1. Justin Rocket 2
    Offline

    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2013
    Messages:
    1,034
    Likes Received:
    194

    First plot point, end of first act

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Justin Rocket 2, Jul 26, 2015.

    What absolutely must be covered in a novel before the second act (ignoring the x% of novels whose authors just like to fck with these kinds of rules and have managed to make a financial profit doing it)?

    • Every Named Character Introduced
    • Great Big Conflict Foreshadowed
    • Needs and Flaws of Protagonist Made Explicit
    • Setting Established

    etc.
     
  2. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,984
    Likes Received:
    5,503
    You're assuming that a set of agreed-upon rules exists. And perhaps I'm misunderstanding, but there's a vibe of you insulting those that don't agree on and follow those rules. I feel that there's a tremendous amount of context behind this question that you mistakenly believe is universal.
     
  3. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,098
    Likes Received:
    5,311
    Location:
    California, US
    Yeah I agree with Chicken Freak. I don't think even all of the things you mentioned have to be done in the first act. Seems to me it is better dictated by the needs of the story and your vision for it, rather than by some kind of checklist.
     
  4. Ben414
    Offline

    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2013
    Messages:
    974
    Likes Received:
    785
    By definition, the inciting incident must have occurred. That's it.

    Even for "standard" novels, you don't always see all of the items in your list.
     
  5. Justin Rocket 2
    Offline

    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2013
    Messages:
    1,034
    Likes Received:
    194
    What counts is the end product, not how it was created. If there's an insulting tone in my post, it is unintentional. I was trying to avoid this thread taking a sharp turn into "there are no rules in writing" land. (Based on my research, there are no rules in writing unless you want to get published by a notable publishing company and I want to be published by a notable publishing company.)

    Also,
    I feel frustrated because I feel that my chronic pain and the six different prescription meds I take mess with my ability to be creative. I was very creative before my spinal injury and it is something I miss and struggle to regain. Some times rules can help build structure which can help stimulate creativity. As with poetry, meter, rhyming structure, etc. don't constrict creativity, they invoke it.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 26, 2015
  6. Ben414
    Offline

    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2013
    Messages:
    974
    Likes Received:
    785
    Have you read Robert McKee's Story? That might be what you're looking for.
     
  7. dreamersky1212
    Offline

    dreamersky1212 Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2015
    Messages:
    136
    Likes Received:
    124
    Location:
    New York (State Not City)
    I guess if you need rules to create then that works for you. I mean, yes, if you want to be published you can't write a novel that follows no structure at all. I agree to that, but to say that all "publishable" writing must follow the aforementioned rules (except the novels that you deem unworthy) is incorrect. There is a general set of rules, any one or several of which can be changed or ignored entirely. That doesn't make the novel any less worthy, just different.
     
  8. Justin Rocket 2
    Offline

    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2013
    Messages:
    1,034
    Likes Received:
    194
    Of course I didn't say that. I acknowledged the x% of novels whose authors just like to fck with these kinds of rules and have managed to make a financial profit doing it and I never once implied that these x% of stories are "unworthy".
     
  9. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,984
    Likes Received:
    5,503
    Rules are fine. Rules are dandy. If you want to follow a set of rules, that's dandy. If you want to ask for clarification on what this and that part of that set of rules means, that's also dandy.

    The problem is when you assume that everyone knows which set of rules you have in mind. If you want to follow the A structure as advocated by authorities X, Y, and Z, I'm afraid that you need to tell us X, Y, Z, and A. The rule set that you have in mind is not, I believe, as universal as you think it is.
     
  10. Justin Rocket 2
    Offline

    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2013
    Messages:
    1,034
    Likes Received:
    194
    I wasn't looking for a specific set of rules. I was seeking more of a horizontal discussion across various rule sets. The question was "what needs to be accomplished before the second act?" Whether a responder has a personal rule set they use or a more formalized rule set developed by someone else, if they use a rule set, that rule set may list things that must be accomplished before the second act.

    And now this thread has become exactly what I was trying to avoid - threadjacked by a discussion on using rules rather than answering the question I posed.
     
  11. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,098
    Likes Received:
    5,311
    Location:
    California, US
    I think the question has been answered. You asked what "absolutely" has to be covered by the end of Act I. The answer is none of that stuff. As Ben says, the inciting event should have happened. Apart from that, nothing "absolutely" has to have occurred. There are lots of approaches you can take.
     
  12. Justin Rocket 2
    Offline

    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2013
    Messages:
    1,034
    Likes Received:
    194
    I fully acknowledged that some x% of stories fall outside of the pattern of what must be established before the second act in a financially successful novel. Unless that x% is somewhere approaching 100%, I think you're reading too much into that "absolutely". My intent was to acknowledge Pareto's law and not go so far as to assume that big name publishers accept complete chaos for publishing.
     
