The Two Halves of the First Plot Point

The First Plot Point is one of the most important turning points within the entire structure of story. As with all of the major structural beats, the idea of a “turning point” offers the inherent concept of two halves: turning away from one thing/state into another thing/state. The First Plot Point is often referred to as a threshold or “Door of No Return,” which offers another type of visual metaphor to represent the native two-sidedness of all the major structural beats.

Last week, with a post about the Two Halves of the Inciting Event, we kicked off a little informal series in which we are breaking down the major structural beats into the halves that create their crucial scene arcs.

The beats we’re exploring are:

As the transition between the First Act and the Second Act, the First Plot Point creates a tremendous arc—out of the protagonist’s Normal World and into the symbolic Adventure World of the plot’s main conflict. It is one of the most crucial beats not just for getting a story off to a good start, but for ensuring that the following plot mechanics can operate at full capacity. A weak (or missing) First Plot Point can irreversibly damage the entire story. I would argue weak First Plot Points are one of the main reasons readers put down a book and never finish it.

In writing a story with a strong First Plot Point, it is important not just that it is there at approximately the correct timing (around the 25% mark), but that it includes the two crucial and important halves that will ensure it creates the necessary arc into the Second Act.

Once again, here is a quick overview of all the major structural beats and their recommended timing:

The First Act (1%–25%)

The Hook – 1%

The Inciting Event – 12%

The First Plot Point – 25%

The Second Act (25%–75%)

The First Pinch Point – 37%

The Midpoint (Second Plot Point) – 50%

The Second Pinch Point – 62%

The Third Plot Point – 75%

The Third Act (75%–100%)

The Climax – 88%

The Resolution – 99%

This series is discussing the intrinsic structural halves of the italicized beats.

What Is the First Plot Point?

Although all of the “main” structural beats (those listed above) are necessary for a strong and complete story structure, only three of these beats are classified as “major plot points.” These are the beats that divide the story into fourths (taking placing at the 25%, 50%, and 75% marks). The First and Third Plot Points mark the transition between acts (the Midpoint, or Second Plot Point can be seen to do this too, if you prefer thinking of the model as Four Acts instead of Three).

In short, plot points are a big deal. In some respects, they can be thought to be the entire story in microcosm. This is because the plot points, more than any of the other beats, signify not just a turning point or a “movement” of the plot—but a total paradigm shift or reversal of the protagonist’s current course of action.

We can recognize this in the terminology that often refers to the First Plot Point as the Door of No Return. What happens at this plot point, and indeed all of them, cannot be reversed. Particularly in the case of the First Plot Point, even if the protagonist could return to the Normal World, he could not return to it as it was (or as he was). In short: the First Plot Point has consequences.

Within the customs of the Hero’s Journey, this is the moment when the protagonist leaves behind the Village and embarks into the unknown wilds on a dangerous Quest.

The First Plot Point signifies the end of the First Act’s setup and the beginning of the conflict proper. From here on the protagonist is totally absorbed in seeking a goal—and in struggling against an antagonistic force that is creating conflict by throwing up obstacles to that goal.

Screenplay Syd Field

Screenplay by Syd Field (affiliate link)

So what are the two halves of this important beat? Customarily (and hopefully not too confusingly), I have always referred to these halves by the names I first learned in Syd Field’s book Screenplay: the Key Event and the First Plot Point.

Over the years, people have often been confused by this distinction, since it quite obviously separates the Key Event from the First Plot Point as a beat of its own. But in harking back to the doorway metaphor, I believe the best way to distill the symbiotic relationship of the two is to view them as existing immediately on either side of the same doorway.

If you visualize your entire First Plot Point as a doorway between the First Act and the Second Act, then you can see your Key Event as the moment when the protagonist steps into the doorway, and the First Plot Point as the moment when the protagonist steps out of the doorway.

This concept will of course be dramatized in a either a single scene or a sequence of scenes. In fact, the Key Event can take place much nearer the Inciting Event (at the 12% mark) than to the First Plot Point proper (at the 25% mark), depending on how your First Act requires you to set up the entry into the Second Act.

