What Are Pinch Points? And How Can They Make Your Book Easier to Write?

What Are Pinch Points? And How Can They Make Your Book Easier to Write?

You may have heard of these little darlings called “Pinch Points.” Of all the important structural moments in your story, they’re the most likely to be neglected. They get lost amidst all the excited chatter about their bigger, flashier brethren: the Plot Points. But Pinch Points–two of them, both occurring in the Second Act–are crucial to your story’s structure.

Structuring Your Novel IPPY Award 165

Structuring Your Novel (Amazon affiliate link)

I realized I’ve never written a proper post on Pinch Points, so today I figure it’s time to remedy that. After all, there is a lot of confusion swirling around the subject.

  • What are Pinch Points?
  • Where do they belong in the story?
  • What do they do?
  • And what happens when you neglect them?

Let’s find out!

Second Act Timeline

What Are Pinch Points?

Pinch Points are (comparatively) small turning points that occur at the 37% mark (halfway between the First Plot Point and the Midpoint) and the 62% mark (halfway between the Midpoint and the Third Plot Point).

At their most basic level, Pinch Points are nothing more or less than a reminder of the antagonistic force’s power to stymie the protagonist’s goal. They provide new information to the plot that begins setting up the major events in the Midpoint and Third Plot Point. They also act as important foreshadowing for the confrontations that will play out during these Plot Points and during the Climax.

They’re a pacing trick that re-orients the readers’ attention during the long span of the Second Act. In some stories, you find Pinch Points that have no immediate effect upon the protagonist. The whole scene might take place in the antagonist’s POV, with the protagonist never even gaining any specific knowledge about the happenings in the Pinch Points–as in The Empire Strikes Back‘s First Pinch Point when the Emperor tells Darth Vader to hunt down Luke Skywalker as their “new enemy.”

What Are Pinch Points? And How Can They Make Your Book Easier to Write?

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), 20th Century Fox.

However, the best Pinch Points are always those that offer more than just simplistic turning points or sneak peeks into the antagonist’s plans. To use your Pinch Points to their maximum potential, you need to make certain they each create very distinctive moments in your story, which can then influence every scene that leads up to their subsequent Plot Points.

The First Pinch Point

The First Pinch Point occurs at the 37% mark, a quarter of the way into the Second Act and halfway between the First Plot Point and the Midpoint.

Before the First Pinch Point: Reaction

The section of the story that leads up to the First Pinch Point is one of reaction. The character has just emerged from the dramatic events of the First Plot Point at the end of the First Act. His world has completely changed, whether positively or negatively, and he is scrambling to keep up with events. He’s in reaction mode–which is not to be confused with passive mode. He is aggressively pursuing his main story goal, but he doesn’t quite have his feet under him. He’s scrambling to understand the obstacles that are being thrown in his way by the antagonistic force, and there is a lot he doesn’t understand–about himself, about his goal, about the antagonistic force, and about the nature of the conflict itself.

The First Pinch Point: New Clues

Halfway through the First Half of the Second Act comes the First Pinch Point. This may be a major scene or a small moment, but it must be a moment that causes the protagonist to feel the “pinch” of the antagonistic force.

  • In Ridley Scott’s Alien, the alien detaches from unconscious spacer Kane’s face and disappears somewhere in the ship where the rest of the crew can’t find it.
  • In Henry James’s Turn of the Screw, the governess witnesses the ghost of her predecessor Miss Jessel.

But there’s more. This “pinch” needs to incorporate more than just a reminder of the antagonist’s power. It needs to set up the next 1/8th of the story, in which the character will slowly begin to grow into a new awareness of his story’s many truths–and specifically the truth about the nature of the conflict in which he is engaged.

Your First Pinch Point needs to provide your protagonist with new clues about the nature of the battle he is waging.

  • In Alien, the crew realize for the first time that the creature they are facing is entirely beyond anything they were expecting.
  • In Turn of the Screw, the governess not only witnesses the ghost but recognizes that her young female ward can also see the ghost and is completely unconcerned by it.
Turn of the Screw Henry James Miss Jessel Ghost

The Innocents (based on The Turn of the Screw), 1961, 20th Century Fox.