  13. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    If you follow the structure that is called the Heros Journey it's this:
    1. The ordinary world of the mc
    2. call to adventure
    3. refusal of the call
    4. meeting with the mentor
    5 (and this is where act 1 finish) crossing the first threshold.
    That first threshold is where the character decides to take action in order to get what he wants, a little simplified. And after he's done that, he can't go back. It's like a how-to-writer described it, "The doorway of no return".
    You can read more about it in Christopher Voglers book The writers journey, mythic structure for writers or just google it because I think the essence of it is something you can easily find online.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2015
  14. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,984
    Likes Received:
    5,503
    "How much salt do I add?"
    "To what recipe?"
    "I knew you anti-salt freaks would hijack this discussion!"

    Edited to add: OK, phew. Tesoro has offered the Hero's Journey recipe. That's a start.
     
    Tesoro likes this.
  15. Lyrical
    Offline

    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2015
    Messages:
    376
    Likes Received:
    257
    I think if you follow a formula (like the Hero's Journey mentioned above) then you are likely to run into expected norms, if not rules.

    If you're writing a romance, for example, the first act might look something like:
    1. The ordinary world of the MC established
    2. The dissatisfying love life of the MC established
    3. The introduction of the useful/quirky/opinionated best friend
    4. The meet-cute

    But plenty of novels break these norms and, as you said, do just fine financially speaking. I think in a very vague, general sense most stories will have the following in the first act:
    1. MC's introduced
    2. Imperfections of world/character established
    3. Inciting incident occurrs
     
  16. plothog
    Offline

    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2013
    Messages:
    639
    Likes Received:
    514
    Location:
    England
    The strangest one on the initial list for me is 'every named character introduced.'
    The others would feature if I were to make a list of 'things which appear in more first acts than not' (if you'd said that instead of 'absolutely must be covered' maybe you'd have got the conversation you were aiming for)

    But I think most books I've read introduce various minor named characters after act 1, though admittedly too much of my reading diet is epic fantasy.
     
    Steerpike likes this.
  17. Justin Rocket 2
    Offline

    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2013
    Messages:
    1,034
    Likes Received:
    194
    It was more like

    "how much salt do I add?"

    " perhaps I'm misunderstanding, but there's a vibe of you insulting those that don't like recipes."
     
  18. Justin Rocket 2
    Offline

    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2013
    Messages:
    1,034
    Likes Received:
    194
    And that's fine. I'm not expecting us all to agree. I certainly don't have all the answers. I'm hoping to learn from the discussion.
     
  19. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,984
    Likes Received:
    5,503
    I think that the "every named character" rule might make sense for a mystery, where the reader is supposed to have a fair shot at guessing the killer. I don't actually care because I read mysteries as character studies of people under stress, but it does make sense for that and perhaps for any other story type where any hint of a deus ex machina feels like cheating.
     
  20. plothog
    Offline

    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2013
    Messages:
    639
    Likes Received:
    514
    Location:
    England
    Another thing I'd add, is that in some writing theory that I've read, there is a difference between character wants and character needs.

    Sometimes the character wants the thing that they need, but often they want something else - (which is a good way of building internal conflict and character arcs.) The protagonist's wants tend to be explicit early on, because protagonists will specifically think about them.
    The needs while often touched upon early, are not always explicit. Often they can be subtle, indirect. The protagonist doesn't realise what they need.

    Another thing often introduced early is pre-existing protagonist skills and talents, so that it doesn't come as a surprise when it's time to use them to solve a critical problem.
     
  21. Justin Rocket 2
    Offline

    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2013
    Messages:
    1,034
    Likes Received:
    194
    I am a big believer in Chekhov's gun. I can imagine no situation in which the story is improved by violating it. In fact, I believe a story is made worse by ignoring it. That includes applying it to named characters. Even applying it to unnamed characters (e.g. that raspy-voiced cab driver who is always seeking feedback on his movie script, that space cadet bus boy who always uses a dirty towel to wipe off your table, etc.) can help build cohesion.
     
  22. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Goodness, what a testy thread. So, ignoring all the drama, I don't think I'd take the check-the-boxes approach.

    You want the problem identified (not necessarily in explicit detail) and you want the reader to care about your character.

    Varying by genre, the setting or world should be interesting. For example, a romance might be more character and story focused, while sci-fi probably needs a really cool setting.

    I think the things on your list are too constraining. There's no reason new characters can't enter the story later. And why reveal everything about the protagonist up front? I can think of lots of reasons to hold some reveals back.
     
    Tesoro likes this.
  23. Justin Rocket 2
    Offline

    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2013
    Messages:
    1,034
    Likes Received:
    194
    Thanks for the response and I do want to clarify that when I wrote "make the needs and wants of the Protagonist explicit", I meant, for example, showing the Protagonist's gluttony (want) without necessarily revealing why they are gluttons (that their uncle Charlie used to comfort them, as children, with great big ice cream sundaes, but now he's dead and they feel lonely and frustrated).
     
  24. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
  25. Sack-a-Doo!
    Offline

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2015
    Messages:
    2,231
    Likes Received:
    1,511
    Location:
    [unspecified]
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but when the first turning point arrives, the only thing you need to have in place is the desire within the reader to read on. How you accomplish that can't be answered in a few words posted on a forum. Read Dwight V. Swain.
     
    GingerCoffee likes this.

Share This Page