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.


Writers – What Kind Of Pants Do You Wear?

I have always been a pantser.

My first novel, The Traitor’s Legacy, was pantsed and my second is too. However, it takes me an inordinate amount of time to actually get a novel written, and I have started to wonder if this is because I write by the seat of my pants. I mean, can I keep blaming my two lively boys and the housework and my Proofreading course? (Yes, of course I can, but there must be something else since I use all of these to procrastinate). Sometimes it takes a while for the characters to tell me what they are doing. Sometimes, horrors, I get stuck, or my characters do nothing for a while, and I wonder if plotters suffer similar issues.

If I plotted a novel, then I could write a scene a day. I may even write a novel in 45 days a la Nora Roberts. I could write five or six novels a year! Except, I know I would get half way through a scene and yawn with boredom,since I know what’s coming next. With pantsing I never know, and that’s fun. But not knowing, can sometimes mean Not Ever Knowing. Ha. And this is where a combination of plotting and pantsing can have the edge. Plot the main arc, but let your characters lead in the scenes.

I hit on a brilliant way of kick-starting a novel again. Wake up in the middle of the night and let your imagination run wild with your characters. They will do things you never intended, or thought of. For example, my hero is going to put my heroine in a dungeon and leave her there. I would never have thought of this as the next step in months of plotting, yet this is the next logical step for the hero, and utterly in character.

So… what kind of pants do you wear? Control briefs (i.e. needing a lot of plotting aid)? Hipsters (i.e. some plotting, but the lace indicates a racy edge)? Tangas (flirt with the idea of having very little plotting)? Or, g-strings (i.e. very flimsy plotting control)?

I do normally have the flimsiest plotting control, but am toying with the idea of plotting out a series of short stories. This could be fun, I am thinking, because, well, how much lace would I like? How much elastic? How much sheer fabric?

I have always been a sworn g-string pantser but maybe, just maybe, those control briefs might be comfortable, might even (horrors) fit me better.


If you like this post and wish to receive a notification in your email about further posts from Louise’s Moments, please fill in your email address below, thank you!