After the First Pinch Point: Realization

Thanks to these clues as much as, if not more than, the pressure asserted by the antagonists themselves, these Pinch Points act as turning points that swing their stories into a new direction and set up the epiphanies that will occur at their Midpoints. In itself, the First Pinch Point does not reveal the true nature of the conflict to the protagonist. Rather, it foreshadows it by providing a peek at facts the protagonist has barely grasped as yet.

In the section of story to follow–between the First Pinch Point and the Midpoint–the character will still be in reaction mode, but he will also begin to move beyond it. As his realization grows, his reactions will become more and more informed, leading him right up to the Moment of Truth at the center of the story.

Midpoint: Moment of Truth

The Midpoint splits both the book itself and the Second Act. It lands at the 50% mark and is the most dramatic turning point in your story. It is a major Plot Point, not a Pinch Point, but it’s crucial to any discussion of Pinch Points, since the Pinch Points are centered around it.

The Midpoint’s primary function is to present the Moment of Truth. This is the moment when the character finally realizes the central truth about the nature of the conflict. It’s instructive when watching movies to observe the protagonist’s facial expressions prior to the Moment of Truth and then afterward. Before the Midpoint, he’ll often look baffled as he struggles to keep up with the conflict. Then the light dawns in his eyes at the Midpoint, and from that moment on, there’s a look of knowing determination on his face.

  • In Alien, the matured baby alien bursts out of its cocoon in Kane’s chest, and the crew realizes for the first time the true nature of the creature they are contending with.
  • In Turn of the Screw, the governess discovers her young male ward outside in the middle of the night and realizes the ghosts are controlling the children.

The Second Pinch Point

The Second Pinch Point occurs at the 62% mark,  three-quarters of the way into the Second Act and halfway between the Midpoint and the Third Plot Point.

Before the Second Pinch Point: Action

Armed with the new understanding he acquired at the Midpoint, the protagonist charges into the Second Half of the Second Act. He’s no longer in reaction mode. He now understands what needs to be done to defeat the antagonist, and he aggressively takes action in pursuing his goal. Thanks to his new understanding, he begins making headway against the antagonistic force.

The Second Pinch Point: What’s at Stake?

But lest everything seem to be going too well for the protagonist, the clever author then sticks in the Second Pinch Point. Once again, this moment acts to bring the antagonistic force front and center, to foreshadow the coming Third Plot Point, and to break up the remainder of the Second Act.

Also once again, the Second Pinch Point has another, equally important job to fulfill. This time, it serves to remind both the readers and the protagonist of exactly what is at stake.

Alien Dallas Death Tom Skerrit Ridley Scott

Alien (1979), 20th Century Fox.

  • In Alien‘s Second Pinch Point, Captain Dallas is captured by the alien and killed. His death leaves his crew without a leader, not only showing them what is in store for them but also leaving them to the chaos brought about by his lack of direction.
  • In Turn of the Screw‘s Second Pinch Point, the governess’s ward announces he knows the governess suspects him of being in league with the ghosts, and he tries to coerce her into allowing him to return to school. More than anything, the governess wants to rescue her young charges from the influence of the ghosts. She can’t do that if she lets them out of her sight, but she also fears the boy will be a bad influence on his sister if she allows him to stay.

The Second Pinch Point isn’t as much about revealing new clues (although they can certainly play a part) as it is about slapping the protagonist in the face with the question of just how much he’s truly willing to pay to defeat the antagonist and gain his goal.

After the Second Pinch Point: Renewed Push to Victory (and Defeat)

For the last eighth of the Second Act, following the Second Pinch Point and leading up to the Third Plot Point (at the 75% mark), the protagonist will be inspired to push forward in a renewed attack upon the antagonistic force. He’ll give it his best shot–and it will pay off. At the very end of the Second Act, he will reach a moment of seeming victory, in which he appears to defeat the antagonistic force.

But it won’t last. The Third Plot Point will turn it all around and land him in his greatest defeat yet–one foreshadowed by the emphasis on the stakes during the Second Pinch Point. From there, the character will enter the Third Act–the final quarter of the story–and its climactic final confrontation between the protagonist and the antagonistic force.

