The Link Between Your Story’s Pinch Points

Of all the paired structural beats in a story, the Pinch Points are perhaps the most obvious. There are only two of them, they have the same name, and they perform essentially the same function in both their first and second iteration. They’re also perhaps the least known and most confusing of all the major turning points in classic story structure.

Today, we’re continuing our series about “chiastic” structure—which refers to the idea of the second half of a story mirroring the first. Although this effect can be created in more obvious and deliberate ways, it is always present within the actual structure of a story. In the first post, I talked about how it’s sometimes more helpful to think of story structure not as an arc but as a circle, in which one half mirrors the other with the ending circling back upon the beginning.

I started this series because I was asked to elaborate on the link between the Inciting Event and the Climactic Moment. Since then, we’ve also talked about the link between the Hook and the Resolution and the link between the First Plot Point and Third Plot Point. Although most of these links aren’t immediately obvious, the Pinch Points are different. The Pinch Points are, in many ways, the identical twins in the family. Occurring at the 3/8th and 5/8th marks (or halfway between the First Plot Point/Midpoint and halfway between the Midpoint/Third Plot Point, respectively), they are often thought of as comparatively minor beats. They’re not Plot Points after all. They’re just Pinch Points—whatever that is.

However, their timing alone tells us the Pinch Points bear an equal load with all the other major turning points in a story. In fact, along with the Midpoint, they are the only major turning points entirely contained within the Second Act. This means, for one thing, that they are key factors in avoiding a sagging middle to your story.

How do they do this? Other than simply moving and turning the plot, the chief function of the Pinch Points is to reinforce the antagonistic force’s presence and raise the stakes. They make the protagonist feel the “pinch” of the rising conflict.

Structurally Speaking: What Is the First Pinch Point?

Structuring Your Novel IPPY Award 165

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The First Pinch Point occurs at approximately the 37% mark. This is halfway between the First Plot Point (which ended the First Act) at the 25% mark and the Midpoint at the 50% mark. Like all the other beats, its primary function is to turn the plot in some way. Something major happens that changes the conflict and the protagonist’s approach to dealing with it.

Specifically, both the First and Second Pinch Points turn the plot in a way that emphasizes the antagonistic force’s ability to create obstacles—thereby raising or emphasizing the stakes. There are many ways to do this, depending on the type of story you’re writing:

  • In an action story, or any story in which the protagonist and antagonist are obviously pitted against one another, it may be some sort of victory for the antagonist and defeat for the protagonist.
  • In a romance, it may simply be an event that emphasizes the two leads’ fears about their incompatibility.
  • In a mystery, or any story in which the antagonist is off-screen, it is often a clue about what the antagonistic character has been plotting unbeknownst to the protagonist.

In fact, the use of clues is inherent to both the Pinch Points, since these beats must also function to powerfully set up the major revelations that will occur at their subsequent beats. For the First Pinch Point, this subsequent beat is the Midpoint, which includes the Moment of Truth—arguably, the single most catalytic revelation in the protagonist’s character arc if not the plot as well.

In the first half of the Second Act, the protagonist will still be in a “reactive” phase—or what screenwriter Matt Bird refers to as “trying the easy way.” The Midpoint will mark a major transition into the “active” phase, or “doing things the hard way.” But you can’t just have the protagonist bumble along all through the first half, only to completely change his perspective and mode of action at the Midpoint. You have to build up to it—and the First Pinch Point is critical for accomplishing this.

As you can see in the graphic below, the section of the story between the First Plot Point and First Pinch Point is the “reaction” phase, in which the protagonist is behind the ball as she tries to adjust to the new paradigm in which she finds herself.

Then at the First Pinch Point, new truths begin to emerge. The section after the First Pinch Point, leading up to the Midpoint, is one of dawning realization. The protagonist’s big revelation at the Midpoint will allow her to shift gears and move from reaction to action, from full-on immersion in her Lie to a dawning understanding of the Truth. The Midpoint will clue her in about the methods that haven’t been working up until now—which, in turn, will show her what else she can try that might work instead. The First Pinch Point foreshadows this revelation.

