fall of the capital Glen Arden) at the 75% mark, but the obvious low point comes later, after the earthquake has destroyed the city, and Chris and Allara have take the surviving nobles on the run. The Third Plot Point arrives when Mactalde captures Allara’s father King Tireus and executes him. This is what forces Chris to his lowest moment, where he has to be completely honest with himself about his motives and abilities. Even though the events at the 75% are tragic in their way, we know they can’t be the Third Plot Point because they don’t have the necessary effect of forcing the protagonist to his knees. The Third Plot Point has to be a moment that the character has to fight to rise from.

Climax: Chris brings across explosives from Chicago and uses them to blow up the fortress at Réon Couteau, where Mactalde is holding Allara prisoner. As the worlds tear apart about around him, he challenges Mactalde to a winner-takes-all one-on-one battle—only to discover that Mactalde’s death was not the one required to end the imbalance.

Climactic Moment: Mactalde—the main antagonist—dies. But that doesn’t end the conflict. Killing him has been Chris’s goal throughout, but his bigger goal has always been to end the imbalance. When killing Mactalde doesn’t solve that problem, as he thought it would, the conflict continues—until Chris’s own death restores the balance between the worlds. That’s the climactic moment.

Resolution: Chris wakes up back in Chicago and discovers the horrible storms have indeed ended. Order is restored. He stays in Chicago to help his dad get sober, and he gets a phone call from Allara’s real-world self—giving them a hope of future together after all.

Notes: I was just starting to learn about story structure when I was in revision phases with this story (still didn’t have a clue about pinch points, though). But as always, it fascinates me to see how instinctively I got it right. The Inciting Event is necessarily a little late due to all the setup required for the dream worlds, and the Third Plot Point is a little late. But all in all, I’m quite happy with how it all hangs together.

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