While your hero is planning for the final battle she needs to tie up loose ends. Now is the time to mend bridges and reassemble the team.
Tag: character arc
At the Second Plot Point the Hero Learns His Lesson
The second plot point is the final piece of information the character needs to complete his arc and finally solve his problem.
- Emmet learns that “special” is a state of mind
- Joy learns that her favorite memory started sad
Characteristics of the Second Plot Point
Must be the final piece of the puzzle, but the character may or may not realize the significance at the time.
When Vitruvious tells Emmet that the only thing something needs to be special is to believe, Emmet is inspired into action. However, at this moment he thinks the new information means that everyone in the room had the power to be “the special.” With this knowledge, he is able to save the others through self-sacrifice, believing that someone else will be able to finally stop Lord Business.
The lie can no longer exist alongside the new information. Before the character could rationalize evidence that was inconsistent with his lie, but after this point, he cannot.
Once Joy sees that Saddness helped Riley process loss and grief and that leads to Riley’s happiest memory, Joy can no longer deny Saddness’s role in Riley’s mental health.
Must propel the character into action.
Both Joy and Emmet were paralyzed during their dark moment (all hope is lost). Once they had the new information, they were inspired into action. Before this moment, Joy believed that to save Riley, she had to save herself. After the new information she realizes that to save Riley, she really needs to save Saddness.
It is the pivot point in the story
The Second Plot Point is the final event in the third section. This is a critical point in the story. Everything has been building steadily to this moment. This marks the end of any set-up. Past this point, you should not introduce any new elements. Everything the hero needs to win must already be in play. No 11th-hour twists.
The second plot point marks the final lesson for your character
The second plot point makes true victory possible. It’s the final piece of the puzzle. This is what your character has been searching for. Now, it’s time for the final battle to begin.
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The False New Normal is a break from the antagonist, but not from the lie.
Your character’s lie has survived its first battle, but it took some damage. The next steps in the transformation arc begin with the false new normal.
As a result of the first pinch point, your main character is more pliant. He’s had some abrasion with his lie, and it’s wearing him down. Now he’s willing to make some accommodations to his lie for the sake of comfort.
- In the Lego Batman movie, Batman adopts Robin. This is the first time Batman is shown having any personal relationships.
- In the Hunger Games, Katniss saves Peeta from the river and escapes into the cave.
This state gives the character some respite from the antagonistic forces, but the new life isn’t comfortable. The false new normal is not a long-term solution. Eventually, the antagonistic forces will reemerge. The hero may or may not be aware of the temporary nature of his shelter. The important aspect is that this shelter comes at a price to his lie.
Checklist for the False New Normal
What accommodation is the character making to his lie?
Despite being a loner, Batman allows Robin into his life.
How does he justify that accommodation?
Batman thinks he is using Robin. Calls him expendable.
How does this increase the tension with the lie, i.e. make the lie more difficult to believe?
When Robin performs better than Batman expects, Batman feels fatherly pride.
The false new normal is your character’s attempt to “have his cake and eat it too.” Eventually, the lie will not tolerate this accommodation.
During the false new normal, the character may realize his current situation is in conflict with his lie, but he believes that his accommodations are justifiable. He actions are an attempt to save his lie from the truth hinted at in the first pinch point. What it really does is make those cracks deeper.
The false new normal is a break from the antagonistic forces, but it never lasts.
It is okay to give your characters a break, but make sure that pause actually increases the tension. Don’t let them get too comfortable. The false new normal is only halfway to the destination.
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Letting characters fail
The basis of a character arc is change. By letting characters fail, you will force them to move forward in their arc. If they never lose, they will never learn.
Creating Character Arcs
This is from the Pixar’s Inside Out. If you haven’t seen this movie, watch it with your notebook in your hand. It is a perfect example of contemporary plot structure.
The typical character arc has six steps
- Mistaken belief- Joy believes that Riley always needs to be happy
- Belief this tested- Sadness turns a core memory from happy to sad
- New information- Joy sees Sadness help Bing bong feel better
- New belief is tested- At the pipe, Joy begins by trying to get them both back to headquarters, but when she realizes Sadness will change the core memories, she drives Sadness away
- Second new information- Joy learns Riley’s happiest memory started sad
- New belief- Joy understands that sadness and grief are important to healing
In this model the character fails twice.
Why is two the magic number?
It isn’t. Read a dozen books, the number will vary. Notice how many times a character fails and then notice your reaction.
1 failure= change was too easy= reader dissatisfaction
5+= does this guy ever learn?= reader annoyance.
This number only includes failures that are part of the character arc. This does not include the subplots or the inciting incident. Why? Usually, the failure at the inciting incident was not a result of planning. It is an involuntary, desperate response. Readers expect the character to fail here. Otherwise, the story would never happen. It also does not include subplots because these are wild cards. Do you keep an eye on how many times your character fails in the subplots because your reader is still counting.
Failure is progress
Effective failure causes self-reflection. Failure needs to be a result of the character’s flaw, otherwise, the antagonistic forces will seem random. This will also take away character agency. If the character’s failure is not the result of his flaw then he cannot overcome those obstacles through personal growth. The NaNoWriMo hint of adding zombies or blowing something up may add to your wordcount, but it won’t help your story make meaningful progress. Readers like characters who cause their own problems. Characters need to have agency in their own stories.
When your character fails it needs to cause him to reflect on his personal flaw. Your character will recognize a disparity between his view of the world and reality. At first, he will not understand why these two are not in sync. As he learns new information, he will begin to change his view to match reality.
A character who never fails is a character who never learns
Effective character arcs are based in failure. This failure becomes the driving force behind the character’s transformation, making their arcs dynamic and more interesting. When your characters lose, your readers win.
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