Second Act Timeline

(This article doesn’t discuss the First and Third Acts, but here’s the link to the corresponding First Act Timeline and Third Act Timeline graphics if you’re interested.)

Structurally Speaking: What Is the Second Pinch Point?

The Second Pinch Point mirrors the First Pinch Point by occurring at approximately the 62% mark, halfway between the Midpoint and the Third Plot Point (which will begin the Third Act at the 75% mark). Other than timing, there is little technical difference between the two Pinch Points.

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Like the First Pinch Point, the Second Pinch Point is a turning point designed to emphasize the antagonistic force, raise the stakes, and foreshadow the next major revelation at the Third Plot Point. As we discussed last week, the Third Plot Point is the “low moment” within both the character arc and the plot. The Moment of Truth at the Midpoint was when the protagonist first saw and accepted the power of the Truth, but he did not yet give up on the Lie He Believes because he did not yet understand that the Lie and the Truth are mutually exclusive. The Third Plot Point is where he will have to reckon with this incompatibility. The Lie-believing part of him must die and, if he is following a Positive-Change Arc, he must then be reborn in the Truth.

Usually this change at the Third Plot Point is catalyzed within the plot via revelations about the external conflict. Just when the protagonist thinks he is about to win the day, he suffers his greatest (or at least most symbolic) defeat yet. This defeat could be literal, or it could simply be a shattering revelation—such as that the antagonist has a huge army and a foolproof plan for winning.

Regardless, the Second Pinch Point exists to set up this major revelation and lead into the Third Act. As you saw in the graphic above, the section before the Second Pinch Point is one of “action” in which the protagonist begins utilizing what she learned at the Midpoint. But after the new clues of the Second Pinch Point, the next section is one of a “renewed push,” in which the protagonist uses seemingly advantageous clues and incentives to double down in her pursuit of her goals. This push, however, will lead her first to the reversal at the Third Plot Point.

Recognizing the Joint Functions of Your First Pinch Point and Second Pinch Point

We can identify several similarities between your story’s First Pinch Point and Second Pinch Point:

  • Important Clues

One of the most important structural jobs of the Pinch Points is to offer clues about both the plot conflict and the thematic philosophy. These clues will introduce plot-changing information. The protagonist may be told about something (e.g., someone tells him a secret), or he might witness something (e.g., finding another murder victim), or he might be involved in a plot-changing event (e.g., the antagonist launches a surprise attack).

For Example: In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the protagonist (who is undergoing treatment to erase memories after a painful breakup) experiences significant memories at both the Pinch Points, first of his ex Clementine confronting him (in a “pinch” from the antagonistic force of his own commitment issues), then of being chased by the doctor who performs the treatment (and who thereby embodies the antagonistic force).

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Focus Features.

  • Foreshadowing

In many ways, the above “clues” are the foreshadowing, via which the Pinch Points set up their subsequent turning points at the Midpoint and Third Plot Point. But you can also use any standard form of foreshadowing to lay the groundwork for the major moments to follow. This might take the form of the protagonist creating a plan which will be put in motion at the subsequent beats. Or it might be subtler and more symbolic. Or it might even be foreshadowing in reverse—by way of misdirection and irony.

For Example: In the complex murder mystery Insomnia, both of the Pinch Points provide the protagonist with new insights into the murderer and his plans, neatly foreshadowing the subsequent beats. In the First Pinch Point, the protagonist receives a blackmail call from the murderer, which foreshadows the revelation of the murderer’s identity at the Midpoint. In the Second Pinch Point, the protagonist is made party to the murderer’s plan to frame someone else, which foreshadows the arrest of an innocent man at the Third Plot Point.

Insomnia (2002), Warner Bros.

