This is the last post in this series, so you only have to put up with this bit of review one last time. Here goes: In his book Story Engineering, Larry Brooks offers six core competencies involved in writing an excellent novel. Competency #4, 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:
(This tent comes from freedigitalphotos.net)
The final milestone I want to discuss is the Second Plot Point. Think of the First Plot Point, the Midpoint, and the Second Plot Point as the three posts holding up a tent: two on the sides, one in the middle. If you don’t position them correctly, the tent collapses. So be careful to put them in the right spot in the story, or the story will sag. The Second Plot Point (SPP) would be that side post on one end.
Here’s Brooks’ definition: “the final injection of new information in the story, after which no new expository information may enter the story other than the hero’s actions, and which puts a final piece of narrative information in play that gives the hero everything she needs to become the primary catalyst in the story’s conclusion.” That’s a nice big sentence, and I’d hate to diagram it for English class, but it gets the job done. The SPP is when the story shifts into resolution mode because this new information enables the hero to complete the quest, solve the problem, save the day, etc.
“It’s when the final scene starts.” This last piece of information revealed in the SPP needs to be powerful and meaningful. It’s the last piece of the puzzle, the final ingredient, the biggest twist. Use it to delight your reader with a good old slap upside the head. Wake up the reader and make him notice that the ending is definitely in sight, and the hero will need to prove his hero-ness or die trying.
Sometimes “there is an all-hope-is-lost lull that occurs right before the Second Plot Point appears.” It’s not always necessary (The Da Vinci Code doesn’t have one) but it’s a nice place to add one more bit of tension before everything blows up. Feel free to create this lull, this sense of impending doom, to slow the pace before the frenzy of the final conflict.
The SPP separates Part 3 from Part 4 and falls around the 75 percent mark. In your 350-page novel, that would be around page 262. “The hero transitions here from attacking warrior to a hell-bent, selfless, heroic, and even martyr-like champion of all that is good. Or at least necessary in terms of solving the inherent dramatic problem at hand.” The SPP “can deliver information that is not yet known or fully understood by the hero, but in such a case it still launches the final push toward the resolution.”
In The Da Vinci Code, the SPP comes when “Langdon, in his heroic wisdom, cracks the message hidden in the codex, which revealed every last secret to be had about the code Leonardo da Vinci had so cleverly hidden in his paintings. In other words, the point of everything.” [Spoiler alert — don’t read the rest of this paragraph if you haven’t read or seen The Da Vinci Code but intend to do so.] We also learn that the people who’ve been helping Langdon are, in fact, bad guys. The Teacher is behind everything, including the albino assassin. This is the last new piece of information Langdon needs to uncover the truth and find the Holy Grail.
That concludes my brief dip into an awesome book. Check it out from the library. You’ll quickly learn that you need to own this one for your reference library and use it frequently. Mine’s all highlighted with important pages dog-eared and sticky-note bookmarks poking out in strategic places. I’ve used this method to outline my last two novels, and I think they’re my best works to date. I might even use this system to revamp previous novels. It’s that good.
Comments? Questions? Requests for future series? I love hearing from ya’ll!