Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Crafting Your Best Story - Tip #7 - Plot Point Two, The Climax, and The Beat Sheet

To wrap up the writing tips section on structure we will cover plot point two, the climax and most importantly the beat sheet.
Plot point two is very similar to plot point one. It’s a conflicting event in the story that launches the third act. At this point things are not looking very good for our protagonist at all.
In TWILIGHT the second plot point is the phone call with James in Phoenix. She's in a pickle. Lose Edward or lose her mother. When Bella decides to ditch Edward, Alice and Jasper at the airport, it thrusts the story into the third act.
In the first HARRY POTTER, the second plot point encompasses two events. Ron leads the three friends through the chest game, and then Hermione solves the riddle that gives Harry access to the chamber below. Once in the chamber we’re in act three.
In HUNGER GAMES, plot point 2 is Rue's death. Katniss experiences grief for the first time in the games and it's also the first time she kills someone. The reality and severity of her situation underscores her determination to live and to win.
The climax is the do or die scene. Everything comes to a head and it looks very dismal for our main character. We are left wondering if a happy ending is at all possible.
In TWILIGHT the climax is the fight at the dance studio. James attacks Bella and we wonder how she can ever escape his abuse and live. Then the rescuers arrive and there is an exciting fight scene. We still don’t know if the bad guy can be beaten. And then, when he is finally dead, we find that Bella has been bitten. Lots of tension here.
In HARRY POTTER, Harry has entered the chamber and finds Quirrel without his stutter and the head of Voldemort under his turban. Even in this form, Voldemort is a fearful foe and Harry has to use his wits and the stone to fight him off.
In HUNGER GAMES, Katniss and Peeta fight off the final competitor; they are the last 2 standing and the winners -- until rules changed back to only 1 victor. Now they have to make a hard choice. Instead they call the Capitol’s bluff.
One of the best craft books on structure I’ve come across is SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder. In it he provides a beat sheet, something they use for planning screenplays, but it’s useful for any type of fiction writing. The beats in the beat sheet will give you an idea of what you need to do to fill in your three acts.
1. Opening Image
2.Theme stated
4. Catalyst (aka Inciting Incident)
5.Debate (your character has to make an important decision)
6. Break into act two (aka Plot Point 1)
7. B story (sub-plots)
8. Fun and Games ( more stuff happens)
9. Midpoint (aka Midpoint Reversal)
10. Bad Guys Close In (doesn’t have to be actual bad guys- situation gets worse)
11. All is lost (protagonist is in a bad way)
12. Dark night of the soul (more anguish)
13. Break into act three (aka Plot Point 2)
14. Finale
15. Final Image (a reverse of the opening image) 
You have to read SAVE THE CAT to get the breakdown from Blake Snyder on all these points, but I think they are pretty self explanatory.  Keep in mind the sheet is just a guide.
Now that you have the main points plotted out for you story its time to fill it in. In the next post we'll begin with Tackling the First Draft.


  1. Thanks, Elle, for this blog post. I knew about Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT and his beat-sheet, but to have you give examples--especially from books I've read--has given me something I can really use.

    Of course, all of this may simply be serendipity. I finally figured out how to present the ANTAGONIST in my WIP, and when you gave the examples of how things went from bad to worse to OMG!, I could suddenly see exactly how the last battle was going to work out. So I guess I needed to know both who the antagonist was and how to structure the final confrontation, the second point of which you very fortuitously just reminded me. Yay, writers-helping-writers!

    1. I'm so glad you found this helpful!!