National Velvet

Inciting Event: Mrs. Brown decides wandering ex-jockey Mi Taylor, whom her youngest daughter Velvet has brought home, can stay with her family. She talks her husband into giving him a job. Just previous to this, we also have another Inciting Event: Velvet and Mi’s first encounter with their neighbor’s out-of-control horse, whom Velvet names the Pie and with whom she immediately falls in love. The entire story turns upon Velvet’s relationship with both Mi and the Pie, so it’s fitting that their entry represents the first brush with the main conflict.

First Plot Point: After Velvet talks Mi into taking her along on one of his deliveries for her father, so she can see the Pie again, the Browns’ dog chases the Pie out of his field. The horse runs into the village and causes so much damage that his owner decides to raffle him off. Mi buys Velvet a raffle ticket—and she wins. They have just left their Normal World without the Pie, and entered their “adventure world” with him.

First Pinch Point: After the Pie wrecks the Browns’ cart, Mr. Brown threatens to send him to the knacker’s. We get the emphasis of the “pinch” from this scene, but the turn in the plot comes from the simultaneous, but ultimately unrelated, decision on Velvet’s part to train the Pie for the Grand National race.

Midpoint: Mi takes Mrs. Brown’s money to London, nearly steals it, then makes the dramatic turn in his character arc when he decides to remain loyal to the Browns. He enters the Pie in the race and returns to the village of Sewels. This is the only plot point that doesn’t feature Velvet and Mi side by side, and from it, we can see that, in fact, this is Mi’s story more than it is Velvet’s. She’s the impact character in his positive change arc.

Second Pinch Point: In the midst of his training, the Pie grows dangerously sick, forcing Mi and Velvet to nurse him back to health. This is a pretty episodic moment in the plot that doesn’t really serve to move the story forward beyond momentarily spiking the stakes. Again, the turn in the plot is basically unrelated: shortly after the Pie’s recovery, Velvet and Mi leave for the race.

Third Plot Point: Velvet fires her jockey after learning he has no confidence in the Pie. Mi finally relates his tragic story—and why he is now afraid to ride racehorses. Both Mi and Velvet quickly rally from this low point. Mi overcomes his fear and offers to ride the Pie, but Velvet has already decided she wants to ride.

I’ve always felt this was the wobbliest point of the film precisely because the previous plot points indicate this is more Mi’s story than Velvet’s. As a result, his sidelining during the Climax feels ever so slightly anticlimactic.

Climax: The race begins. As with so many Climaxes, this one is neatly encapsulated in its own entirely unique, entirely obvious section of the story.

Climactic Moment: The Pie wins the race—but Velvet faints from exhaustion and falls off before she can reach the corral.

Resolution: Velvet’s gender is discovered and the Pie is disqualified as the winner. Nevertheless, he and Mi return triumphantly home. Mi journeys on, and Velvet chases after him to tell him the truth he wanted to know about his father: that he coached Velvet’s mother in swimming the Channel years ago.

This is such a lovely closing scene. It’s bittersweet, answers all the story’s questions and ties off all its loose ends, while still providing a dynamic sense of continuing forward progression for the characters.

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