  • Antagonist Check-in

The Pinch Points offer the opportunity to bring the antagonistic force to center stage if the plot warrants it. This doesn’t always mean the antagonist must be physically present since the Pinch Points can also “check in” on the antagonistic force simply by emphasizing a sense of his presence in some way. This could be via the revelation of clues, as above. Or in story that doesn’t personify its antagonist but rather focuses on relational or inner conflicts, the antagonistic force might be emphasized merely by having the protagonist mull on her problems. Or an off-screen antagonistic force might merely be mentioned in some important way by other characters.

For Example: In Studio Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle, the Pinch Points emphasize both the antagonism of the war and Howl’s inner demons. The First Pinch Point follows up a scene in which the protagonist Sophie witnesses warships with a scene in which Howl has a meltdown, revealing what he believes is his true cowardly nature. The Second Pinch Point shows Howl returning from a fight with the enemy, in which he took the shape of a bird and is now, symbolically, in danger of turning into that monstrous shape forever.

Howl's Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), Studio Ghibli.

  • Emphasis of Stakes

Via all of the above, the Pinch Points must function to emphasize and/or raise the stakes. Whatever is at stake for the protagonist in the main conflict will come under fire at the subsequent beats of Midpoint and Third Plot Point. The Pinch Points offer the opportunity to remind the readers (and the characters) just what is on the line should the protagonist fail or mess up (which he inevitably will).

For Example: In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, both of the Pinch Points emphasize the titular antagonist’s violence—and therefore what is at stake for the protagonist Rance Stoddard if he persists in opposing Valance to ratify statehood for an unnamed western territory. In the First Pinch Point, Valance is off-screen, but Rance receives news that Valance is killing farmers who are voting in favor of statehood. In the Second Pinch Point, Rance’s friend and employer, the editor of the local newspaper, is savagely beaten by Valance and his cohorts.

7 Ways to Write Thematically-Pertinent Antagonists

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), Paramount Pictures.

4 Questions to Ask About Your First Pinch Point and Second Pinch Point

1. How Will the Pinch Points Set Up the Major Revelations at the Moment of Truth and the Low Moment?

First, you’ll want to identify what major revelations will be unveiled at the Midpoint and Third Plot Point. Then think about how you can use your Pinch Points to set up those revelations. How can you lead into the big revelations with some smaller revelations? How can you plant clues, which the protagonist can follow like breadcrumbs right up to the big revelations?

2. How Will the Pinch Points Foreshadow the Midpoint and the Third Plot Point?

If you plant clues at your Pinch Points, you’re already foreshadowing the subsequent beats. But think about how you can deepen the effect. Beyond the revelations themselves, what else happens at the Midpoint and Third Plot Point that needs to be set up? The Midpoint and Third Plot Point are two of your major set-piece scenes/sequences. As such, they usually require a little preparation whether you’re going to be writing about a battle or a ball.

3. How Can the Antagonist Be a Presence at the Pinch Points?

Whether your antagonistic force is someone standing in the way of your protagonist’s goals, or a lack of trust between allies, or simply an inner weakness on your protagonist’s part, consider how you can make the antagonistic force pertinent to the Pinch Points. This may be a good opportunity to bring the antagonist onstage or feature his POV if you’ve already introduced it. Or you may simply want to reference the protagonist’s relationship to the antagonist in some crucial way.

4. How Can You Use the Pinch Points to Increase the Stakes and/or Remind Readers What Is Already at Stake?

Stories are built on stakes. If nothing were at stake for the protagonist, she wouldn’t be on this journey. Those stakes should be present by implication in every scene, but the Pinch Points are the places to remind readers of exactly what the protagonist stands to lose in the conflict. Even better, since the Pinch Points are turning points which must move the plot, use them to raise the stakes in ways that foreshadow the coming confrontations at the Midpoint and Third Plot Point.


Next week, I’ll be launching my new book Writing Your Story’s Theme (yay!). Two weeks from now, we’ll examine how the Midpoint acts as the pivot for all the partnered structural beats in the first and second half of the story. Happy writing!