Once you understand the role and timing of the Pinch Points, you’ll be able to navigate the lengthy Second Act with greater confidence and dexterity. Not only do the Pinch Points create important turning points within your story, they also influence everything that precedes and follows them. Pretty important, wouldn’t you say?

Tell me your opinion: What are the Pinch Points in your work-in-progress?

What Are Pinch Points? And How Can They Make Your Book Easier to Write?

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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. I just found this blog thru your books. Before reading the post–it sure would be easier to read if you didn’t use fixed column widths. My screen is 2560 pixels wide, and your post is crammed into a narrow column way over on the left-hand side.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      So sorry you’re having difficulty with the site! I believe it’s fixed that way to optimize for mobile devices.

  2. Who knew?
    I didn’t know the Pinch Points, but thankfully you explained them and the Second Act (always with useful examples) .

    Although many say analyze and split into scenes the story takes off his magic, I think it helps a lot before you screwed up in the publication or so.

    Thanks K.M.Weiland!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Totally agree! If anything, I’ve found that the more I learn about story structure, the more magic I find.

  3. Excellent post!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Glad you enjoyed it!

      • It gets even more fun when you are writing an overarching series of 3, attempting to line up the plot points of the overall story with those of the individual 3.

        It’s easy enough that the 75% of book 1 is the 25% of the overall story, but when it comes to pinch points being inciting events and climaxes, things get interesting.

        It’s actually really fun, moving pieces around to fit multiple purposes. The depth, the depth, the depth.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          The thing that I find most fascinating about story structure is that it’s a wonderfully endless rabbit hole. There’s always more to learn!

          • Endless, indeed it looks like only a rabbit hole at the surface, but the catacombs are without walls.

  4. Very helpful post! I use pinch points in my outlines, but think I need to work on getting my them to align with the percentages you give here.

    The first pinch is when my protagonist first comes face to face with members of the alien army he’s training to fight (and learns that this particular alien and his clan hate my protagonist in particular because his father once led a massive victory against their army). The second pinch is where he learns his sister has stumbled into the alien world where he’s fighting, and she’s lost, and he realizes can’t go and look for her because it would mean leaving his troop.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Good job with these! They both clearly align with their respective requirements of new clues and reminder of the stakes.

  5. thomas h cullen says

    The first Pinch Point.. either, the four young adults’ announcement, and their house having been denied to them, or Croyan’s skill being required, during his daughter’s Arbitration.

    The second Pinch Point.. either, the projection about what Croyan’ll likely forfeit (his career record, and financial status), as part of his effort to get Krenok to behave, or his now present skill, pertaining to his “apparent” problem with the Earth Representative.

    The difficulty’s more with The Representative, knowing its anatomy. Do you just judge it as Krenok, that’s all things antagonist-related, or, do you broaden the horizon of the concept of what it means to be an antagonistic force?

    Krenok has nothing to do with Mariel, her Arbitration, or any of her past. However, the Arbitration being judged a First Pinch Point can be interpreted in the general context of Croyan’s being someone who exists in a highly active and requiring world (despite his dress suggesting otherwise).

    And the same with the Second Pinch Point..

    Happy Easter.

  6. robert easterbrook says

    I was very grateful for your hard work, Katie, creating the visualization of First Act Timeline, and was very excited about applying it to my novel.

    Now that you’ve made the Second Act Timeline, I again extend my gratitude and get excited about applying it to my novel.

    This is fun.

  7. spacechampion says

    Gold! This is gold!

    I’ve been thinking of story from the perspective of the antagonist, and the Pinch Points seem like they’re the antagonist’s story happening at 1/8th of a story ahead of the protagonist’s story, so the protagonist is always trying to catch up to the antagonist. I’m not sure about it, but if that’s true then the story’s first pinch point is like the antagonist’s midpoint, the story’s second pinch point like the antagonist’s climax. The antagonist’s first act (with key and inciting events) mostly happens before the story opens, ending with the story’s hook, which could be the antagonist’s point of no return.

