Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Inciting Event: Shortly after meeting the malevolent Lucius Malfoy—father of his old nemesis Draco—in Diagon Alley, Harry and Ron discover they can’t get through the magic portal at the train station. Stranded, they steal Ron’s father’s flying car and crash land in a resentful wamping willow at Hogwarts.

In a movie, all Inciting Events won’t be this obviously big, in a set-piece scene kind of a way, but because of this movie’s length, it needs this significant beat here to keep the pacing rolling along. It’s a good example for novelists, since we, too, will be dealing with lengthier spans of time between Inciting Event and First Plot Point.

On a structural level, we can see that this is Harry’s first true brush with the main conflict—although he doesn’t even yet know what that conflict is. It’s also worth noting how even though this is the introduction of the main conflict, the story certainly doesn’t lack for conflict prior to this. Even before the main conflict starts, Harry has a goal: return to Hogwarts, which is met by conflict in the form of his horrible Muggle family who bar his windows.

First Plot Point: While serving detention for crashing the flying car, Harry hears a sinister voice that no one else can perceive. He follows it and discovers a message, written in blood on the wall: The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Now he is fully engaged with the main conflict. What was only a shadow before has now become a defined—if still mysterious—antagonistic force.

First Pinch Point: Harry’s arm is broken during a Quidditch match by a rogue ball that was tampered with. While in hospital, he learns that Dobby the house elf did it in an effort to save Harry from further danger. Harry sees the first petrified student brought in.

Midpoint: After infiltrating Slitheren house and learning from Draco that the Chamber was first opened fifty years ago, Harry finds Tom Riddle’s diary and learns that Hagrid was involved with the first opening of the Chamber. This is the revelation that changes his whole perspective on the conflict—his Moment of Truth.

Second Pinch Point: After Hermione is found petrified, Harry and Ron go to Hagrid to find the truth. They hide and watch as Hagrid is arrested by the Minister of Magic, and Lucius reveals that he and the other school governors have called for Dumbledore’s dismissal. Hagrid tells Harry and Ron to follow the spiders—and they find a giant spider in the Dark Woods. This is a great pinch point and a rat-a-tat emphasis of every single antagonistic force in the story.

Third Plot Point: After the spider tells them he is not the monster in the Chamber, Harry and Ron return to the school to discover that Ron’s little sister Ginny has been captured and taken to die in the Chamber. Sometimes the “low moment” in sequel stories fails to live up to its predecessors, but this is a great example of how each low moment can, and should be, unique to the particular adventure the characters are undergoing.

Climax: In the underground cavern of the huge basilisk serpent, Harry re-encounters the “memory” of Tom Riddle and discovers that Riddle was, in fact, Voldemort before he changed his name. Riddle is trying to steal Ginny’s life force, so he can return from the dead. Harry fights and kills the basilisk.

Climactic Moment: Harry kills Voldemort—again.

Resolution: Harry frees Dobby from Lucius Malfoy. Hermione is un-petrified, and Hagrid returns from prison.

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