Regardless of timing, what is important is that the Key Event and the First Plot Point function as two halves of the same whole, acting together to create an arc that, just like any good arc, reverses the “value” of the scene or sequence (from happy to sad, passive to aggressive, ignorant to curious, etc.).

Now, let’s take a look at each of these two important halves.

The Key Event

Put simply, the Key Event is where the protagonist actively engages with the conflict for the first time. It is a choice of some sort.

The previous Inciting Event introduced the protagonist to what will be the main conflict. I like to think of the Inciting Event as the moment when the protagonist “brushes against” the conflict. Up until the Inciting Event, even if the protagonist was aware of a desire for the story goal and/or the problems created by the antagonistic force, the protagonist was not yet asked to face, confront, or perhaps even acknowledge its presence in or impact upon her life.

A good example of this can be seen in romance stories. As mentioned last week, the Inciting Event in a romance is almost always the first (or at least the first “true”) meeting of the love interests. They may have been completely unaware of each other’s existence prior to this moment. But thanks to the Inciting Event, they “brush against” the main story goal and conflict, which will be, of course, their relationship.

But they are not yet “connected.” Either or both can walk away (and indeed, in fulfillment of the Refusal of the Call, probably will do so). Not until the Key Event/First Plot Point will one or both initiate an active choice to engage with one another in a way that neither can subsequently walk away from unchanged. Continuing with the romance example, this “engaging with the conflict” might be as simple as the two leads deciding to go on a first date and begin their relationship. On the other hand, in an adventure story or the like, the protagonist will make a choice to pursue the plot goal that later (in the second half of the beat) will pit him against the antagonistic force in some way.

Regardless of genre, the Key Event is the protagonist’s response to the Inciting Event. It is a further reversal from the Refusal of the Call. Whether or not the character really wants to or is yet committed to fully engaging with the conflict and leaving the Normal World for the Adventure World, she is at least making a choice to do something about the situation. Therefore, the Key Event is when the protagonist engages with the conflict.

The First Plot Point (Door of No Return)

So then, if the Key Event is where the protagonist chooses to do something to respond to the Call to Adventure and engage with the main story goal in some way, what then is the First Plot Point?

As ever, the point of there being two halves to the major structural beats is that these halves create an “arc” or a reversal of value. This value will be inherently emotional, but particularly in the case of the First Plot Point it should be dramatized through physical value as well.

If the Key Event is about the protagonist’s choice to respond to the Call to Adventure, the First Plot Point proper is then about the consequences of that choice.

You can also think of it like this: the Key Event is something the protagonist causes to happen; the First Plot Point is something that happens to the protagonist.

But, of course, the link between the two is not random. As with all good story developments, what the character suffers should always be a direct result of his own choices (if not necessarily his culpability). The most interesting character development almost inevitably arises from consequential situations for which the character must, in some way, take personal responsibility.

Back to our metaphor of the doorway, the protagonist’s decision to engage with the Key Event allowed her to step into the Doorway of No Return. Now, in the second half of the beat, we get to discover just what that choice entails and why it is one from which there is “no return.”

In adventurous or dramatic stories, this principle of “no return” is often created by literally destroying the protagonist’s Normal World or in some way barring him from it. For example, in The Terminator, Sarah Connor’s friends are murdered and she herself is attacked and must leave her Normal World to go on the run from her would-be assassin.

In a romance, the consequences are usually much less violent and perhaps even implicit, in that the now-dating (or whatever) characters must begin to grapple with the incompatibilities, great and small, of their new relationship.

You can also see less dramatic but still absolutely consequential First Plot Points in stories such The Great Escape in which the First Plot Point signals the departure from the Normal World of the prison camp simply by having the characters begin digging their escape tunnels. These tunnels both represent the new Adventure World of the Second Act and also represent a course of action from which the characters cannot turn back, since the evidence of their escape attempt is now writ permanently within physical reality.

In this instance, the true consequences are delayed (in fact, until the Midpoint when one of the tunnels is discovered by the German guards), but what is important is that the characters’ choices in the Key Event and their actions/reactions in the First Plot Point cannot be reversed. The characters have committed to the main conflict—and the Second Act can now roar out of the station.

