18 May 2008


Livvy asks:
On your Blog, under the Plot Consultation page, you have an image of your plot planner which shows The Beginning section of the planner to be disconnected from The Middle section. However, in your book, the plot planner is different and is shown as one fluid line.

I know that in one of your DVDs (not in your book), you mentioned that the reason for this is that the end of the Beginning Section is to be considered as the "Point of No Return".

Martha answers:
I usually talk about the end of the Beginning Section as The End of the Beginning. Pretty simplistic, I know. The beginning accomplishes unique goals -- all introductory (I've written more specifically about those goal in other posts. Check below). The End of the Beginning symbolizes that the beginning is over. It's a moment that launches the character into the story world itself.

It's an energetic thing. If a relationship lingers too long in the introductory mode boredom sets in. Same with a story.

Since writing Blockbuster Plots Pure & Simple, I've changed where the line for The Middle begins. Now, I put it at a lower level than the End of the Beginning. In most of the books and movies I've analyzed, The Middle begins energetically lower than the End of the Beginning. If there is to be a time jump in the piece, the beginning of the Middle is generally where that jump occurs. It a spot of least disruption to the reader and moviegoer.

Livvy asks: I'm a little confused. I thought that the "Point of No Return" is considered to be the Crisis, which is the Turning Point right before the ending of The Middle Section of the plot planner.

Isn't it in the Crisis, where you mentioned on page 158:

"you want your protagonist to be confronted with her basic character flaw...that she can no longer remain unconscious of her innerself". Thus, "This creates the key quesiton: in knowing her flaw, will the protagonist remain the same or be changed at her core?"

So wouldn't after that revelation, the protoganist cannot turn back to who she or he was, because she is changed?

Martha answers:
Yes, once she becomes conscious at any level, the protagonist can never go back to being unconscious. The question after the Crisis becomes: Will she change her behavior, or not? The answer is determined in the Climax -- the final 1/4 of the project.

Livvy asks:
I was wondering then, how do you figure that the end of The Beginning Section which is considered to be the inciting incident, the "Point of No Return"?

I believe at this point of juncture (the inciting incident), the protagonist still has options to either accept or refuse the "call of action" because he/she is still being ruled by his/her character flaw. But with the crisis, now there is moment of enlightenment which cannot be ignored. Thus the protagonist must proceed forward.

Martha answers:
I couldn't put it any better. Excellent analysis! I would only add that where the movement forward takes the protagonist has not yet been determined. This destination is revealed in the Climax.

Livvy asks:
Playing devil's advocate here, I suppose it would make more sense to make the Point of No Return as early as possible in the story, because if you don't make it compelling enough for the Main character to HAVE to move forward from the onset of the story, then that means the story goal question is weak.

Or I could possibly look at it under this light instead: The inciting incident is the point of no return for the "dramatic plot line" and the "crisis" is the point of no return for the "Character Emotional Development plot line".

Martha answers:
I love this!! Very well put. Writing is fluid. These are just pointers. Art is difficult to pin down. The Beginning, The Middle, and The End are containers. An understanding of each of these three parts and how they rise to a high point with an expected energetic shift eases a writer's life. Such is my fervent wish.

06 May 2008

What do you think when you think plot?

Kids and teens learn in school that plot is a series of events linked by cause and effect.

That definition of makes me think a jewel thief wrote it. Someone dressed in black in a room full of shadows. A lightbulb hangs from the center of the room. She's wearing all black, and chalking out for the others her plot to steal a diamond ring.

Step One:
Get past the guard at the front door

Right off the bat and she is in trouble. HOW does she get by the guard at the door? The character element.

If you're a more intuitive writer, you come at this story from the character first -- A woman dressed in black breezes past the bank guard, her lips pursed in a kiss reserved for friends only.

Either way, a writer asks: because that happened, what happens next? (scenes linked by cause and effect).

Character messes with a straight-forward plot based on the series of events.

I prefer thinking about plot as all three threads intertwined:
Character Emotional Development
Dramatic Action
Thematic Significance

What do you think when you think plot?