    The antagonist has a goal, a method, a metric of measuring progress and a motivation. Those four dimensions are probably best revealed at four different points in the story, the pinch points being two of the four. What do you think, K. M? If I’m on the right track, what would you say are the points where the other two would be revealed?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      There’s some definite truth to that, although I don’t think we’d be able to call that a hard-and-fast rule. There’s a ton of variation to how the antagonist’s subplot can play out. But this is definitely a perspective worth keeping in mind.

  8. Quinn Fforde says

    Thanks for this! This is the first explanation of the second act that I can really use.

  9. This is very helpful for the urban fantasies and sci-fi stories I like to write, but I’ve always had a problem applying this structure to romances (paranormal romances in my case). Story examples are also few and far between.

    Could you maybe go over this (if not the whole 1st plot point-1st pinch-midpoint-2nd pinch-2nd plot point thing) for a romance? Or if you did, tell me where… or even recommend a good book about it?

    The lover as antagonist thing was covered a bit by John Truby, but it still didn’t quite make sense to me. Any light you could shed on the subject would be most sincerely appreciated. Thanks! 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I don’t read much paranormal, so I can’t help much from that angle. But I just posted an analysis in the Story Structure Database for the romance Lake House, which has a stunningly beautiful structure and killer Pinch Points (scroll down to the bottom of the post for my notes on the Pinch Points).

      As for the love interest as the antagonist, the important thing to understand is that the antagonist is nothing more or less than a person (or force) who places obstacles between the protagonist and his goal. When the overall goal is fall in love – or not to fall in love – then the other person becomes the antagonist (the creator of conflict) in the sense that their affections and commitment to the relationship aren’t there yet – and thus are causing obstacles between the protagonist and his goal of winning her heart and being happy.

  10. Okay, so maybe I’m a dumb bunny, but I’ve never heard of “pinch points.”
    I’d never heard of “Character Arcs” either, until I read your post about them.
    I just writes stories 😀

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      That’s the way to start! 🙂 Pinch Points are largely the forgotten man in when it comes to important structural moments, so you’re not alone!

  11. Added this article to my list of Writer Tips.


  12. Thank you for this post – it’s very timely for me because I’m outlining a novel, and it made me go back to that section of the outline and ramp up what the antagonist is doing and saying. (Or not doing and saying). 😉

  13. wow, i had no idea what pinch points even were (read this because i’m in the middle of the dreaded rewriting phase of my first novel) but after reading this it sounds like my novel already has the necessary pinch points! thankfully :p will go back over and make sure though. thanks for the info!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Good for you! It’s always exciting to learn about a new structural aspect–and then realize you’re already using it on an instinctive level.

  14. I’m happy to find another writer who believes in the power of structure as much as I do. Structure is a mantra I use with my clients.

    I would add there is another use for a pinch point, which is to have the antagonist at his/her lowest point seeing their preferred/desired state. For example, an alcoholic mom who’s lost her kids sees a woman and her family going out for a meal and longs to have her life be so normal. This tightens the screws in terms of what’s at stake and reminds the reader how far the antagonist has fallen and may lose.

    This bit can also cause the antagonist to make a significant choice, either to let go completely or begin to fight back in some new or profound way.

    James (www.orchardwriting)

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Very true. The more the antagonistic has stake (i.e., the more desperate he is), the more the reader will understand the danger to the protagonist.

  15. You are my hero this week. I’m so glad I found your podcasts. I like taking a look at the posts too so I can take notes after this fact. This post in particular has been quite eye-opening. As a reader, I have an amorphous understanding of where/when things need to happen. But your concrete explanation of these mini-game changers is really great. Thank you!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Pinch points took me a long time to wrap my brain around too. But they’re instrumental in helping us tighten up the Second Act. So glad the post was useful to you!

  16. Thanks for the post! Definitely helps clear things up.

    I have a question about dual POVs. I’ve heard different things about trying to fit each character’s arc into a story structure like this: Make sure each character has/experiences a pinch point/plot point/etc., … or Choose one POV to be the primary and focus on that, … or Alternate depending on whose POV falls on those physical landmarks (37%, 50%, 62%, etc.).