Within the nomenclature of classic scene structure, the Key Event can be seen to be the character’s Goal (and therefore decision to act), with the First Plot Point  functioning as the concluding Disaster—which, in this case, will prompt the need for the entire subsequent plot.

Together, the Key Event and the First Plot Point create that all-important threshold of the Door of No Return between the First and Second Acts. If you can get your protagonist through that door, then you can be sure you’ve also gotten your story off to a good start.

***

Stay tuned: Next week, we will take a look at the two halves of the Midpoint: the Plot Reversal and the Moment of Truth.

Previous Posts in This Series:

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! Can you identify both the Key Event and the First Plot Point in your story? 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.

Comments

  1. Things to think about.

    I often think of the First Plot Point as the time the hero fully realizes who he’s fighting (or what, for less personified stories). He might have encountered that at the Key Event or earlier, but here is where “it gets personal,” where he commits to the struggle ahead because he sees that this won’t go away and can’t be avoided.

    Then after that Who, the midpoint is often about How he’s fighting. The struggle’s already been defined, and the midpoint is when the hero gets enough of a handle on it that his plans start taking shape.

    And the Third Plot Point redefines Why he’s fighting — the revelations there open his eyes to the stakes and sacrifices involved, and the beginnings of the hard choices ahead.

    • Miriam Harmon says

      @Ken Hughes
      That’s the perfect way to think about it! That’s pretty much how I subconsciously thought of those moments, but I never fully thought of them that way until now. The Inciting Incident is the “first brush” with the conflict, but the First Plot Point is when it gets personal to the protagonist and when they realize they must get involved, but they don’t figure out how to really help until the Midpoint. And the the Third Plot Point or slightly after is when they remember why they’re fighting. Why they must win or else. Win they must do it no matter what happens. Thank you for making this clearer in my own mind 😀.

      @KM Weiland
      I must say I’m a bit confused about the key event now. In earlier posts, you said the Key Event is when the protag goes out of their normal world and into the adventure world, which makes sense since that’s sometimes separate from the First Plot Point and sometimes the same as it. But in this description, the Key Event is when the protag makes a decision to react to the Inciting Incident and the First Plot Point is the consequences for that choice. This also makes sense, but is totally different from the other description. With the “choice” Key Event, it doesn’t seem like it can be at the same time as the “consequence” First Plot Point, since you gotta commit the “crime” to get punished for it. But the “whole new world” Key Event can be the exact same moment as the First Plot Point, or it can be way before. Does this mean there are two different Key Events?

      • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

        @Miriam: For me, the idea of the Key Event being when the protagonist “leaves the Normal World” is an abstract explanation (maybe too abstract?). If it doesn’t work for you, definitely chuck it, because what’s important is that the Key Event provide a distinct beat, a *reason* for the character to engage (willingly or not) with the potentially destructive First Plot Point.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I like that a lot. Definitely agree about the First Plot Point being when things “get personal.”

  2. I’m not exactly sure. I’m writing a paranormal romcom. I think the Key Event is when the lead protagonist invites the presumed homeless man he’s been hanging out with to stay with him. The First Plot point might be when the lead protagonist discovers the man living with him is actually a Fae creature who has been sent to help him—i.e. kick him in the butt. I thought at first one of these events might be when they kiss or something, but I think I want to hold off on any physical intimacy with these two for a while. I want them to really know each other first.

    I’m not sure realizing the man is a Fae is would be a Door of No Return. I guess I need to weave in something the lead protagonist can’t refuse. Like something bad will happen if he doesn’t allow the Fae to continue living with him. Would that make it more of A Thing That Happens to him whereas the letting the man stay was a choice?

    • I don’t know the setup of your story, but I think realizing the man is a Fae could be a Door of No Return in itself. Is the lead protagonist already aware of the paranormal, or does the lead protagonist only believe in conventional materialist reality? If the lead protagonist has a conventional materialist worldview, then realizing that, yes, fae exist and his worldview is wrong could be a Door of No Return. He can’t go back to believe in his prior worldview, even if he wants to. But I don’t know if that’s your lead protagonist’s situation.