Previous Posts in This Series:

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! How do your First Pinch Point and Second Pinch Point serve to set up their subsequent beats in the plot? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Gary Myers says

    I love this series! It’s a great companion to the previous ones you’ve done.

    First, though: a typo. Early on in the post, you say the Second Pinch Point comes at the 6/8 point. I believe you meant to say 5/8, or ~62% as you say later.

    Second, a question I’ve had for a while but have not seen explicitly addressed: Does the First Pinch Point specifically demonstrate the danger of not acting against the Antagonistic Force, and the Second Pinch Point show the danger of not defeating it?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Thanks for the heads-up on the typo! Fractions never were my favorite subject. 😉

      Your question raises an interesting point. I’d have to study it a bit to see if there’s enough of an emergent pattern to say it’s a “rule.” But I think it’s a fabulous approach and definitely worth experimenting with.

  2. In my First Pinch Point, the MC saves his mother, whom the antagonists kidnapped as bait, from the antagonists. The Midpoint is where the protagonist, while learning from a medium about a dimension where they can be safe, inadvertently leads the antagonists to the medium and gets him killed.

    At the the Second Pinch Point, the protag’s mother is killed while they are on the run trying to get to a dimension where the antagonists can’t get them. At the Third Plot Point, the Protagonists teams up with some sketchy allies to try to find a thing they need to get to the safe place. At each Pinch Point, the protagonist feels guilty for getting his mom involved. I’m not sure about that Third Plot Point, though.

    • No wonder that seemed messed up. I looked at the wrong card for the Third Plot Point. It’s where the sketchy allies kill the creature that can open the portal to the safe place. I’m still not sure that works, though.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      The mother’s death does seem like a stronger candidate for the death symbolism of the Third Plot Point, but if pacing and other structural requirements don’t support that, what you’ve posited still fits the bill.

      • Thanks! Yeah, the mom story is a subplot. I guess the Third Plot Point as I have it is the ‘death’ of the protagonists’ escape. The main plot is them trying to get to the safe place.

  3. Good points (so to speak).

    I’ve always liked the idea that pinch points are normally related to the main antagonist or conflict — not always by having him there, but by making their real emphasis be to keep our focus on what matters. If a story has multiple threads or issues going on, it can lose focus easily, and the “pinch”es can be as much to remind us *which* problem is most important as to hint how big it can get.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Punny. 😉

      And I agree. Thinking of the Pinch Points as “reminders” of the antagonistic force is a solid approach.

  4. Katie,

    Thank you for this excellent series on structure, which was very timely for me. Long story short, so far I’ve written three trunk novels, and I’ve promised myself this one wasn’t going that direction. I’m actually tempted to tell the story of this novel using story structure, but I’d reached a point where the writing was coming along fine, but I felt the story was fraying. I was following an outline, but I still learn much about my characters and their world as I write. Regardless, I felt my story was fraying apart. So, I got to the end of Act I and held up the drafting to review the story structure and a few other things.

    Then my mentor figure arrives, with this series and wonderful Structuring Your Novel and Creating Character Arc. Story structure may be intuitive to you, but its taken a while to pound it into my granite skull. Anyway, I think I’m back on track. Hopefully, the writing adventure is clearing the third plot point and heading into the climatic struggle, and not just encountering the inciting incident!

    Your Better than the Bestest.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I believe that mastery is making conscious what is unconscious, which is why I feel it’s so valuable to study story theory and structure. It helps us clear away our own cobwebs and see where we need to get out of our own way.

      • I think you may underestimate my cluelessness!

        I don’t think I began writing with any concept of structure other than that a story should have a beginning and an ending. It’s difficult to look into my skull and know what used to be there, but at some point I did realize there was a difference between a collection of interesting anecdotes pointing toward a conclusion and a satisfying story. I think I’m finally putting together the connections to make that work.

        As for mastery, I think it’s a wee bit early for me to believe I’ve achieved that. But I do believe that I’ve lodged a bridgehead across the river of appallingly bad.

