IPT Writing Clinic – Turning Points – Clinic 4

Welcome to the final week of this Indie Plot Twist Writing Clinic on turning points.

Last week, I began a two-part series on the minor turning points with a discussion of the first minor turning point. This week, I want to talk about the final turning point, the dark moment.

Today’s Project

I’m continuing with the manuscript I’ve been working with the last two weeks. This manuscript is several years old and has been through about half a dozen revisions, but never seemed quite right.

We first talked about the major turning points, then examined the first minor turning point. Time now to take a look at the final act and the last turning point.

  • Act 2B Third Major Turning Point: The lead discovers the identity of the antagonist
  • Act 3A Second Minor Turning Point – Dark Moment: The lead is taken hostage by the antagonist
  • Act 3B End of the Story: The lead fights to save his life and his reputation

First, a Recap

The first turning shown above is the third and final major turning point. This is where the lead gets the final clue, the final realization, or bit of information that makes sense of what’s been happening in the story. He may not yet know what to do about it, but at least he finally knows what’s been going on.

At the third major turning point, the lead comes face to face with his problem. All the pieces of the puzzle finally fit. The lead understands what’s going on and knows what action to take. He takes action and begins to tackle the problem, determined to win.

Then the final blow falls, usually about halfway between the last major turning point and the end of the story. Some unexpected situation or obstacle, and suddenly the light that appeared at the end of the tunnel with the third major turning point goes out. The lead has committed himself and is faced with obvious defeat.

How Does It Stack Up?

In our story for today, the lead character’s third major turning point comes when he discovers the antagonist’s identity.

The dark moment comes when he is waylaid by the antagonist. His effort to escape is in vain. He’s now at the mercy of the antagonist.

What’s worse, he realizes his life and reputation are forfeit if he does what the antagonist is demanding. If he refuses to meet the antagonist’s demands, his client’s life is forfeit. A classic no-win situation.

The dirty little secret is that the lead character’s life and reputation are forfeit regardless. There’s no way the antagonist is going to let him go for any reason and the lead character knows it.

Hopefully, so does the reader.

Hopefully, the reader is also well enough invested in the story to continue reading to see whether or not the lead gets out of this mess and, if he does, how he does it.

No matter what genre you write, you should bring your lead character and your readers to this point. It may not be as dramatic as the dark moment in this story. Women’s fiction, literary fiction, and others may be more subtle or more internal.

Or it may be more dramatic, as could be the case with suspense, horror, or thriller.

But this should be the moment of the highest possible stakes and the greatest obstacle. The lead character has the most to lose and the dimmest hopes of succeeding.

How Can It Be Improved?

The dark moment for this story is very strong. Does that mean it can’t be improved upon?

Not at all. Keep in mind that no novel is finished until it’s published. Likewise, no turning point is the best it can be until the novel is published. It may still not be the best it can be, but you can no longer do anything about it.

Brainstorm new ideas. How could this dark moment possibly be worse?

  • The lead could be knocked unconscious in his home and wake up somewhere else, with no idea where he is or how to get back home
  • The lead could be attacked in his own home and wake up in a hospital, barely alive and unable to warn anyone
  • The lead discovers the antagonist has manufactured evidence to frame the lead using his own actions

Those are just a few ideas. I don’t need to use any of them–at this point, I probably won’t–but that doesn’t mean I won’t think about ways to make the dark moment even blacker. It’s impossible to tell what new idea might be exactly the right thing or how many possibilities I’ll have to consider to find the right thing.

Rearranging the existing turning points is also something to consider. Granted, there isn’t much to rearrange if you’ve gotten to this point in the story and the preceding turning points are all strong. Still, it might be worthwhile to consider.

For example, the ending of the story is still out there. Can you add a twist or turn that changes the ending into a dark moment? If you can, how will that change the end of the story?

The New & Improved Version

The new turning point outline looks like this.

  • Act 1A Beginning of Story: The lead is in the middle of a much deserved and long anticipated dream vacation
  • Act 1A First Minor Turning Point: His plans are interrupted when a coworker calls to ask for help; he offers what assistance he can by telephone, but refuses to be drawn away from his vacation
  • Act 1B First Major Turning Point: Upon returning home, the lead takes over some of the coworker’s cases when the coworker is sidelined and he soon discovers irregularities
  • Act 2A Second Major Turning Point: The business partner proposes to the lead’s client
  • Act 2B Third Major Turning Point: The lead discovers the identity of the antagonist
  • Act 3A Second Minor Turning Point – Dark Moment: The lead is taken hostage by the antagonist
  • Act 3B End of the Story: The lead fights to save his life and his reputation

As you can see, it’s a much stronger outline. Much more capable of guiding me in decision-making should I decide to rewrite this story yet again. It’s also much more capable of supporting the resulting story through a series of ever escalating events.

There is still room for tweaking, but there is always room for tweaking!

In Conclusion

This concludes our Writing Well Story Clinic on Turning Points. I hope it’s been helpful to you.

If you missed any of the previous clinics in this series, you can read them by clicking on the links at the bottom of this page.

You might also want to check out the February Indie Plot Twist Writing Clinic on single sentence summaries. The introduction is available here and each of the four clinics are also available. A complete list of archived clinics is available here.

Mark your calendar for August, when we’ll make use of these turning points to write a single paragraph summary.

In the meantime, if you have a story idea you’d like personal help with, email me.

Clinics in This Series
Introduction: Introduction to Turning Points
Week 1: Using Turning Points to Develop a New Story
Week 2: Using Major Turning Points to Evaluate a Finished Manuscript
Week 3: Moment of Opportunity Rejected/Thwarted
Week 4: The Dark Moment
Week 5 Bonus: Chicken Run Turning Points

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