May 17th, 2011


In Which Everything Changes (#ROW80 Check-In)

Or, "Luuuuuu-cyyyyyyy, you got some catchin' up to dooooooo . . ."

So.  We know what a beginning looks like.  We know what an ending looks like.  Less obvious, however may be the elusive Midpoint, and its craftier cousins, Plot Points 1 and 2.

Let's focus on Midpoint first.  It's easier spot if you know it's footprints.  Simply, Midpoint is the, er, point, where Everything Changes.  Usually comprised of a scene sequence rather than a single scene, it is the spot in Plot Mountain when everything hangs in the balance before one goes rocketing into oblivion, usually involving a final twist or loop at Plot Point 2, followed by the zippiest, most hair-raising bit at the climatic scene sequence.

Here's my favorite part about studying the craft.  As a kid I had a nasty habit of taking things apart to see how they work.  These days they call that deconstructing.  Back then it was Annoying As Hell and Occasionally Painful.  Ready?

Go find your favorite book.  Go on, I'll wait.  Got it?  Flip the the middle.  There should be telltale scene or scene sequence there, or within a few pages, where Everything Changes.  Find more books, identify the Midpoints.  Good, bad, ugly--it doesn't matter.  The more Midpoints you find, the better understanding you have.  Once I've identified them, I like to pick them apart.  First dialogue.  What is the subject, but, equally or even more important, what is the underlying subtext? What are the objects, the symbols?  How does the setting reflect what's happening, who are the characters and what are their Wants, the conflicts to those wants?

Do the same with your favorite movies.  Move your little scroll bar to the approximate middle and study the Midpoint scene sequence.  Generally, Everything Changes, right? Now, what specifically changes? Move from abstract to concrete. How are the changes essential to the plot. Keep doing searching for Midpoints, in everything you read and watch. (Incidentally, you can do this for all key scenes and deconstruct them similarly).

For Big Dang Project, my Midpoint comes when it seems that much needed aid arrives during a brutal winter--"seems" being the operative word.  Instead it signifies Big Changes in the world outside FK's small town, in addition to a mighty villain.  Brewing conflicts spark, catch fire, and nearly burn the joint down.  I started by developing two chains of events, one leading up to the Midpoint, and one leading away.  This helped me pinpoint some threads that could do with interweaving into Plot A.  Next, I made a list of scenes of the sequence the comprise my Midpoint.

This week I'll work on storyboarding the scenes of my sequence onto index cards, noting character, which subplots I'm including (hopefully all), dialogue subject/subtext, actions, rituals and objects.  Then I'll write the scene(s) long-hand, timed, and rewrite as I enter the whole thing into the computer.

Here's to hoping everyone has a productive week.  To see how everyone's doing, make with the clicky: