Southpaw

Inciting Event: After winning what his wife Maureen wants to be his final fight, Billy is challenged by Columbian boxer Escobar during a press conference. Billy walks away, and even though he wants to fight Escobar, everyone around him demands he reject this Call to Adventure. How much more interesting is the conflict here because no one wants to engage it? If everyone wanted to jump into it headfirst, the conflict would lose much of its interest and complexity.

First Plot Point: During a charity event, Escobar again calls Billy out. Billy loses his temper, and the two brawl in the hotel lobby. During the scuffle, one of Escobar’s men loses his head and accidentally shoots Maureen. She dies.

This is a nice look at how the Inciting Event can introduce one throughline of conflict, while the First Plot Point’s introduction of the main conflict takes the story in a totally new (although still connected) direction. Although the story will circle back to the conflict with Escobar, it’s not actually about Escobar. It’s about Billy dealing with his life in the wake of his beloved wife’s death.

First Pinch Point: After demonstrating increasingly reckless and irresponsible behavior, Billy deliberately loses a fight, head butts a referee, crashes his car into a tree—and loses custody of his daughter Layla. Up to this point, he’s been in total reaction mode. But this emphasis of the stakes and everything he still has to lose brings the main conflict back into focus for him.

Midpoint: Billy decides to try to make a new life, so he can regain custody of Layla. He approaches a gym owned by the only trainer who “ever beat him” and takes a job as janitor. This is a relatively subtle Midpoint. Billy doesn’t immediately get back in the ring, doesn’t immediately get his life or his attitude squared away. The Rocky music doesn’t start playing. But this is him taking a step in the right direction, and that’s all it takes to turn the plot.

Second Pinch Point: Layla refuses to see Billy when he comes to visit her at the Children’s Home. That emphasizes the stakes. The turn in the plot comes when the trainer, Tick, agrees to help train Billy.

Third Plot Point: Billy is given the opportunity to fight Escobar for the championship, but Tick refuses to train him for it. Shortly thereafter, one of the boys Tick mentored at his gym is murdered—and Tick changes his mind.

This isn’t an excessively great Third Plot Point, but, frankly, it’s hard to do anything super-dramatic here when you’ve had such a major low moment for the character at the First Plot Point. The move gets the point across through the boy’s symbolic death, but the turn in the plot is almost entirely positive as Billy and Tick move toward the championship opportunity.

Climax: The entire Climax is taken up with the big fight against Escobar.

Climactic Moment: After twelve hard-fought rounds, Billy is declared the winner on points.

Resolution: He gives his championship belt to Tick and hugs his daughter.

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