The Phantom of the Opera

Book: By Gaston Leroux

Inciting Event: On the night when the viscount Raoul finally declares himself to his childhood sweetheart—the new belle of the opera, Christine Daae—he hears a strange man speaking to her in her dressing room. He sneaks in later, only to discover no one is there. He is overcome with jealousy.

Meanwhile, the new managers take over the opera—and refuse to cooperate with “O.G.,” the so-called opera ghost.

In both instances, the characters brush against the conflict. They’ve encountered the beginnings of the main conflict, but they don’t yet really know what it is or how to grapple with it. Particularly in the case of the managers, they’re “refusing the Call to Adventure” by refusing to even acknowledge the call exists.

Note, too, how this approach works because Christine is not the protagonist. She already knows about the Angel of Music and has, essentially, already passed her own Inciting Event.

First Plot Point: Raoul follows Christine to the Perros graveyard, where he learns of her mysterious singing instructor—the Angel of Music. Here, the “voice” from her dressing room manifests into a flesh-and-blood man, and Raoul’s conflict against him for the heart and soul of Christine begins in earnest—even though Raoul doesn’t yet understand the true nature of that conflict.

Meanwhile, back at the opera, O.G. acts on his threats and publically embarrasses the diva Carlotta (making way for Christine as leading lady) and crashes the chandelier into the audience in a lethal “accident.” His conflict with the managers is now in full stride as well.

First Pinch Point: At a masquerade ball, Raoul recognizes the Angel of Music dressed as “Red Death.” He confronts Christine, jealous as ever, and she agrees to a secret engagement, although she is convinced they will never be able to marry for reasons she won’t make entirely clear to him.

Midpoint: After a lengthy “Moment of Truth” segment, in which Christine reveals the truth about O.G.—Erik—living in a house by the subterranean lake far below the opera (and, in which, an eavesdropping Erik also learns that Christine loves Raoul, not him), she is kidnapped off the stage in the midst of a performance.

Second Pinch Point: The Persian (essentially a brand-new character) takes over as narrator and protagonist from this point on. He knows all about Erik as a previous acquaintance, and he agrees to take Raoul down to the subterranean lake to rescue to Christine.

As it stands, this isn’t a stunning pinch point. It turns the plot, but the only emphasis of the antagonistic force and the stakes is that which already existed thanks to the events of the Midpoint.

Third Plot Point: Raoul and the Persian end up in Erik’s torture chamber, doomed to death, while Erik forces Christine to agree to marry him.

Climax: After Raoul and the Persian escape the torture chamber, Christine agrees to sacrifice herself to Erik to keep him from blowing up the entire opera house.

Climactic Moment: Touched by Christine’s kindness and acceptance, even in the face of his cruelty, Erik releases her and the others.

Resolution: The epilogue reveals Christine kept her last promise to Erik by burying him after his death.

Notes: The book suffers from some of the heavy-handed devices and melodrama of its period. As a result, the plotting is much better in the play/film. Still, it holds up pretty well, all things considered, with all the right pieces in the right places.

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