        I haven’t dropped in a story topic suggestion in a while. I was listing to your Creative Penn interview, and you said something else that was very important to me. You talked about how the outlining process should be fun and dipped a little into your approach to it. It’s far too easy to let the writing process become a grind, or to treat parts of it as duties. I’m personally overwhelmingly guilty of marching down the duty highway. Maybe writing up some things that you think can bring the fun, and it’s lovely sister creativity, into the writing process.

        In your debt beyond description.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          Not saying I’ve achieved mastery either! One of my favorite quotes is Ernest Hemingway’s “We are all apprentices in a craft no one masters.”

          Someone else actually just emailed me about the problem of taking writing too “seriously.” I’m planning to post on it down the road, after I’ve finished this series.

  5. Your work has really helped me clarify my thoughts on–not just story structure–but how that structure supports specific functions. I’m now very much committed to the 4-act point of view because I see each act as serving a different function in the story problem solving process and I believe this same structure not only exists at the overall story level but is repeated like a fractal at the act and even scene levels.

    I like to call Act 1 the Discovery of the Problem which leads to the first plot point: Commitment to Action. Act 2 is the Exploration of the Problem which leads to the second plot point: Revelation. Act 3 is Exploration of the Solution which leads to the third plot point: the Choice, and then Act 4 is the final Conflict which leads to the ultimate Resolution.

    I believe this same CRCR pattern is repeated at the act level and that the Pinch Points are like mini Moments of Revelation. If we view the struggle between the Protagonist and the Antagonist as a conversation, then the 1st Pinch Point is where the Antagonist gets to make the case for why he believes his approach is the best solution to their mutual concern–usually by defeating the Protagonist’s initial approach to solving the problem. It should at least reveal to the Protagonist that the nature of the conflict is bigger and more complex than he’d expected and introduce the first real doubt that his approach isn’t going to work.

    I also think that this CRCR pattern carries down to the scene level where it shows up in scene Action/Reaction pairs, the first scene being a Commitment to Action resulting in Revelation followed by a second scene of Choice leading to (if not complete resolution) a Resulting series of steps that set up the following action of the next scene.

    I just wanted to say thank you for these posts. And to say: keep posting, so I can keep stealing ideas about how story works. 🙂

  6. Excellent article. Thank you!

  7. I am loving these series. I never gave pinch points any consideration (never heard the term to be honest). I can see now why they are useful.
    Great article, K.

  8. Hi, Great article and even better series! I do have one basic question for you.

    Something has always bothered me about the illustration of your Story Structure “Circle”. Today’s the day it dawned on me…Why are the story points running counter-clockwise. It just seems more natural to move to the right clockwise.

    You’ve probably answered in the past somewhere,but would you mind telling me your thoughts on going against the grain.

    Keep up the great work!


    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I thought about that, but the reason I framed it this way is so that you see the first half beats on the left side, which readers of Latin languages, such as English, automatically look to first and consider the “beginning.” To me, it seemed counter-intuitive to put the first-half beats on the right-hand side. But there’s no reason you can’t draw the graphic that way instead if it makes more sense to you.

      • I get the part of reading from left to right…I’m just not sure if that applies to circles. My question was born out of curiosity not criticism, so I hope you took it that way. I appreciate your response…thanks.

  9. This series on “chiastic” structure and the links between paired structural beats is so helpful, Katie! I am amazed at how much I continue to learn from you 🙂 !!! Can’t wait for your upcoming book release! Thanks for always giving back to other writers. You are INCREDIBLE!!!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yay! Glad to hear that. I’m thinking I may take a break from the last two posts in the series, so I can launch the new book, Writing Your Story’s Theme, next Monday. I want to get it out before National Novel Writing Months starts in November.