      • Thanks, Sara. Yes! I think you’re right. That protagonist has no idea there’s a Fae realm or anything like it. That would change his worldview, wouldn’t it?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      It depends on the story. Quieter, more introspective, character-driven pieces can sometimes turn the plot with as little as personal revelations. But if the story is plot-centric, then you’ll want the First Plot Point to be a more obvious event that the protagonist cannot easily turn back from.

      • HI Katie!

        I’ve been thinking about this and am (probably overthinking) still confused. I do think it’s more of a character-driven story—no pitched battles or car chases, no bad guys with guns or flying monkeys—but I’m dealing with dual POVs and a paranormal element.

        The fae has been a terrible roommate, so, in his POV, he fesses up to being a fae when the human threatens to throw him out. He demonstrates a little magic.

        In the next scene, in the primary protagonist’s POV, instead of checking himself into the nearest mental hospital, the primary protagonist hears the fae out.

        By this point, the two have already developed a friendship, and the fae was sent by the queen to pull the human artist out of his funk, but this is the first time there’s really a bond between them from the human’s POV. The human goes from thinking he’s letting a down-and-out human with some horrendous manners stay with him, to thinking he needs to protect this vulnerable, otherworldly being.

        So, is the First Plot Point, the fae’s POV—“hey! Don’t throw me out in NCY—I’m a poor creature and won’t survive on my own. (The last part is a lie.) Oh, and by the way, Faery realm.”

        Or, from the human’s POV, “I don’t understand this, but I’m the epitome of a good guy, so I’ll protect you.”

        I’m sorry if I’m making this difficult. My brain isn’t working today.

  3. Eric Troyer says

    Great post again! I’ve have worked on the Key Event and First Plot Point for a while in my WIP, but this post gave me an idea. The two are separated by a scene, and after reading this I realized I could add some foreshadowing to the Key Event to hint at what’s to come in the FPP. Thanks!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      And this raises a good point in that the Key Event and First Plot Point (or any of the two sides to any of the major structural moments) don’t necessarily have to occur in directly subsequent scenes. There can be a little space and development between them, if necessary.

  4. Shannon Morgan says

    My mind’s whirring over the chiastic possibilities in comparing plot point sets, e.g. [Key Event + 1st Plot Point] vs [Catalyst + 3rd Plot Point], or the halves of the Inciting Incident and the halves of the Climax.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      You’re right. I hadn’t even really thought about that myself.

      • That is a good point! Made me think of two halves of many 6-component scenes – as KMWeiland has articulated in Structuring Your Novel: … But this is not that -(?)- as the scene/sequel halves are action/reaction beats, whereas these halves are both action-laden, yes?

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          It really depends how you structure the scene(s). In some instances, the two sides of the beat can be framed as action/reaction within a single scene. But you can also spread them out into individual scenes of their own.

  5. This is perfect, because I remember the last time you wrote about the First Plot you characterized it as a “door of no return,” but I wasn’t clear on the Key Event, and I was starting to question the strength of my First Plot Point.

    So. Protagonist Accepts the Call and teams up with her best friend to plot how to bring down a particular foe, a powerful commander (Key Event). This is their goal.

    While underway to their confrontation they *could* change their minds, but several actions they took along the way means they’ve come to the attention of the Powers That Be, in this case, a Roman-style “tribune.”

    The tribune intercepts them on their journey, because the heroines have sown so much suspicion against their foe — who is also a few ranks above the tribune — that the tribune wants answers to the questions the heroines raised about his commander. Thanks to your link this “disaster” is what I now know is called a “yes, but…” disaster, because even though the tribune is helping them reach their enemy faster, his intervention puts events outside of the heroines’ control.

    I call this moment the First Plot point because once the tribune intercepts them, the women can’t turn back. They become part of his entourage, whether they want to be or not. On one hand it emphasizes a point the protagonist made to her friend, that they can’t act like lone wolves on this quest. They have to be a wolf *pack*, which will mean finding allies when necessary.

