1. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    A question for you pantsers

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Justin Rocket 2, Feb 29, 2016.

    A plot typically has eight pivot points
    1. the hook
    2. the inciting incident - when the story begins
    3. the end of the first act - the point of no return
    4. the first pinch point - the first objective view of the antagonist in all his horrid glory
    5. the midpoint - the point where the protagonist shifts from reacting to what is happening to him to where he takes the lead/action
    6. the second pinch point
    7. the dark night of the soul - the lowest point the protagonist will go and the only way to escape it is to take a leap of faith
    8. the climax - where all the lessons of the subplots, plots, themes, etc. focus to a point
    plus the tension needs to steadily increase

    You might argue that you don't need to worry about all of this, but if you ignore _all_ of it, you don't have a story. You might have a manual or a brochure or just a stream of consciousness or random set of words.

    Since you don't know where the plot is going until after you've written it, how do you manage to hit the pivot points well?
     
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  2. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    I'm not at all sure that I qualify as a panther, but I'll answer your question anyway.

    I hit the pivot points because I know what they are before I start writing the story. That is to say, I do know where the plot is going before I've written it.

    That's not to say that things don't change along the way. They frequently do. Then it's just rewrite, after rewrite, after rewrite...
     
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  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I think pantsers is what was meant.... fixed. :)
     
  4. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    Well, look at that! I tell you, this thread makes so much more sense now (and my response above is totally redundant)!

    Is it fixed though? Panters, really? Or am I just being gullible again?
     
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  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Dagnabit! :bigmeh: Ok, now it's fixed. :whistle: :-D
     
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  6. Aled James Taylor
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    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

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    For me, the short answer is 'editing'. Having written a load of stuff, I try and rearrange it into something that looks like a story. Then I change lots of details and write some more text to fill in the gaps. My motto is 'write imaginatively; edit ruthlessly.'

    In all honesty, I can't say this method works particularly well.

    How can you plan something and not end up with something formulaic?
     
  7. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    I guess I'd say by challenging your reader's expectations of what happens at the pivot points. I'm thinking particularly about genre fiction where formulaic structures are most prevalent. I don't know, is formulaic such a bad thing? After all, Shakespeare wrote a whole load of stuff within the rigid metric of iambic pentameter and the five-act structure, but I've never heard him being accused of being formulaic.

    Sure, it's bad when it equates to predictable, but when it means the comfort and joy of a really well-written genre piece, is it so bad?
     
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  8. NobodySpecial
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    NobodySpecial Active Member

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    Writing as a pantser doesn't get you out of having to plan out the basics of a story. I know when I write something I have an idea of what's going to happen and how, it's just not a firm proposition.

    For me, even if I work from an outline I may vary from the original foundation. I like the more organic feel of letting the story flow rather than forcing it into a form. Generally I know how I want to start and I know how want to end and I fill in the middle. The trick is making sure those plot points are covered.
     
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  9. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    By combining this sort of plot-building with Dwight V. Swain's scene/sequel and motivation/reaction units.

    You can read about it in Techniques of the Selling Writer. He explains it a lot better than I could.
     
  10. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've written over twenty novels and have never once given a moment's consideration to a first or second pinch point. I honestly don't know what most of the terms you're using even mean.

    I just tell a story. It's not about a formula, it's about interesting characters doing interesting things in an interesting way.

    About the only one of those terms that I consciously consider would be "climax" - but the story just naturally builds to one--that's what makes it a story instead of a bunch of stuff that happens.
     
  11. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Different authors may call the points different things. Nobody has a monopoly on the right to label them.
    I can't imagine a story which lacks most of them could possibly be any good. No hook? How do you keep the reader intrigued long enough to plow through what they need to know before the second act? No first plot point? A story which stays stuck in the first act would be like a Christmas gift of an empty box. No first or second pinch points or midpoint? How do you prevent a saggy middle? No dark night of the soul or climax? How do you make the payoff of reading the novel be worth it?
    I know there's this burgeoning avant garde idea of doing away with plots, but can you name three that were best sellers?
     
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  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    But you can have a plot without naming and designing and following a formula. A hook? I don't really know what that is - like, just being interesting? Yeah, I try to write things that are interesting, but... ? A first plot point? Is that just... something happening? Yeah, I try to make things happen. Avoiding a saggy middle? Isn't that just a question of continuing to write things that are interesting?

    I don't know - I'm not writing best sellers, but I don't usually get complaints about any of the things you're mentioning.
     
  13. Greenwood
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    Greenwood Active Member

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    I think that when you write a story of which you've already thought about the beginning and the end, you don't really have to think in schedules like this. Like you mentioned, ones concern should be that the story remains interesting, and when you do that I think a lot of steps in the plot automatically fall roughly into a formula like the OP mentioned.

    I never used formulas like this. Then again, I haven't finished a book yet, but still when I compare the first parts of the book that I now have they too fall into the formula, even though I have not given a bit about those formulas. It's a matter of keeping things interesting and exciting. Those formulas are a bit too abstract for me, even though I can imagine that some find them useful.
     
  14. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I suspect the majority of pantsers don't worry to much about specifically trying to hit all those points. They'll write what seems to fit with the current storyflow and often include events which happen to match up with your pivot points, because that's what feels natural to make the story feel like a story.

    Most books will have events that you can point too and say look the author is following the formula - 'that's a pinch point', but in actual fact there's multiple events that could be conceavably assigned as that point.