  10. So great and makes a lot of sense. Totally validated the choices I’m making in my second act. Also helped me see the weakness and edits that I’m going to need to do for my first pinch point and it’s context (I strayed from my outline and it tanked 😅)

  11. I’ve spent more than 15 years writing NON-fiction and only about a year ago decided to give Fiction a try. I knew I had a lot to learn – such as writing dialogue and creating 3-dimensional characters. Little did I know that those two skills would only be the tip of the iceberg for completing my education. I have spent every single day learning and honing my craft [in that order]. I’ve rewritten character sketches, created detailed descriptions of the environment, food, chairs, bedding, sidewalks, flowers in a walk-by garden, smells, noises, and expressing tactile sensations.

    Then, a few weeks or so ago, I downloaded your “Outlining Stormy…” and then your “Story Structure”. Outlining taught me to pay more attention to each detail as the story evolved. Structure gave me a tool that allowed me to fill in each section and find out that I was sorely lacking in story for a book length piece. So, it was back to the drawing board.

    I FINALLY finished my Structure – in outline form with lots of detail – a sort of blend between the two. I want to thank you for giving me tools that I could utilize instead of just explanations. Although, I do appreciate the explanations as well.

    If there are any writers that have yet to actually sit down and DO the Outline and/or Structure for their own story, you are wasting a wonderful opportunity.

    Pepper Davis

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Congrats, Pepper! Sounds like you’re well on your way to a good book.

    • I know some people will be thinking, “there’s no way I’ll ever be able to do that much pre-work before I even _start_ writing.” They should know that this is the early “learning to apply the lessons” phase of writing.

      The good news is that as you get used to thinking in these terms, this stuff becomes automatic and you don’t have to spend so much time digging and planning. You’ll soon develop the instincts that will allow you to spit out a nearly complete story in no time.

  12. Ok… I’m definitely confused. I understand the job of pinch points, but I’ve got maybe 6 candidates for the 2 places. How can you work it out if you have more than one outer antagonistic force trying to utilize your protagonist’s inner antagonist to their advantage? Which ‘bad guy’ should get the pinch point spotlight?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      The spotlight should be on whatever antagonistic force is confronted in the Climactic Moment.

      • But, even that’s tricky since there’s an imminent genocide of a town/city, but those behind the plan aren’t properly ‘confronted’ until another book. Nature also presents as a mortal antagonistic force at this point and there’s conflict with the protagonist’s doubts/fears (like being forced to bungee jump when you’re unsure the rope is safe). It all plays into a very intense climax. Since just about everything else is plotted out, would it be bad if I skipped out on identifying my pinch points for the time being? I’m sure I have them somehow; they’re just eluding me in the forest of events : (.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          It’s totally up to you about what creative timing is best to hammer out structural details.

  13. This article helped clarify something I’m working on now, ideas popping up as I was reading. Very exciting. Thanks for the post!

  14. Nice work! I’m thinking the Mirror Moment is about facing the true cost of the protagonist continuing to be reactive. So what’s seen in the “mirror” (whatever form that might take) is himself/herself as responsible for failing to prevent the cost.

    The pinch points introduce the true cost, so I’m wondering if the 1st pinch connects the Want to the Cost, the Midpoint recognizes the need for proactive / self-awareness, and the 2nd pinch reinforces the idea the Cost may not be avoided even if the Need is pursued instead of the Want. So by the 3rd plot point, the Cost hits, and the choice between the Want and the Need is all that is left for the Climax.

    • And of couse the Cost is related to the Truth, but perhaps a smaller more personal truth than the larger Truth confronted in the Climax.

    • J. J. Griffing says

      It works more explicitly if you’re writing grand heroics for your protagonists, but the plot and pinch points work in survival stories, too: here the catalytic villain tips his hand, or the weather becomes fouler, or both. In Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, I don’t think the villain (Mr. Nedry) even survived past the midpoint (a “catalytic” villain is a secondary antagonist, as I see it, whose role is to set the protagonists at a disadvantage vs. the impending disaster, or initiate the disaster itself, which is the primary antagonist– man-eating dinosaurs, for example– even without him).

      And the second pinch point’s Moment Of Truth should shape how the heroes respond in the climax when the world is falling in around their ears (sometimes literally).

