First Pinch Point

In his book Story Engineering,  Larry Brooks offers six core competencies involved in writing an excellent novel. Competency Four, Structure, has four parts: The Set-up, The Response, The Attack, and the Resolution. Within these four parts are some major milestones. The milestones within the structure are: 

  • The opening scene or sequence of your story;
  • hooking moment in the first twenty pages;
  • setup inciting incident 
  • The First Plot Point, at approximately 20 to 25 percent through the story;
  • The First Pinch Point at about the three-eights mark, or precisely in the middle of part 2;
  • The context-shifting Midpoint, at precisely the middle of the story;
  • A Second Pinch Point, at about the five-eights mark, or in the middle of Part 3
  • The Second Plot Point, at about 75 percent through the story;
  • The final resolution scene or sequence
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    (This squeezy pinch is courtesy of

    Now that I’ve got the review out of the way, let’s jump into the new stuff: The First Pinch Point. Brooks says, “After the First Plot Point, the obstacle to the hero’s quest is always there. As the hero begins responding to his new quest, the antagonistic force tends to drop into the background. But soon or later the reader–if not the hero–needs to meet that antagonistic force again, to look in its eyes and understand what it wants and the power of that desire. That moment is called a pinch point.”

    Simply stated, it’s a scene told from the POV of the antagonist, clearly showing what’s he’s up to, why he’s against the hero, and just how utterly powerful the antagonist truly is. It’s “an example, or a reminder, of the nature and implications of the antagonist force, that is not filtered by the hero’s experience. The reader sees for herself in a direct form.” If you’re writing in first person and can’t jump into the POV of the antagonist, then the hero needs a direct confrontation (in person, over the phone, via an intermediary henchmen, etc.) with the antagonist to show the reader what the antagonist is all about.

    The Pinch Point can be simple, a quick peek, a brief scene. It can be one character reminding another character what’s going on. It can be a kidnapper beating on his victim, or playing the victim’s screams over the telephone for the hero to hear. Brooks says, in this case, simpler is better. Show how nasty the antagonist is, then move on.

    The Pinch Point comes in the middle of Part 2, about three-eights of the way through the book. So, if you’ve got a 350-page novel, the First Pinch Point comes around page 131 or so. It doesn’t have to be exactly on that page, but close to it. You might or might not need a scene to set up the Pinch Point–it’s your choice. 

    In The Da Vinci Code, “Langdon’s search for answers finally leads him to the Knights Templar and their search for the Holy Grail. Which is precisely the heart and soul (an ironic way to put it, actually) of this story’s antagonist force–the church’s hiding of the nature and location of “the Holy Grail” and the willingness to kill to protect that secret.” The assassin is the antagonistic force at this point. He’s searching for the thing Langdon has already found, and will kill to get it back.

    Just remember that the Plot Points shove the hero in a new direction. The Pinch Points show the antagonist doing everything in his power to get his own way, which is in direct opposition to the hero. 

    I’ll discuss Midpoint in my next post. Come on back, ya hear?


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