Structure Part 2: The Response

I’m picking through the book Story Engineering, by Larry Brooks and giving you the good stuff. He offers six core competencies of a great story. I’m still working on the fourth core competency, Structure. Structure has four parts. In my last post, I looked at Part One, Setup. Today I’m looking at Part 2, The Response.

Part 1 ended with the First Plot Point (FPP), that moment when the real destination of the story was revealed. It clearly defined who the hero was, what he wanted, what the stakes were, and identified the antagonistic force keeping the hero from achieving his mission. Now that the first part is over, the hero has a new set of goals: “survival, finding love, getting away from love gone bad, acquiring wealth, healing, attaining justice, stopping or catching the bad guys, preventing disaster, escaping danger, saving someone, saving the entire world, or anything else from the realm of human experience and dreams.” It’s a tall order, but someone’s gotta do it.
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(This hero image is courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)

Whatever your hero needs, there will be someone or something opposing him. If you have no opposition, you have no story.

Part 2 is the hero’s response to what happened in Part 1. He’s not ready to attack the problem, he’s merely reacting to it, through action, decision, or indecision. He’s reacting to his new goals, new stakes, new obstacles that showed up at the FPP. “In Part 2, the hero is running, hiding, analyzing, observing, recalculating, planning, recruiting, or anything else required before moving forward. If you have your hero being too heroic here, being brilliant, already knocking heads with the bad guys (or some other dark force), it’s too early.”

In The Da Vinci Code (which I’ll admit I didn’t read, but I did watch the movie to see the four parts of story structure in action), Langdon spends all of Part 2 running from the cops who are chasing him. “It’s all blind response,” Brooks says, “without knowing who is after him or why, and therefore without a clue as to how he can turn the tables and begin to defend or attack, and expose the truth.” That’s what Part 3 is for.

“At the end of Part 2, just when the hero thinks he has it all figured out, when he has a plan, everything about Langdon’s journey, and the reading experience, changes. This is the Midpoint of the story.” (I’ll cover that in a later post.) In this part, the hero is a wanderer, blinding staggering through oppositions and risks, not sure what to do next or where to go or who to speak with. He’s not an orphan any longer. He now has a purpose, a quest, and an enemy.

Part 2 takes up about 100 pages of your story. The Midpoint occurs, yep, you guessed it, in the middle of your story. So if your novel is 300 pages long, the Midpoint should fall around page 150. It’s okay to give and take, as the math’s a bit forgiving, but that’s a good general ballpark. Have I mixed enough metaphors?

The next post will cover Part 3: The Attack.

-Sonja
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