  15. In my wip which is the character memior written in first person. Somethings does happen that the character needs more magic for walking. Also one of her priestesses dies when she comes a goddess as in Rose when she was younger.

  16. I don’t know whether to thank you or start grumbling. I think I’ll go with the 80/20 rule – 80% thanks.

    I’m not sure how, but this series hit home the fact that I am writing a trilogy backwards. I started with a solid idea (at least to me) for a story. I wrote and rewrote that manuscript, then realized I had a great opportunity for another story that complemented and set up the original one. Cool. I got that done.

    When you dove into the details of story beat mirroring, I realized that the combination of the two books had its own beats, but the first act was missing. In fact, many of the questions about what happens in the overall story wouldn’t be answered without a lead in. I figured I could add a few chapters to the beginning to round everything out.

    Darn, and double darn. As I outlined these chapters, the hard fact hit home that this should be its own book (especially since the first draft will be about forty to fifty thousand words).

    So thank you for making my attempt at story telling much better. And adding a whole lot more work for me.

    You are the best.

    BTW, this last/first book is almost writing itself.


  17. Hi! Thanks so much! How would this work in a romantic comedy?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      In a romance, the antagonistic force is usually the couple’s own doubts or conflicts, which are keeping them from being together. This is what should be emphasized at the pinch points. I always think of the Sandra Bullock/Keanu Reeves movie The Lake House as a great example of this. You can read my structural breakdown of the movie here:

      • Aw thank you!! That makes so much sense! I’m writing my first screenplay for a tv show and this will definitely help! 💜 Also, do you have any advice for writing a romantic comedy/dramedy with multiple couples/characters getting together over time? Thanks! 🙂

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          Structurally, that would be no different than any other story with multiple plotlines. You can handle this in two ways: either use the same plot point to drive the plot in both POVs – or time it so each POV gets its own structure-advancing plot point at the proper time. In the vast majority of cases, the first is preferable, since it will contribute to a much tighter story.

          • Thank you!! Thanks for explaining that so clearly; super helpful! 💜 I will think about this and may write to you again.

            And thank you for the Lake House review post too; very helpful also! Going to rewatch the Lake House so I can see the awesomeness in action. ☺️

            Thanks again!

          • Also, could you share any advice, posts, or example shows to reference for writing plot/pinch points that are comedic, especially for a sweet romantic comedy? I can think of so many plot points that would be dramatic but I’m hoping it’ll be more fun/sweet/funny than dramatic/painful for the heart. Thanks! 💜

          • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

            I don’t watch/read a lot of romantic comedies. I suggest studying the structural beats in some of your favorites and seeing what you discover. 🙂

  18. Ok thanks :)) Been really enjoying your posts by the way! Thanks so much! 🙂

  19. Hi there! I’m working on plotting Act 2 of my novel and have been coming back to your structure posts. I have this question: Is it a pinch point when the antagonist is first introduced? Can there then be two pinch points in the first half of Act 2?

    For context – my antagonist is present in the inciting incident and its effects in Act 1, but the MCs don’t know about him. They spend Act 1 trying to put the pieces together and understand what’s going on. So the First Plot Point is that they finally know what the problem is and decide to try to solve it.

    But when they put their initial plan into action, they run up against the antagonist who prevents them from doing it – and that’s the first time they know who he is. But that’s after the First Plot Point – so does that mean it’s a pinch point, or is it just “stuff” happening in Act 2?

    Because I think the real First Pinch Point comes after this, after the MCs find out who the antagonist is and start fighting against him, so he then threatens them with a new obstacle.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      The antagonist *can* be introduced as late as the First Pinch Point, but generally it’s best if he or she is introduced or at least foreshadowed in the First Act, since the antagonistic force is what creates the obstacles to the protagonist’s plot goals and therefore the conflict and the plot’s forward momentum.

      The First Pinch Point is a major, plot-turning moment in which the antagonist’s strength is particularly emphasized in some way to the protagonist.

