Why Weak Plot Points Are Like the Bush-Gore Vote-Counting Debacle

Why Weak Plot Points Are Like the Bush-Gore Vote-Counting Debacle

This week’s video talks about the chief cause of weak plot points—and how you can make sure your story nails its crucial structural moments every time.

Video Transcript:

I want you to remember way back into ancient history. The year 2000. The 54th quadrennial United States presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Remember how much fun that was with all those uncertain Florida votes having to get counted and recounted? How many of us knew what a “pregnant chad” was before then? How many of us will ever forget? And what the heck does this have to do with weak plot points? Well, I’m glad you asked, because I’m going to tell you.

Structuring Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel Workbook by K.M. WeilandIf you’ve been following me for any length of time, you already know that proper story structure—based on those all-important plot points at the 25%, 50%, and 75% marks—is crucial. Structure is the deciding factor in whether or not a plot hangs together and works. But here’s the thing: it’s not enough to just make sure you have plot points and they’re in the right place, doing the right thing. It’s not enough for them to just be there, they have to BE THERE!

Whenever I’m reading or watching a story that kinda just lags along, failing to take advantage of its awesome potential, it’s often because the story simply isn’t hitting its plot points hard enough. Plot points should never be negotiable. They should be completely obvious—even if readers won’t actually recognize them for what they are. If plot points are ever ambiguous to the point that it’s uncertain they really are plot points, they’re not doing their job.

In short, you never want your plot points to be a pregnant chad or a hanging chad. Punch that sucker. Leave no doubt whom you’re voting for! Your plot points are the big show, and you’ve got to take advantage of that. Take a look at yours. Is your story suffering from weak plot points—or are you going to win the Favorite Author Election hands down?

Wordplayers! Tell me your opinion: Have you ever worried your story is suffering from weak plot points? What did you do about it? Tell me in the comments!

Why Weak Plot Points Are Like the Bush-Gore Vote-Counting Debacle

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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. Okay, so HOW do we make sure our plot points are strong enough?

    Although readers say my first novel is a page turner and that the ending is satisfying, I’ve always felt that some of the plot points were weaker than they should be… but I wrote that novel with only a vague idea of structure, i.e., three-act structure, and a strong understanding of scene structure.

    Now that I know more about hooks, inciting incidents, first plot point, pinch points, mid-point, etc., and where they should fall in the manuscript, I can see that I got it more or less right in my first novel… other than the strength of some of the pinch points.

    Although I’m pleased that my storytelling ability is instinctive, I want my WIP to be better. When I look at my outline, I think that a few of the pinch points could be a lot stronger. Some of the strength will come, I think, when I actually write those scenes because my characters tend to take the lead or guide my hand, but do you have any pointers on techniques I can use to ensure that the pinch points are strong enough?

    I don’t want to tell–to announce to the reader, hey! this is a pinch point. I’m not concerned about my mid-point. It’s certainly strong enough.

    I’m thinking along the lines of the tools that we use to make any scene stronger, e.g., a symbolic setting, starting and ending at the right place, lots of conflict, yadda, yadda, yadda…

    But are there any special techniques that you’ve used with success to strengthen the pinch points?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      You’ve probably already seen this, but just in case you haven’t, here’s an article I wrote on pinch points a while back.

      First step in acing any of the structural moments is making certain they fulfill their basic jobs within the story. The First and Second Pinch Points serve to emphasize the antagonistic force’s power, up the stakes, and provide new clues.

      The other key to remember about all the structural moments is that they are *turning* points. Whatever happens within them must serve to change the plot in an important and obvious way. The character’s direction must shift after every turning point.

      Beyond that, the specifics of making a plot point “big” will depend on the individual story. But these scenes should always be your set-pieces. Make them big and exciting (in whatever sense your story demands “excitement”).

  2. thomas h cullen says:

    The Representative reads the way it does “because” of its plot points – revolutionary storytelling, which is in turn informed by a revolutionary story!

    There is no “story vs. storytelling” dynamic; one equates with the other.

  3. This post is timely, as I’ve just been thinking about my midpoint for my work in progress. It’s historical fiction, and I have to apply to a somewhat strict order of events, but I think I’m on the right track with my plot points.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Strict timelines always complicate things, but that’s the magic of the novel! Even in historical fiction, we get to be the masters of the timeline via such tricks as pacing.

  4. Kinza Sheikh says:

    Once I had a pretty good idea about a story. From start to finish, it was all in my head.
    But once I started writing it down and reach the potential time for the first plot point, I had no idea what to do or how to make that happen. Resulting a stalled story. 🙁

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Start by looking for the first scene that really excites you. That just might be your best choice for the First Plot Point.

  5. Andrea Rhyner says:

    I am a big fan of examples. I’m sure you don’t want to pick on books (fellow authors and all), but what about movies? Can you give an example of PERFECT strong plot points (books or movies), and hopefully some weak ones too ? Your point makes perfect sense…..I just need a visual or something.

    Thank you!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I generally don’t mention the titles of stories I feel are doing things poorly, but since this post was inspired by a major Hollywood movies and the writer and director are undoubtedly much too big to care what I think… 😉 Take a look at Saving Mr. Banks for an example of a story that could have made much better use of its plot points. I analyzed it for the Story Structure Database here.

      As for stories with marvelous plot points, you can find a lot of them in the Database as well. A few that come to mind are:

      Jurassic Park
      The Magnificent Seven
      Catch Me if You Can

      • Andrea Rhyner says:

        Perfect! thank you! This really helped. I also read your analysis of Taken and found it helpful as well.

        I thought that really good plot points would be obvious (not necessarily excluding those that aren’t). I sat and thought about a movie I watched the other night – Jupiter Ascending. The plot points are so clear. Each has to do with one of the three Abrasax siblings trying to ‘capture’ the protagonist in some way. This movie didn’t get the best reviews, but I loved it (I’m a sucker for sci fi).

        Thanks for the examples and help.
        Andrea

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

          Movies are a great way to study plot points. Not only are they shorter (and therefore easier to hold in our heads all at once), but strong plot points are their stock in trade. You can usually divide a movie’s running time into eighths and time the major structural moments almost down the minute.

Trackbacks

  1. […] If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you already know that proper story structure—based on those all-important plot points at the 25%, 50%, and 75% marks—is crucial. Structure is the deciding factor in whether or not a plot hangs together and works. But here’s the thing: it’s not enough to just make sure you have plot points and they’re in the right place, doing the right thing. It’s not enough for them to just be there, …read more […]

  2. […] Source: Why Weak Plot Points Are Like the Bush-Gore Vote-Counting Debacle – Helping Writers Become Aut… […]

  3. […] It was a good week for Katie: Why weak plot points are like the Bush-Gore vote-counting debacle. […]

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