    I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    Thanks again!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I touch on the issues of plot points in multiple POV in this post on dual timelines. 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.

      • Thank you! You’re right, it would make for a tighter story to plan the plot points for both together. Easier said than done! I’m glad I have your posts to help though…now I have to scrounge through my wip to see how I’ve done. 🙂

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          Dual timelines are really tricky. But it’s kind of exhilarating when the timing starts falling to place structurally. Have fun!

  17. Freya Shipley says

    Thank you for this wonderful resource!

    I’m in the midst of my first attempt at analyzing a novel plot. I’ve identified what looks like a pinch point, but I’m not sure. Is it possible for a pinch point to consist of a revelation of backstory? (The novel in question is The Seduction of the Crimson Rose by Lauren Willig.) At the 62% mark, we learn that the villains have been blackmailing and manipulating one of our protagonists, with terrible consequences for him. The reader now understands why he’s done the things he has.

    I’m doubtful because the antagonists aren’t actually doing anything active in this scene. Also, it comes well before the scene that I believe *has* to be the Midpoint. (That scene doesn’t occur until well after the 50% mark.)

    Thank you!

  18. Trying to get caught up on last year’s top ten posts. 5 down, 5 more to go. Love the timing of the pinch points. I never realized how massive the second act is. Wow. We should have a stronger story with the pinch elements.


  19. I don’t know, but what would you say are the First and Second Pinch Points in Star Trek: Into Darkness?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’m afraid I can’t remember off the top of my head. I’ve only seen it once and it’s been a long time.

      • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

        However, you can find lots of examples of pinch points in popular books and movies in the Story Structure Database

        • Are pinch points optional? Because I honestly don’t understand how to implement them

          • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

            The question is more: Will missing pinch points affect the structural integrity of your story? And the short answer is: Yes. Pinch points shore up saggy Second Acts and direct the plot to the big plot points. But I’ll bet the chances are good you’re at least hinting at pinch points in your stories without even realizing it.

  20. This was a great post, thank you! My question would be – Do both pinch points have to connect with the protagonist’s main goal? Or can one of them be simply a negative encounter with the antagonist?

    For example, in my WIP, the protagonist and antagonist (starting out as two friends) steal and hide a forbidden book that could cost them their lives if anybody found out. The protagonist does all he can to keep it a secret and eventually his life is changed by the book. He ends up giving his life for it. The antagonist, meanwhile, is afraid of being found out and has a falling out with the protagonist, blaming him for their troubles.

    I’d like to have one of the pinch points (possibly the first one) be the antagonist stealing the protagonist’s girlfriend as a means of expressing his anger over being coerced by the protagonist to steal and hide the book.

    Could this pinch point work, even though it doesn’t directly affect the protagonist’s main goal (that of keeping the book secret)?


    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      The pinch points are both major structural turning points within the plot, which means they definitely need to affect the main plot. As long as the girlfriend-stealing ties in with your main conflict (which it sounds like it does), you’re fine.

  21. How do pinch points work in a negative arc, particularly the Disillusionment one?

    (thanks so much for your help with negative arcs, btw – I was quite confused about my story until I read about them)

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Just the same. The pinch points emphasize the stakes and the threat of the antagonistic force to endanger the character’s plot goal, as well as introducing new clues about the true nature of the conflict.

  22. This post is just what I needed right now! I am working on the draft of the sequel to my first book and have the luxury of going back and cleaning up some things in book one to make the series arc more clear, and your post gave me some insights into both books!

  23. K.M. Weiland,

    I love your blogs. I follow you on Google+, receive your emails, and I am reading a couple of your books. Of all the blogs I follow, I tend to re-publish/tweet/share yours more than any others across all of my social media outlets. Whenever I have a question about, say, “pinch points” I come to your blog to review as you are clear, concise, and use the best examples (I’ve seen the movies and read the books you reference).

    Having so said, I have a question for you that came about while reading this blog, “Creating Character Arcs”, and another of your posts on the Inciting Incident:

    How would you recommend writing the inciting event as part of the backstory (not a mystery or thriller novel) so that the character is already in the world in the midst of the Lie but not yet aware? Would this be best as a 1st Plot Point or a Pinch Point or simply a narrative flashback?

