first pinch
Adventures in NaNoWriMo

The First Pinch Point NaNoWriMo day 11

Challenge your character’s lie with the first pinch point

Great characters have a flaw, a lie they believe. This lie/flaw is the true antagonist. It is the reason for his conflict. The character lie is the reason your character can’t get what he wants. The first pinch point challenges that lie.

Day 11 is the first pinch point- the first time the character’s lie is challenged.


Identify character flaw

This should be the same flaw you have been working to establish in your set-up. (See day 7 for more details)

Identify character wantsfirst plot point

This can be tricky. Because the character believes something that isn’t true, what he really wants may differ from what he thinks he wants. Start with the surface want and dig until you find the hidden want that is actually in conflict with the character flaw. For example.

In Inside Out, Joy thinks she wants to restore Riley’s original core memories and get her personality back the way it was. This want results from her character lie (the belief that happiness is the best emotion for Riley) But if we question why Joy wants this, the answer is-Joy wants Riley to be a normal well-adjusted kid. Now we have conflict. Normal, well-adjusted kids aren’t always happy. People need a range of emotions to process all their experiences. This information is first presented to Joy at the first pinch point.

In this scene, Bing Bong has just lost his beloved musical rainbow rocket. Joy tries to help Bing Bong feel better by acting silly. While this might have helped a young child, (remember Joy’s experiences with the pre-adolescent Riley taught her this will help.) Bing Bong is unaffected. But when Saddness talks to Bing Bong and helps him through his grief, Bing Bong is able to process the loss and move on. This is the first instance where Joy sees that “Sadness helps.”

However, Joy has not yet made a complete transformation. At this point, Joy is not truly aware her belief that “happy is best” is a lie.

At the first pinch point, the character does not need to be aware of his lie, but the reader should be.

challenging your characters lie-www.themanuscriptshredder.comIn the Lego Batman movie, Batman attends a party as Bruce Wayne. While there, he works the entire crowd, believing himself to be the life of the party, but we see him fail to make a meaningful connection with anyone in the room. He may be at a party, but he’s alone, and he has no friends.

This is juxtaposed by the previous scene where Harlequin acts as the Joker’s best friend. She spends the scene giving the Joker encouraging words and comforting him after his “breakup” with Batman.

In both these examples, the pinch point raises the tension by clarifying the character lies for the audience while showing the characters stubbornly maintaining those beliefs.

Challenging your character’s lie is the first step towards his transformation

Characters will never change if their beliefs are never challenged. The first plot pinch is the place to begin this journey. Make sure you have all the elements in place, and your characters won’t be able to hide from the truth.

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M.L. Keller is a freelance writer and editor. Her blog "The Manuscript Shredder" is focused on helping emerging writers hone their craft.

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