Plot Points, Pinch Points and Character Goals

arches photo

We all know we’re supposed to have plot points and pinches and turns and twists and arcs in our novels, but how are they relevant to internal and external goals?

My preferred quick and dirty overall skeleton is Dan Wells’ seven point system, which runs as follows:


First Plot Point – Around the 25% mark of the novel

Pinch Point One – Around 40% of the way in

Midpoint – Halfway (Else it wouldn’t be the midpoint…)

Pinch Point Two – Around the 60% mark

Second Plot Point – Around the 75% mark


Having established where all these points should come in my pantsed novel, I mapped out where my plot points do fall. It turns out that not only do I have plot and pinch points for the external story but also for the internal story line. My overall story goal was to get my FMC in a place where she is confident in her ability to manage a large demesne (medieval romance), so I needed the various plots and pinches in certain places relevant to this goal. This was difficult, because I wasn’t sure what constituted a plot point. Was it a kiss?

kiss photo

Or was it her enemy invading her home and trying to take it by force?

The first plot point must be a game changer, according to Larry Brooks. It must define the hero’s need and quest going forward. Something, or someone, enters the story and alters the hero’s status.

I struggled with identifying what my first plot point was, until I realised I had two. One for my FMC’s internal need/goal, and one for the external.

It turns out that the kiss is the first plot point for her internal goal because it changes how she thinks. Before, she thought she could resist this guy. After – she knows she can’t resist him and must stay away until she knows how to resist him.

The invasion is the first plot point for the external goal – which is for her to manage the demesne alone, without the need to get married again (we’re talking medieval, here, remember!). This invasion alters her status by establishing that she needs help. The question then becomes – from where should she seek help?

The same happened for the pinch points and midpoint. They all occurred roughly at the right times, give or take ten pages or so. When I was done, I had mapped out all the points for both her internal and her external goals!

For anyone reading this, my comments might be a ‘duh, you twit, didn’t you know that’ moment, but I wasn’t aware of this, and now I am, I am determined to add this to my next novel to give it greater depth.


The Naughty Heart

Have you ever looked at the heart shape properly? I mean, really looked at it?

It’s naughty.

It’s sexy.

It’s romantic.

It’s everything it’s supposed to be for representing love.

Look at it this way:

heart photo

We can imagine the female anatomy – breasts leading down to the vulva – the bottom is even in a V shape, and if you turn the heart on its side, the top looks like a B!

Yet if we turn it the other way up:

– lo and behold we have a pair of testicles, and the suggestion of a man’s love member (since it’s February, I’m not going to use the word ‘penis’ because it’s not a particularly lovely word…).


So what’s the history of the heart-shape as we know it?

Some scholars argue that the shape originates from artists trying to depict the heart with three chambers, according to ancient medical texts from Aristotle and Galen.

In medieval times, the heart-shape was used on heraldic objects, but was not symbolic of love; rather the shape depicted a lily-pad:


lily pad photo

A lily pad symbolised eloquence and persuasion. I actually find this interesting, because these two elements are present in every romantic relationship, aren’t they…think of the First Date. The Proposal. One is supposed to be both eloquent and persuasive.

Heraldry also used the symbol inverted, to symbolise a pair of testicles. The Colleoni family of Milan use this in their Canting arms. Canting arms are those who depict the bearer’s name in a visual pun. Testicles, in Italian, is coglioni. Colleoni, coglioni.

So when was this shape first used to depict love? Nobody really knows the answer, although there are clues. In the Empress Zoe mosaic of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, dated 1239, there are heart symbols on the bible Jesus holds.

Heart symbols have also been seen on Persian excavations (circa 90 BC – 637 AD). Tantalizing!

The heart shape became popular in religious art during the Renaissance, and began to be used as a suit in playing cards at this time.

Since the 1900s, the heart has been used to represent love on Valentine’s Day cards, and chocolate boxes.

heart chocolates photo


Aw. It’s a pretty awesome shape, isn’t it!

Why I Love Books

kindle photo


Last year my hubs bought me a kindle for my birthday – a fab gift since I can’t access an English library or find English books at a decent price in Switzerland. So I merrily downloaded a load of classics because they are free, and I haven’t read Dickens in a while. Then I toured the freebie kindle downloads, and generally explored the world of reading on a small screen.

I didn’t like it.

Yes, for beaches and holidays they are invaluable – and for reading and editing my own work I love the kindle. But; I love books. I love the smell of ink and paper, I love the feel of a smooth, or embossed cover, I love the heft in my hands of a decent-sized tome.

Something else I find when reading on a kindle is that my eyes skip over the page and I skim so much faster, thereby missing a great deal. Or not really missing anything, in some cases. I don’t get pulled into a story on kindle the way I do with a real book. When I open a real book, I open a world. When I open the kindle I skim words.

Last week I went to the UK and spent a very happy hour browsing a bookstore and purchasing another Kate Morton book. I could read her on kindle, but I won’t. I tried. It doesn’t work. For some reason, my attention span on a screen is significantly less than it is for the printed page.

So I have decided my kindle is great for beach reads and zippy stories, and for those books, or authors, I like to spend time with, nothing less than the printed page will do.


books photo

What about you? E-reader or book?

Setting a Scene

scenes photo

I discovered the other day that I set some of my scenes in the same places in my current novel. My characters seem to eat a lot. Well, that’s not too bad, is it? I mean, we all eat several times a day, right?

Except this means I have several scenes set in the dining hall. Two or three scattered through the novel might be ok, four, five, six or seven? Um.

The thing is, it not only gets repetitive, it gets boring and samey for the reader. They feel like they’ve already read this scene, so I took my characters out of the dining hall and into a market place instead. With a few tweaks and extra description added, the scene improved vastly. I have a scene set in the buttery (not the place for churning butter:

store photo

, a place where the ‘butts’ of ale were stored), one in a barn and another in a hayloft. I even have one (okay, two) in a graveyard.

The trick is in thinking about your character’s daily lives and where they have to go. Anywhere can make an interesting scene – front doorstep of a house, library, beach, bathroom, skilift, lighthouse – and if it’s somewhere the main character shouldn’t be, so much the better!

Some scenes need to take place in an enclosed space; this builds tension between the characters because they can’t easily get away from each other.

Other scenes are better suited to wider spaces. This can build pace and tension. Have the scene in the opposite setting your characters need. So, for example, if you have your hero desperately trying to find your heroine and they need to be together – then choose a wide open setting. They need to be together, and if they are far apart it creates tension.

If your heroine needs to escape a killer, have the scene in a tight space, thus building tension.

If a couple are have a fullblown argument, confine them to a

ski lift photo

and see what happens.