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.
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 second pinch point
The empire strikes back
On day 19 we learn the main character doesn’t have all the answers. At the second pinch point, things get too hard. Here the antagonistic forces overcome our hero. The hero sees his new beliefs didn’t solve his problem and now things are worse than before.
Second Pinch Point
The second pinch point usually comes in three forms: the villain pulls a secret weapon, the thief gets caught, or a complicating factor.
In this scenario, the villain suddenly becomes more powerful in some way. The difficulty with this scenario is that any sudden jump in power must be believable. (Micromanagers in the Lego Movie) Otherwise, it feels like a cheap plot device.
Thief gets caught
This is set-up through a sneaking into the fortress scenario which may or may not include a diversion team. At the second pinch point, the hero’s team will be discovered by the villain. The Lego Movie uses this scenario in addition to the micromanagers to build a stronger pinch point.
Complicating factor is some new piece of information or an event that makes the original plan doomed to failure. The love interest is kidnapped, for example. If possible, make your complicating factor related to the character arc. This will strengthen the connection to your story, rather than feeling like a random obstacle. In Inside Out, Joy realizes that if Sadness gets into the vacuum tube she will turn the core memories sad. She has a chance to get back to headquarters, but she will have to choose between keeping the core memories intact or saving Sadness.
Creating the second pinch point
The second pinch point must:
- Be stronger than the first. The second pinch must be the strongest obstacle the hero has faced. If it’s a minor annoyance, then it will fall flat.
- Make the character feel trapped. In Inside Out, Joy’s choice is more difficult this time because she has seen some indication of Sadness’s value, but her original lie that Sadness can cause harm has been reinforced. On the surface, her decision doesn’t seem difficult, but before this moment, her single-mindedness has never allowed her to have a true dilemma.
The second pinch point should:
Test the character’s new belief or reinforce the character’s lie. In the Batman movie, Batman sees his friends in danger. This reinforces his lie that his choice to be a loner will keep them safe.
Whatever the character chooses in this moment, it should lead him away from progress in the character arc.
The second pinch point is the moment everything breaks.
Whatever you decide to do to ruin your hero’s plan, make sure it affects his character arc as well. Make it the jumping off point for the downward spiral that will lead to the all hope is lost moment. The second pinch is the beginning of the collapse. Make it a powerful one.
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Low action scenes don’t have to be boing. Tips for keeping the forward momentum in your story even during your low action scenes.
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 wants
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.
In 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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