I’m doing a bit of reading about screenwriting and how a person might apply structural and plotting strategies to novel writing. I’ve ordered a book about ‘story engineering’ because I want to learn how to be able to make conscious decisions about plot and structure while not losing my instinctive organic processes with characterisation and thematic layering. (It’s Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing by Larry Brooks. I’ll let you know how it reads.)
Central to this are things called ‘the hook’ and plot points. The first plot point, according to Larry, structural engineer extraordinaire, is the most important moment in the entire novel or screenplay. I’m yet to be convinced of that but I am keen to learn more about anything that can make my writing more compelling and more appealing to a wider audience.
the first plot point, which may or may not have been foreshadowed in previous pages, and may have even begun to appear in some form… is the moment when the hero’s near-term priorities and goals change, either in the form of need or a desire – such as survival, understanding, truth, justice, love, health …
This definition is what your story is all about. It’s not about what happened, as a primary thrust, before this point, because everything that happens before the FPP by definition appears for the purpose of setting up this transitional moment.
The question about the FPP is: Did everything change?
UPDATE: I can see this post is having an increase in views over the past few days which is great but some people might be disappointed when they see it’s not a comprehensive post on the whole of Brooks’s approach. I’m pretty sure more googling around will yield more information on it. Yesterday I sat down with my copy of the book and went through, taking notes with a view to applying it to one of my already-written MSS that I am pulling apart, cutting great swathes out of, and reworking into something more compelling. Larry Brooks, I suspect, does have ‘the answers.’ He certainly has the confidence and absolute certainty that if you don’t have the elements in place, your novel won’t sell.
I’ve always resisted this cold-blooded approach to fiction. I thought ‘organic’ and ‘literary’ were better. But now I see there’s no reason why my literary telling of a story can’t be massaged into an engineered and controlled structure. And you know what, it’s a relief to have someone saying ‘at the 20-25% mark, you need your First Plot Point’ and ‘it needs to be something that does this.’ It is freeing, not confining. Yes I’m stubborn but I’m not stupid. I recommend anyone wrangling the plot and structure and creating a compelling storyline (regardless of genre) get this book and read it. It is like a light turning on NOW for me, whereas before I was a bit meh about it. Funny how things change.