    • As a “grammar nerd”, please allow me to correct my post above by saying:

      “Whenever I have a question about, say, “pinch points”, I come to your blog…”

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      So glad you’re enjoying the site! Even if you’re staging the literal Inciting Event prior to the story, you still need to create another Inciting Event within the structure of the book itself. This will be the Call the Adventure happening halfway through the First Act around the 12% mark.

  24. Thank you so much for this article. I am writing a choose your own adventure computer game and structure has been extra hard. It’s easy to get lost in the weeds when you are staring at a 500 page computer program.

  25. Hiding Behind a Pseudonym says

    I’m late to this party but wish to state here that this site is quite the godsend. I’ve read many writing craft books, but with the massive amount of well-organized information here, I think that no writing stone has been left unturned. What a gift to have such a fabulous writing teacher!

    Why is there not a find-a-post by year and month option? That would make things really easy!

    I completed my first novel about two years ago and and now am on the rewrites. It’s a testimony to my ignorant hubris that instead of starting small and simple, I:

    * attempted a dual timeline (one with a negative character arc), and
    * portray a MC who is passive in one of the arcs, though she kicks tail in the other one.

    Readers from online critique groups say that while the premise works, and many individual scenes are compelling, the biggest issues are lack of structure and lack of clear character motivations.

    Note how I describe my WIP and diagnose its problems using technical story structure terms. Thanks for explaining it all for us in such a lucid manner.

    We’ve heard the plotter VS pantser debate, but how in the world is an aspiring novelist supposed to make clear outlines without knowing what the story’s sections (as described by the outline’s headings) are supposed to be? No wonder my structure was disjointed.

    p.s. regarding my passive MC… She’s a young victim of bullying of the old-fashioned and not the cyber variety. But bullies and victims… a perennial problem, that.

    I think I can get around her passivity by including characters with some spunk and agency, More importantly, I do my best to “show” her as making and acting on all sorts of (wrong) decisions because of her Ghost, the Lie, and the Thing She wants. Hence the negative arc, in that her actions aggravate the situation. Therein lies the whole drama and tragedy of the destruction caused by bullying. I can say that the brave readers who made it all the way through were really rooting for her by the end of the story! Any suggestions?

  26. Can the Second Pinch Point happen immediately after the Midpoint?

    In my story, the protagonist is kidnapped by the end of the Midpoint and is tortured by the antagonist, so I guess the torture is the Second Pinch Point?

    Also, how does the Moment of Truth work for a Negative Arc Character? Is it the moment where they actively choose to ignore the Truth, or does it work another way? ‘Cause in my story, that’s exactly what the protagonist does (ignoring the Truth and choosing the Lie) and because of that she gets kidnapped, but since this is my first time plotting a book, I’m not really sure if I’m going the right direction…

    Thank you for your help

    (Sorry if this was complicated to understand: English is not my first language and I have a hard time expressing myself :S )

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      It depends how long the Midpoint sequence is. Because the Second Pinch Point is instrumental in foreshadowing and setting up the Third Plot Point, it should take place later in the second half of the Second Act, ideally around the 67% mark. Your character being tortured may be part of the Midpoint; if so, there should still be a Second Pinch Point later on to turn the plot out of the Second Act and escalate it into the Third.

      In a Negative Change Arc, the protagonist will be offered the thematic Truth at the Midpoint, but will reject it on at least some level. He may, however, gain a different kind of truth that helps him move actively toward his Lie-driven Want/plot goal.

