4 Tips for Writing Your Story's Second Turning Point
Chapter 6 “Plot Points” – Section 9 “Second Turning Point”
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
-Thomas A. Edison
In the last few tutorials, I've compared the Disaster to having been put into a literal pit, and the Second Pinch Point as the antagonistic force having begun to shovel dirt into the pit with the intention of burying your hero alive. For a second, your hero thrashed around in horror at what was happening, but now comes the moment when they must get into gear, get out of the pit, and face the threat head-on! The Second Turning Point is a comparatively minor yet personal event that creates a necessity for our hero to act, as well as a renewed sense of focus on how to do that. In Star Wars – A New Hope, this point comes when Luke's rebel allies and childhood friend, Biggs, are killed by Darth Vader in the airship battle over the Deathstar. This represents an emotional recapturing of the tragedy that has motivated Luke throughout his journey, as well as an essential necessity for him to replace the decimated squad whose job was supposed to be to take out the Death Star.
Tip 1: Note the similarities in function between the First and Second Turning Point.
Remember that the First Turning Point (seen in A New Hope as the point at which Luke's family is killed) is the personal aftershock that follows the Inciting Incident (the unexpected even that altered the balance of your hero's life, like Luke finding out that he is a Jedi). It was a blow to the hero while their world was already spinning, which made setting out on their journey to feel like a necessity for them. The Second Turning Point, like the first one, should also be a very personal moment and event where the protagonist realizes that they again have to rise to a specific course of action—not only due to their emotions but because the situation requires it. Again, their determination to a specific course of action must seem like a logical one, at least to the protagonist,though pure emotional can be the true driving force.
Tip 2: Construct this chapter as a scene of renewed beginnings, not of resolutions.
Just like the First Turning Point, in the end of Act I, the Second Turning Point should not be the resolution of all the problems that the antagonist created through the Disaster and Second Pinch Point. Imagine that you are in a hole and have realized that your enemy is heaping dirt on your head. Do you immediately start planning on how you will foil your villain's evil plan, save your loved ones trapped in other holes, or work on changing your intrinsic selfishness? No, now is not the time for that! All you know is that you need to get out of that hole—an act that requires precise and perhaps even animalistic actions. We see this in the Second Turning Point of Return of the Jedi, when Vader tells Luke that if he will not turn to the dark side, then perhaps his sister will. This simple threat makes Luke fully recognize the stakes of his predicament; he reacts purely on instinct, violently attacking Vader for his own survival and that of his friends—just trying to escape the pit. Likewise, the emotional and situational problems of your protagonist should not yet be resolved, only overcome enough so that you hero can stand back up and determine where they should go from there.
Tip 3: The struggle to escape the pit (Disaster) should match the pit's depth.
Remember, for a moment, some of the most terrible romantic comedies you might have seen—where the protagonist has acted almost abusively towards the romantic interest of the plot. And then, with one painful epiphany, a pathetic apology, and a confession of whatever shallow concept they think love is, the protagonist magically escapes their own selfishness, mends the relationship, and assures that the plot is resolved as if the damage were never done. This sort of storytelling is not only unrealistic and lazy, but it cheapens the value of all the pain that the protagonist faced when it is resolved so easily. In Return of the Jedi, Luke is not able to immediately become the serene force of goodness and hope that not only achieves redemption for his father but saves the galaxy from the Emperor's rule. No, he must achieve that both through discovery of his own strength in the darkness, his own capacity for cruelty, and through the struggle with his own powerful emotions by viciously attacking his father while fueled by the dark side before he is able to fully stand again. This savagery in necessary to illustrate to himself, his father, and the audience that one can feel the darkness, fall to it, but then break its chains over you (in the next plot-point where Luke will stand back up)—all of while dealing with the ever-increasing pressure and desperation that comes from knowing that his friends and sister will soon die. So make sure that the protagonist's struggle to escape their desperate situation matches the complexity and difficulty of the situation.
Tip 4: End Act II with strength and prepare for the Stand Up plot-point.
The Second Turning Point is the last plot-point in Act II, meaning that it is a scene of serious plot transition in the story, where everything will very quickly unfold until it reaches the Climax. The next plot-point we will reach is the Stand Up—that point in which our hero has a moment to recover from their emotional reeling in the Second Turning Point, gains a renewed sense of self-awareness, and sets out in deliberate action to achieve their new-found goals. In Return of the Jedi, this is the moment when Luke defeats Vader, is told by the Emperor to destroy his father, and realizes that he will not because this would constitute a betrayal of himself, his love for his father, and his hope that there is good still within Vader's heart. So prepare for your hero to overcome or to be overcome by their weaknesses and flaws (depending on whether you are writing a comedy or tragedy), and end the Second Pinch Point in a way that increases the tension so that the audience is left in anticipation, not knowing what will happen next and whether the hero will be able to overcome the danger at hand.
Weekly Recommended Reading: Horns by Joe Hill (We have discussed that the time-lapse, pacing, and degree of emphasis in each plot point will become more blurred as we get deeper into many stories—with many plot-points being brief, out of order, simultaneous, or difficult to recognize. As a revenge novel which stands alone [as opposed to a trilogy] and which is written very clearly in terms of dramatic events, this book plays a great amount of emphasis in the transition between the final two Acts, as well as in all of the ending plot-points—utilizing heavy symbolism to mark the transition between each point. The progression as the story goes through the Disaster, Second Pinch Point, Second Turning Point, and Stand Up is especially clear and identifiable. Seeing the plot-points being executed so clearly will allow you to recognize more complex forms of storytelling and to better understand the power of the plot points.)
Write-a-Novel Exercise 6.9
Write your story's Second Turning Point, following the steps above. Click here to submit it to the gallery.
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