The BFG

Movie: Directed by Steven Spielberg.

Inciting Event: After seeing the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) outside her window at the orphanage, Sophie is grabbed out of her bed and taken to “Giant Country,” because the BFG believes she will tell other humans about him.

This movie… where to start? The structure is a mess from start to finish—starting… here. This moment is clearly a departure from Sophie’s Normal World and an entry into the Adventure World. As such, it would have been better placed at the First Plot Point.

In itself, this certainly isn’t an irredeemable (or even necessarily misguided) choice. Many stories (especially “short” stories such as movies) successfully feature the protagonist leaving her Normal World at the Inciting Event halfway through the First Act. But this decision only works if the First Plot Point is just as adamant in obviously joining the protagonist to the main story goal of the conflict.

First Plot Point: The structure really starts coming apart here at the First Plot Point. The only obvious contender for the position is the introduction of the brutish antagonist giant Fleshlumpeater, who barges into the BFG’s house, sniffs out Sophie, and starts an unsuccessful hunt for the little “human bean.”

Really, in a different construction, the introduction of Fleshlumpeater would have been a better Inciting Event (where the protagonist—who perhaps would better have been the BFG instead of Sophie?—brushes the main conflict/antagonist). This would have allowed the bigger and more irreversible moment of departing the Normal World and initiating the main relationship to be the First Plot Point.

As it stands, not much changes after this moment in the story.

First Pinch Point: After Sophie convinces the BFG to take her out “dream hunting,” they are waylaid by the other giants, who play vicious games with the BFG. Sophie loses her blanket, which Fleshlumpeater finds and uses to recognize her presence.

The true pinch here is Fleshlumpeater’s discovery. The protagonists, however, know nothing of this event. We get a bit of a personal pinch for them via the bullying of the other giants, but that doesn’t really turn the plot either.

In short: it works. But barely.

Midpoint: After helping the BFG with his dream hunting—and catching one of her own dreams—Sophie and her new friend realize the other giants have found her blanket and will not rest until they find her. The BFG determines to leave her back the orphanage, for her own safety, but she refuses, and he finally decides to take her back to Giant Country, where they will “come up with a plan.”

(This plot point is another indication that perhaps the BFG would have been the better protagonist, since the major Moment of Truth and plot-turning decision belongs to him here.)

Second Pinch Point: The giants make a shambles of the BFG’s house, looking for Sophie, before the BFG kicks them out. This is a nice pinch point. In isolation, it’s just about the best structural moment in the story, as it clearly emphasizes the stakes for the protagonists and sets up the Third Plot Point.

Third Plot Point: Sophie comes up with a plan to give the Queen of England a dream about the giants, introduce her to the BFG, and enlist her help to get rid of the giants. This is decidedly a turning point (out of the blue), but it lacks the most important distinguishing feature of the Third Plot Point: a soul-searching low moment for the main characters.

Climax: Thanks to the Queen, Sophie and the BFG return to Giant Country with the plan of giving the giants a bad dream. When the giants awake, the British Air Force snags them and hauls them out to an unknown island where they must eat nothing but vegetables for the rest of their lives.

Climactic Moment: There isn’t a particularly clear Climactic Moment, mostly because we never really know what the main conflict is. Kill the giants? Let Sophie be with the BFG? Let Sophie find a human family?

Resolution: The BFG returns to happy solitude in Giant Country, while Sophie is adopted by the Queen’s aide.

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