    On the other hand, the women are acutely aware traitors have infiltrated the authorities, and when they meet the tribune they can’t be sure which side he’s on. Plus, as the “First Plot Point” guardian he is physically removing them from the lands controlled by the protagonist’s tribe (Normal World), into territory she’s never been to (Adventure World).

    I feel better now. Thanks!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Sounds good! The very fact that the “setting” changes when the protagonists join the tribune’s entourage is a good sign that this is indeed a First Plot Point.

  6. I wonder with the female arcs these are very different since the change is about ego individuation instead of integration. Male arcs integrating make sense they start with the Door of No Return and then after the climax have a Return to integrate. Seems like there is a choice the Maiden, Queen and Crone make to walk through a Door of No Escape and stay enmeshed in their situation instead of avoiding it, and then after the climax, complete the individuation with an actual Escape / Departure.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’d agree with that generally, although personally I still relate with the idea of a Door of No Return for all the character arcs, since the First Plot Point always signifies (at least symbolically) that the character has committed to the conflict in some way.

      • Maybe its INTJ vs INFJ thing. Behaviourally its can be looked at as a Door of No Return, but motivationally a Door of No Escape. 🙂

        I have ideas on the difference between the male and female arcs for the Midpoint and 3rd Plot Point as well, but will save that for later in the series.

        Today I’ve been writing a blog post about Attribution Theory and Metaphysical Genres, and I think the former has some relevance to understand the Key Event. Attribution Theory is about what we perceive as the causes for anything we experience. Something is either situational or dispositional, specific or global, and stable or unstable. The key event might involve a shift in worldview in one of those. Something that seems to the protagonist as unchanging suddenly is perceived as changeable. That can generate the shift from avoiding the call to accepting it.

  7. John Warfield says

    I think this series is on its way toward a compendium…love the way the halving of of the major beats defines their role in structure.

  8. Yes, I can identify the key events / FPP in my novels-in-progress, yay.

    I prefer the term ‘Blimey’ over ‘FPP’ despite not being British since a) it sounds better and b) it conveys how the reader should react to that part of the plot (Olaf Bryan Wielk suggested ‘Blimey’ as an alternative term to ‘FPP’).

    Yep, a weak or lack of ‘Blimey’ is a common reason readers DNF books, or write reviews on Amazon which say ‘this book drags so much, it took me months to read it and each time I picked it up it felt like homework.’ When I’ve seen a preponderance of reviews like this, then looked at the novel itself, I’ve often found a lack of Blimey in the 20%/30% range. For example, The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart (quote from a real review on BiblioCommons, “The book was definitely a slow start and I almost gave up on it more times than I would have liked. That being said, the plot doesn’t pick up until you’re about 82% in.”) had an event about a quarter of the way through which could have been a Blimey/FPP: the protagonist, a princess who has an amnesia problem and who is going to lose her inheritance because of it, discovers the diary/notebook she wrote before she got her amnesia problem. This could have been a gamechanger in so many ways (for example, it gives her a record of previous events based on her point of view, not based on what other-people-who-don’t-have-her-interests-at-heart-told-her), but nope, it hardly affects her or the trajectory of the plot. It just feels like another low-stakes event. To compound the lack of Blimey, the novel also lacks a strong ‘Yikes’ (a.k.a. midpoint / SPP). I myself DNF’d at about 55%. Based on the reviews of people who actually finished the book, I suspect it does have a good ‘Quake’ (a.k.a. TPP).

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Blimey. I like that. 😀 And, yes, weak plot points (especially First Plot Points) that fail to significantly turn the plot are one of the biggest problems I see in genre fiction.

  9. Thank you so much! Something about the language you used here completely cleared up for me what my key event already is and which of the upcoming events needs to be my first plot point. I hadn’t been sure about the order in which things will happen, but I feel like I have my direction now. I’ve always been a pantser (still mainly am) but am finding it incredibly helpful to have a structure to work on, loose though it might be. After reading your book, I wrote out a structure with space for post-it flags to fill in what is the inciting event, key event, and so on. I wrote on the other side where my MC needs to be at each stage in regard to her lie. It’s super helpful to have that to work from while I fill in the rest.