    A pantser will look to give a character a goal for the story, then they'll look to introduce elements to oppose that goal and provide conflict and tension. Give enough set backs to the protagonist so that the story isn't over to quickly. If you throw enough internal and external conflict at the protagonist, and get sufficiently into their POV you'll find they'll end up having to take some tough decisions. - if you're a natural pantser those decisions will feel less contrived than your preplanned ones.
    The protagonist tends to take options which don't mean giving up on their goal. (Because we don't want the story to suddenly end like that) and some of those decisions could probably be described as a leap of faith or a point of no return.

    If over the course of getting to your climax, you've given your protagonist enough set backs and tough decisions, (which I find hard not to in a novel length story) you'll have more than enough to assign some of them as your 8 pivot points if you think it'll help your editing process.​
     
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  15. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Exactly. Crafting novels is like building skyscrapers. There are certain rules which need to be followed just like you can't build skyscrapers out of rubber cement and popsicle sticks. But, having to abide by those rules doesn't mean that you are doomed to build cookie cutter skyscrapers.

    No. A hook is something in the very first words which grabs your reader's attention and doesn't let it drift. It has to sustain the reader's interest because nothing else can (the reader doesn't know your characters, setting, or any of the interesting story stuff you've written because they haven't read any of that yet.

    for example
    No. A first plot point makes it so that the protagonist can't just go back to the way things used to be. Maybe the way back home is gone (the bridge burned down or the protagonist gets fired from his job or his child makes a comment that he has lost respect for his parent) or home is no longer safe (he's on the run from the cops or the Nazgul). When things get difficult (and surely you understand that one of the rules you must follow is that things grow increasingly worse for the protagonist?), the first plot point is the answer to the question "why don't you just quit?"

    It might be that you are including these 8 points out of instinct after having read so many stories that have them. You could be including them and not even know that you are doing it.
     
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  16. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Justin, I think you and @BayView are saying two different things. She isn't saying these dynamics aren't present and part of her novels. She's just saying she doesn't consciously consider them or name them.

    Children create prepositional phrases all day long. They don't use the term prepositional phrase to describe what they are doing nor do they need to even know the name of that kind of phrase in order to create it and execute it properly.
     
  17. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Oh. Okay. I don't care what an author calls the 8 points or if they don't call them anything. That's really not relevant to my question which is "how do pantsers ensure that they are putting these points in the right place?"
     
  18. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I think it is, in a roundabout sort of way. In order to name these dynamics - regardless of the names we use - they need to first exist. This means that the thing signified precedes the signifier (name, word). It would seem to me that @BayView's answer (and correct me if I'm wrong, Bayview) is that these things develop organically and naturally for her in her writing. There are other precedents as well for this. The monomyth, for example, is broadly spread across cultures and time and has features that are always present. It's why the story of Christ has undeniable parallels to the Arthurian Sagas, the story of Gilgamesh, etc. There is an organic process at work in the creation of this particular kind of story that predates any systematized methodology.
     
  19. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    I appreciate your perspective @Justin Rocket - only it reads ugly to my eyes, lacks pixy dust, there is no magic without pixy dust, as you probably know from all of those writing manuals, heh, heh heh...heh heh heh.

    One of my favourite, I think the word is tropes is the struggling writer, the man upon the Creative Writing MA. They are always such tossers - in the nicest way, I mean I could easily be one...of them.

    Sorry, I read one [a story] the other day, a review site. I might write one of those guys, and surely its been done a thousand times, but

    Jason swept the leaves from the side-walk. He paused, the broom held under his arm-pit.

    'What is it, Jason, the far away look in your eyes?'

    'It is...only the refulgent sky, the contrasting tragedy of dead leaves and live light dancing in the streets of a suburban hell community.'

    'That's so beautiful, Jason.'

    'Yes I know, I am.'
     
  20. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I honestly have no idea whether these elements are in my writing, because I never think about them.

    But based on that description of a "hook", I'd say there are lots of books that don't have one - lots of books that take a while to get into, books where you have to sort of trust the author because you AREN'T grabbed immediately. And lots of these books are successful.

    And based on the phrase "the first objective view of the antagonist in all his horrid glory" I 'd say there are lots of books that don't have a first pinch point, either. I don't think I've ever written a book with a human antagonist, and lots of other authors don't use them, either.

    So - maybe these ideas can be bent around and made to fit all novels, but I think the amount of bending that would be needed might be pretty significant in a lot of cases.

    Which means, pantser or plotter, it's totally possible to write a successful novel without paying any attention to these concepts.
     
  21. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Yes, though they may not exist in any particular attempt to craft a story.

    Yet, it remains true that a person can attempt to craft a story and fail to add these points. It is also true that letting things "develop organically and naturally" can fail.

    Evolution (in this case, of the monolith) is great, but there are an awful lot of evolutionary dead ends.

    If an author's stories were created perfectly in the first rough draft twenty times in a row, they must be the second coming of Shakespeare.
     
  22. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's a queue, y'know, fgs
    ...
    [​IMG]
     
  23. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Or maybe the stories which lack most of these plot points just aren't any good. Or maybe the author has to work that much harder to compensate for a flawed plot.
     
  24. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    If by "fail" you mean "not please an audience" then novels written in all ways, with or without any list of elements, can fail.
     
  25. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I guess.

    I was thinking about going through some of my favourite novels and trying to identify whether they have all these elements or not, but... I'm just not interested enough to spend the time. I mean, obviously a human antagonist is far from necessary for a successful plot, so we'd have to extend that definition to mean something else, and then maybe the other definitions would have to be re-assessed as well, and... nope.

    I'd rather be writing!
     

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