The Firebird

Inciting Event: The plot kicks off when Nicola—an art dealer’s assistant who has the psychic ability to see visions of the past whenever she comes into contact with items—touches a Russian “firebird” carving and sees the owner—a Scottish girl named Anna—with the Tsarina Catherine of Russia. That event happens in the first chapter and is properly the Hook. The First Act turning point—what we officially call the Inciting Event—happens after Nicola has enlisted the help of fellow psychic and ex-boyfriend Rob to revisit the firebird. They gain a clue that leads them to Slains Castle in Scotland, where they see their first vision of the little girl Anna as she is learning she was adopted.

First Plot Point: Nicola and Rob witness Anna’s being taken away from Slains, on the eve of failed Jacobite raid, to safety in Belgium. They follow her to Ypres, where she is left in the care of nuns. Although the turn in the actual conflict isn’t particularly distinct in Nicola’s story, this is clearly a journey from Normal World to adventure world.

First Pinch Point: After young Anna accidentally betrays her identity as the daughter of prominent Jacobite John Moray, she is in danger and has to be taken away to Calais. There, she is nearly kidnapped, but is rescued when Vice Admiral Gordon takes up her cause without question and adopts her.

There really isn’t a suitable matching pinch point in Nicola’s part of the story.

Midpoint: Knowing Anna goes to Russia with Gordon, Nicola and Rob follow. The dramatic switch in setting makes the plot point obvious, but just as importantly, this move also offers a deeply personal turning point for Nicola: when she admits she wants Rob to go with her and when she discovers he is prescient as well as psychic and purchased his ticket months ago.

Anna’s plot turn is furthered primarily by an large jump in time, allowing her story to be picked back up once she is an adult.

Second Pinch Point: We get a plot turn when Anna goes to live with General Lacy and, most importantly, meets the seeming rogue Irishman Edmond O’Connor, whose presence will dominate the rest of the plot. However, there really isn’t much of a pinch here: no emphasis of stakes or threats to Anna’s goals.

In Nicola’s plot, we get a minor pinch when Rob convinces her to stretch her abilities. She fails and snaps at him. But this moment, in turn, doesn’t provide much a plot development. However, the two scenes work together, since each half of the plot provides part of the necessary components. Still, it would be better if both plotlines offered strong pinches of their own.

Third Plot Point: Captain Deane, an antagonist of the Jacobites, arrives in St. Petersburg, intent on spying on the Jacobite community. Anna learns the uncle she met briefly as a child died. This isn’t a sterling example of a Third Plot Point, especially since the new antagonist Captain Deane has been so poorly foreshadowed. But it covers its bases emotionally.

Meanwhile, Nicola’s plot line has only the barest sketch of a Third Plot Point: she resents that Rob is treating her in a brotherly fashion, when she is realizing she wants him to be more than that.

Climax: As we read on, we discover the reason that the Third Plot Points are so faintly sketched is because the characters’ true low moments arrive at the Climactic Turning point halfway through the Third Act.

Rob leaves Nicola after realizing his mistook her intentions to reveal her psychic abilities to the owner of a forged painting. And Anna receives information indicating that Edmond—with whom she has fallen in love—is a traitor who is colluding with Deane.

Climactic Moment: After being reunited with her birth parents and starting back to Ireland with them, Anna learns she was mistaken about Edmond and pledges him her heart.

By this point (in a scene that felt very climactic), Nicola has already made up with Rob. However, since we know from the Inciting Event, that the conflict is about the firebird, not her romance with Rob, we can identify the true Climactic Moment as the end of Anna’s story, in which Nicola learns the truth about the firebird’s provenance.

Resolution: Nicola and Rob react to their discoveries about Anna and their newfound relationship with each other.

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