  10. Grace Dvorachek says

    Thanks for this! I do have a question concerning my recently-finished novel. (I’m setting aside for a while before coming back to it.) In it, two events happen that I originally labelled as one of my MC’s Firs Plot Point. They’re pretty much back to back… first, the MC (Orwyn) witnesses his best friend getting killed by a mysterious group of cloaked assassins. He flees from the scene, only to get caught by his own, disinherited brother, Adric. Adric then proceeds to take him captive, and bring him back to the rebel cottage in an obscure region of the kingdom

    It would appear, then, that Orwyn’s Key Event should be when his best friend dies, and the First Plot Point would be when he gets captured by Adric. But it seems like Orwyn’s role is too passive for the Key Event. He doesn’t really have a big say in the whole thing—he’s mostly just reacting. It really seems like the events work well, but should they be changed because of this?

    Then, there’s the other MC, Eris. She has a double First Plot Point, in which she discovers that the mysterious spy whom she’d been keeping an eye on has suddenly vanished. This is much more minor than the other scene, but it still helps provide a “punch”. Then, her husband, Adric, returns home with his brother, Orwyn, in tow. Eris is furious, as Orwyn is the one responsible for her best friend’s death. However, Adric asks her to put up with Orwyn—if only for his sake. Because she trusts her husband, she agrees, but that doesn’t keep her anger from still boiling inside.

    Again, these elements work really well in the story, but it seems like a Key Event might be nonexistent for Eris… I’m not exactly sure. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Because the turning point between the First and Second Acts is such a big moment, it’s not uncommon for the Key Event and First Plot Point to almost *seem* like the same thing/event. As long as the scene or sequence is providing a strong arc (you can think of it as problem/outcome), that’s what’s important to get the character through that Door of No Return into the Adventure World of the Second Act.

      • Grace Dvorachek says

        Okay, thank you so much! The scenes definitely seems to work as far as impacting the characters in the right way. You’ve restored my confidence… for a moment, I was envisioning a rewrite or something.

  11. Naomi Musch says

    I’m loving this series, Katie. Perfect reminders for me right now as I start plotting another book. I love the graphic! Very helpful for a visual organizer like me.

  12. Remembering that my story is about a con artist (Elexasha) and an almost immortal missionary dwarf (Josephium). Prior to the event/first plot point, the con artist was convicted of a crime and made the slave of this missionary dwarf who she immediately viewed as a mindless do-gooder. A sheriff was assigned to keep her from escaping, and she has similar contempt for him. The dwarf’s mission is to create a peaceful society, and he’s been going from world to world attempting to do tis and failing more often than not. He’s blessed/haunted by the ghosts of soldiers who have died at battles on worlds where he’s failed, and he does indeed appear crazy.

    The first plot point comes after Josephium comes up empty with several approach and leads them to a battlefield (the event). Josephium is all but impervious to weapons courtesy of his ghosts. He gets cut, but quickly heals. This is painful, but he nonetheless throws himself into the middle of the battle, breaking up melees. Elexasha is impressed in spite of herself. Another gift from his ghosts is that Josephium is a master of herb craft and a gifted healer, and he goes about the battlefield, healing soldiers who would otherwise be maimed or worse. Elexasha joins in the healing and finds she enjoys it. The first plot point is the beginning of her change in attitude toward Josephium, though she doesn’t fully understand her own reaction, and tells herself that the healing would be another tool in her con artist toolkit.

    This plays out as pretty much an action/reaction sequence.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      This is so great! Absolutely love the premise and the idea of the character being protected by “his ghosts.”

  13. Micah Charlson says

    I’m really enjoying this series. I’ve run into some version of the phrase “can be thought of as a doorway between this and that” in so many discussions of plot points and have always thought the very idea deserved a more cohesive discussion.

    Also, I wanted to point out, if you hadn’t already heard, your link to last weeks post in broken. Y’know, FYI.

