Turning Points – Part 2
By Michelle Janene
Last time I talked about the Three-Act Structure in story telling. These three main parts of the story consist of introducing the character(s) and world to the reader, working on the problem created in the first act with ever increasing challenges, and finally the resolution of all the difficulties.
Within the three-act structure there are a couple of key turning points. Points that change the characters and send them down paths they never intended to go.
Last time I covered the first of the turning point called the inciting incident that usually happens near or at the end of the first act. This is the point where your character must make a decision that will drive everything that follows. This is different than the open action that hooks your reader.
Another crucial turning point is less well known. James Scott Bell discusses it in depth in his book, Write Your Novel From the Middle. There is a point near the middle of the story where the Point of View (POV) character has to take a long hard look at themselves.
The character has to evaluate who they are, where they are, and face what is coming next. Is it physical death that there is no way to escape? Perhaps it’s professional death of a career they have worked for all their life. Maybe it’s psychological concerning who they thought they were or spiritual death of what they held as a firm belief.
At the midpoint the character changes as they take a long hard look within themselves—often for the better though it can be for the worse.
Here is an example of a spiritual death from one of my novels. A common woman is purchased from a slaver and set up as an imposter queen in order to protect the king against many who want his throne. The purchase of the slave is the inciting event—the door of no return. The woman is moved to another kingdom and assumes the role of queen. There is no going back.
In the middle of act two she is alone in a cabin in the woods. A terrifying evil is hunting her. The king is falling in love with her, and God is tenderly pursuing her. After all she has suffered in her life, she curses any god and despises men. But in the quiet, in the middle of a terrible winter, she has to look at where she has been and decide if she will give into evil and death or accept God’s salvation and really live?
That’s what James Scott Bell calls a look in the mirror. It’s the long hard look inside themselves.
What about the heir that found out he wasn’t really a prince? He was not the king’s or queen’s son. He went off and found his mother who tempted him to take the throne and continue to live a debauched life. In a night that was supposed to be devoted to prayer before his knighting, he is faced with all that he has done and who he. He must decide to give up the crown or succumb to the lure of power and wealth.
James Scott Bell also says that the moment of reflections ends with confirmation. Near the end of the story there needs to be a point where the character’s actions prove the transformation that occurred at the midpoint.
It may be the queen who allows God to fight through her in the final battle against evil. Or the proof could be the former prince that is claimed by his true noble father, yet continues to work in the field with the hired hands. If there is a long hard look moment of deep internal change in a character, there is proof in the end.
The reflections moment is vital to character development and change. We all have to take a hard look at ourselves—even the fictional ones.
About the Author
Michelle Janene lives and works in Northern California. Most days she blissfully exists in the medieval creations of her mind. She is a devoted teacher, a dysfunctional housekeeper, and a dedicated writer. She released her first novella Mission: Mistaken Identity in 2015. God’s Rebel came out in 2016, followed by Rebel’s Son and Hidden Rebel in 2017. She has been published in “Guide Post Magazine” and several anthologies. She leads two critique groups and is the founder of Strong Tower Press—Indie solutions for indie authors.
You can read Michelle’s column on the 3rd Tuesday each month here at Pandora’s Box Gazette.