  27. Wow, thank you, another great post! I’ve read your How to Structure Your Story series and other posts as well and they are helping so much! For a while I’ve felt that I’ve been stuck with my writing and when I read your posts I can feel lights going up in my head. At the beginning I’ve been skeptical so I’ve tried calculating your structural elements in my favourite stories. Now I can see how they work. I am most surprised that I’ve even found the Plot and Pinch Points in Euripides’ Medeia. That play was premiered in 431!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’m not surprised at all! I found the same thing when ready Homer’s Iliad. Crazy, isn’t it? 😀

  28. I was re-reading this and upon seeing that Pinch Points should create very distinctive moments in the story, I was reminded of my Camp NaNo project from April in which the male protagonist, Connor, is shot at the First Pinch Point. Very distinctive indeed…

    Also, despite the shooting taking some focus off the case the female protagonist, Kelly, was working on (she was trying to find a serial killer), it still kind of foreshadowed how the villain will attempt to harm them again because Connor recovers during the Second Act, which makes the villain none-to-happy because now he could eventually remember some key clues to the shooter’s identity – and he does. He remembers while in the midst of remembering something else, but doesn’t realize until later that his memory of the shooter is a very important clue to her identity. Not to mention it also helps crack the case Kelly has been working on…

  29. Do pinch points have anything to do with aspects of truth and lies? I imagine they are tests of the power of lying.

  30. Matthew Taylor says

    Hello KM

    Excellent article! Thank you for sharing.

    I am pulling together information from lots of different sources in an attempt to put together my own ideal structure template. I am finding it difficult and I wonder if you can help? You talk about a second pinch point occurring at the 62% mark. I think of this as a show of strength by the antagonist.

    Save the Cat talks about an all is lost moment (sometimes featuring a whiff of death) at about the 69% mark. Following that, Save the Cat talks about a dark night of the soul moment which goes (I think) roughly from the all is lost moment to the start of the third act at the 75% mark. That’s where they find the solution to their worse moment by digging deep. At the start of the third act they are just about overcoming their lowest moment and preparing for a show down.

    Seeing that your second pinch point is at 62%, the all is lost moment is 69%ish and the dark night of the soul is just after, am I right in thinking that the second pinch point causes the all is lost moment? Like in Star Wars, if the second pinch point is Darth Vader fighting Obi Wan, this leads to the all is lost moment where Luke witnesses Obi Wan dying, causing a dark night of the soul moment where Luke can’t believe what he just saw.

    Putting everything together and being precise is a real challenge and I respect the time and effort you have put into this website because I understand it’s not easy.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Whether or not the Second Pinch Point *directly* causes the Third Plot Point (which is what I call the All Is Lost/Dark Night moment) will depend on the timing of the story and how many scenes are actually between them. But regardless, as the final major turning point prior to the Third Plot Point (and thus the Third Act), the Second Pinch Point should certainly be a major influence leading up to this structural beat.

  31. Madelaine B says

    So, going off your Plot Point Doorway series…Pinch points are like mini doorways into the antagonist’s want/need and shows what they’ll do (or how far they’ll go) to stop the hero. Kind of?

  32. DAVID T WOLF says

    I’ve always considered myself a fast and facile writer (not necessarily a good thing) but none of my novels has ever come as easily as that facility ought to have made possible. But–I just had an idea for a semi-comic crime novel, and am trying to apply your story structure to the entire process, hoping that guidance will enable my facility. So far, it’s working. I’m at about the 25% point after 12 days, and pretty much know what has to happen when. It’s so cool to know that this specific plot element has to happen around page X. Then it’s just a matter of figuring out how to get there, with dramatic scenes and twists, etc. Hopefully, my euphoria and my progress will continue to the end of the draft–in a little more than a month from now!


  1. […] If you’re asking, “What are pinch points?” (as I did), then look no further than K.M. Weiland’s latest article: What are Pinch Points? And how can they make your book easier to write? […]

  2. […] Award: “What Are Pinch Points? How Can They Make Your Book Easier to Write?” – If you don’t know the answer this, YOU NEED TO KNOW THE ANSWER TO […]

  3. […] K.M. Weiland asks, What are pinch points and how can they make your story easier to write? […]

  4. […] What Are Pinch Points? And How Can They Make Your Book Easier to Write? […]

  5. […] reminds can also present new clues about the conflict at large. (FYI: Some writers call this a pinch point and recommend it occur around the 37% […]

  6. […] reminders can also present new clues about the conflict at large. (FYI: Some writers call this a pinch point and recommend it occur around the 37% […]

  7. […] as a free PDF online here.  And for this blog post I consulted a web page on plot and pinch points here.  To clarify basic terms (which is good for me to clarify for myself), plots points are […]

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