  14. Lynda Courtright says

    Thank you Katie. I’ve been wrestling with the story structure of my WIP for so long I’m embarrassed to say. Little by little though—and especially by your helpful blogs—I am figuring it out. My story is a romance, but layered and complex, new adult journey of a half dozen dance/theater/musicians who met in college and went on to found a children’s theater after graduation, but amid that they are trying to figure out the rest of their lives. Like who loves who and what they really want in life. There are 3 POV characters, and I suspect that anyone who represents as a POV may move through the story beats, possibly independently from the other POV characters, especially since there are intersecting but separate subplots for these 3 main characters. (3 love triangles)

    If so, then the key event for my story would be from the main character’s plot, and would be when she encounters and accepts an invitation to go dirt biking with a man she despised in high school. 1st plot point could either be when she realizes that she likes him (a lot), and they enter into a relationship.

  15. Lynda Courtright says

    Or 1st plot point could be the flack she gets back when her very private venture into something more than a friendship with her former enemy goes viral.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      If the story is a romance, then I’d say what you mentioned in the previous comment is probably correct. It all depends on what is emphasized in the Climactic Moment.

  16. Katie Really enjoying this series. The fact you’ve clarified the key event and first plot point can be separated by a few scenes is very helpful. I think I’ve learned more about plot structure from your blog over the past couple of years than any writing course or How To Write book. I’ve recommended your blog to just about everyone I know who writes. Thanks.

  17. Wow,K.M. this is great!
    I just stumbled across your site last week and was blown away by what I read. I signed up immediately and took advantage of your generous offer. I read 5 SECRETS OF STORY STRUCTURE and learned so much. I’m sort of new to writing, never took any courses but love the process. I’ve written a few fiction novels (one might be good) but have focused more on short story where I’ve had a few published in a local anthology. Not trying to brag, instead, giving you background for my questions (2) – if you don’t mind.
    1. My novel that I am now going to completely re-write after reading your book, has 2 Antagonists. The first half of the book is told by the father and the second half by the son. My question is, should both the father’s story and the son’s story have their own 1st, 2nd & 3rd acts with all the parts – the two stories are intertwined to some degree and both sort of have different climax/endings – thought bigger climax is the son’s at the end.
    And my second question
    2. is there a different Sturture outline for short story? Certainly, not all points would fit in 1500 to 3500 words?

    Again, thank you so much for your information here. I going to read CRAFTING UNFORGETTABLE CHARACTERS this weekend and then get down to the R&R of my last novel.

    PS, I ran across your comments about Scrivener – I love that program too, makes writing fun.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      So glad you’re enjoying the site!

      I touch on the issues of plot points in multiple POVs in this post on dual timelines: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/6-ways-to-pull-off-dual-timelines-in/. But the short answer is that 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.

      As for short stories, they can be a bit of a wild card when it comes to structure. It all depends on what kind of story it is. Some short stories follow the classic three-act structure to the T – just on a much smaller scale.

      But then we also have short stories that are more vignettes – snapshots, moments. And they’re all about a single plot point at the end. The drama rises to that point, and then the story is over.

  18. Lynda Courtright says

    Thank you for your reply, Katie. That gives me some ideas.

    Lynda

  19. At first I was a little confused about the Key Even as described here, because way earlier it was described as being something that happens *to* the protagonist, “forcing” them to make the choice to enter the “Adventure World”. But then I also realized it’s never exactly the same for every story. The confusion comes from my assumption that with, for example, Star Wars (A New Hope), the Inciting Event is when Luke sees Leia’s message for the first time, then refuses the call from Obi-Wan to join him. The Key Event is then when Luke goes back home to see his aunt and uncle killed (the main conflict catching up to him), which leads to him making the conscious choice to join Obi-Wan (the First Plot Point).

    The “general assumption” (i.e. a default that may change as the story develops) I always come back to is that the Inciting Event is when the protagonist has the first brush with the conflict, but waves it off as something of no import, or that they are too insecure/afraid (and/or flawed) to take the plunge. Then the Key Event can be the inevitability of the conflict catching up to the protagonist, either as a consequence of the refusal, or another reason. The First Plot Point is then the “step through the doorway” as the protagonist either has no choice, or simply commits to enter the Adventure World.

  20. Bret Wieseler says

    I have never seen the relationship between the key event and the first plot point phrased so susinctly. Thank you for yet another revelatory moment!

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