The Scorch Trials

Inciting Event: After settling into Jansen’s “way station” along with the other survivors of the maze from the first movie, Thomas follows the strange boy Aris through the air ducts to witness shrouded bodies on stretchers being moved into a secure room. Aris convinces Thomas the bodies are actually those of kids who had supposedly been sent to the Safe Haven earlier that day.

This is Thomas’s first solid encounter with the main conflict of this story: something fishy is going on and he is convinced he and his friends aren’t as safe as they’re supposed to be.

First Plot Point: After sneaking into the locked room and witnessing the unconscious bodies of the immune kids being “harvested” for the cure serum, Thomas leads his friends on an escape. They leave the “Normal World” of the way station (even though it was “normal” for only about fifteen minutes of the movie—which is just fine for a sequel) and enter the Second Act’s adventure world of the Scorch—the lethal desert of post-apocalyptic San Francisco.

First Pinch Point: After hiding from their searchers and from the sandstorm in an abandoned building, they turn on the power, only to discover they are not alone. They are attacked by Cranks—zombie-like survivors of the Flare virus that has decimated the world. One of their number, Winston, is attacked and clawed by the Cranks. They flee the building to the unprotected rubble of the city.

Midpoint: After Winston proves to be infected (and shoots himself), they finally spot the lights of a settlement at the foot of the mountains where Thomas believes they’ll find the resistance group called the Right Arm. Instead they find opportunistic gang leader Jorge and his young ward Brenda. Jorge imprisons them, intent on using them as his own ticket into the Safe Haven.

This isn’t a tremendously strong Midpoint. We don’t have a full-fledged Moment of Truth or plot-changing revelation. Just prior to Winston’s death, Teresa offers half a revelation when she reveals her erased memories have been restored and that she now knows Thomas was responsible for something drastic—but the revelation is neither completed nor directly pertinent to the immediate plot, which means it’s Teresa’s private Moment of Truth and therefore can have no major impact on the protagonist Thomas.

Second Pinch Point: Jansen tracks down Thomas and the others and attacks Jorge’s compound. Jorge rigs the building to blow and everyone escapes. Thomas and Brenda are separated from the others and have to find their own way through the Crank-infested sewers.

From this point on, the story focuses heavily on Brenda. Although the plot requirements definitely make it tricky, it would have been nice had she been introduced or foreshadowed in some way earlier in the story in order to provide some balance for her massive presence in the second half.

Third Plot Point: After finding the Right Arm and offering his own blood to save a Crank-bitten Brenda, Thomas learns Teresa has betrayed them by calling in Jansen. She believes the immune children have a duty to sacrifice themselves to help stop the plague.

This is a great Third Plot Point/low moment. The most important person in Thomas’s life is Teresa, but the most important thing is escaping Jansen and the WICKED organization. Here, these two values are thrown into direct opposition, with the potential to create a fabulous amount of personal fallout for Thomas. Absolutely delicious.

Climax: After pocketing an explosive, Thomas allows himself to be captured. He initiates a standoff with Jansen and WICKED leader Dr. Page, which allows for one last shootout between WICKED and the Right Arm.

Climactic Moment: Thomas’s friend Minho—as well as Teresa—is captured when WICKED flees.

Resolution: Thomas prepares to go after Minho and resolves to end WICKED by killing Dr. Page. His friends decide to join him. Cue the sequel.

Notes: About the time Thomas and Co. find the Right Arm, I started worrying that was the Climax. Middle stories are becoming notorious for lame cliffhangers. So I was very pleased when this one properly ended with a decided Climax of its own. It’s got loose ends, sure, but that’s fine for a middle story. What’s important is that it closes off the main goal of this story (finding the Right Arm) while adhering to correct structure.

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