    • I see the pinch point as a sort of mini mid-point turn. A smaller discovery of the true nature of the Antagonist. In Star Wars, the end of Act 1, Luke commits to opposing the “Empire”. The first Pinch Point is the “That’s no moon” moment when they discover the true nature of their fight.

      • Thank you, this is helpful. But I still feel stuck because I feel like I have two pinch points between the First Plot Point and the Midpoint.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          A story will have many more plot points (i.e., turning points) than just the major structural plot points that show up every 1/8th of the story. Nothing wrong with having extra turning points in between. The only exception would be if you feel the pacing is off in some way as a result.

          • Just realized I never responded. Thanks for that explanation, that was helpful! If I can be so bold as to ask a follow-up question almost two months later… 😀

            What I had in mind as the first pinch point is actually coming right before the midpoint. It’s when the antagonist threatens the protagonists in a new way, which makes them respond immediately by attacking back in a new way, leading directly to the action sequence that ends in the midpoint. So does that still count as the first pinch point if it’s actually closer to the 45% point of the story?

          • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

            It’s hard to say for sure, but my reaction is that what you’re describing is too closely related to the Midpoint to properly be the First Pinch Point. The First Pinch Point should be a turning point that bridges the First Plot Point and the Midpoint.

  20. Just writing another fan letter about your work in general and this idea in particular. I’ve been struggling for many months with an unwieldly second act. I’ve never been more frustrated with a plot in my life. This morning I woke up with a start thinking to myself–your pinch points are not really pinch points, take that marker seriously for once and for all. For the first time I see light at the end of the tunnel…thank you!

  21. Emilie M. says

    I have a question regarding the placement of the pinch points. I have now written half of my first draft (yay!). The first pinch point falls on the 37-38% mark (more or less) of the entire planned draft (95’000 words), but when I look at act II.1 itself, then it falls at 54% and not 50% (my first act is shorter than 1/4, but it might become longer with revisions…).
    Is that still ok? There is quite a lot of setup to do before I reach the pinch point…
    Thanks 🙂
    Emilie M.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Congrats on getting halfway! The longer the story, the more wiggle room. For example, movies are a “shorter” medium than most books and so need to hit the timing pretty precisely. In a very long book, the pacing won’t necessarily suffer if the timing is off by even as much as 15%. However, in a shorter book, such as yours, you probably won’t want to see that much variance.

      However, structural timing is ultimately always about pacing. So if you feel the pacing works in both the abbreviated section prior to the Second Pinch Point and the necessarily overlong section after, then I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

      See this post:

      • Emilie M. says

        Great thank you so much for your reply and for the link. I’ll read the article for sure 🙂
        Have a great day,
        Emilie M. mais

  22. I have one question. If the pinch points are about the opponent jabbing at the main character’s weakness or inability to succeed, what happens if the main conflict is man vs self? Does the main character jab at themself…? How does that work?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      The best way to think of conflict is as a series of related obstacles that prevent the character from reaching her overall goal until the end of the story. The best way to think of an antagonistic force is as whoever or whatever is presenting those obstacles. (The antagonistic force’s moral alignment within the the story is irrelevant as far as the foundational conflict goes.) Take a look at what is consistently standing between your character and her goals throughout the story. Whatever you find, that’s your primary antagonistic force. This could be another person or externalized force, but it could also be the character’s own inner struggle.

      • Brady 🌸 says

        So in a character-driven story, where the inner conflict was the main force driving the obstacles, the pinch points would be specific events resulting from and/or emphasising the main character’s weaknesses?

        But unlike the obstacles building up to this point, the pinch point particularly focuses on reminding readers who the antagonist is (which would be the character themself)?

        To add to that: If a proxy was needed for the man vs self (which I’m guessing would be needed for entertainment’s sake) how would you use an outside antagonistic character to represent the main character’s weakness? Are you able to link any examples please?

        Sorry! I feel like a goose! I don’t know why I’m finding it so hard to wrap my head around this…

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