Monday, May 17, 2010

Turning Points

Every story must have turning points, both in the plot and in the character. Turning points can be crucial to the pacing of a story. It isn't something I fully get, but from what I understand a turning point is when the character or the plot changes somehow.The best turning points, in my opinion, is when a change in the plot creates a change in the character.

New information comes to light. Someone dies while the killer is in jail, thus causing the policeman to doubt his or her gut. The heiress discovers her hero is broke, creating an inner turmoil that he's only marrying her for her money.

What do you know about turning points in fiction? Any advice? What major turning point have you experienced and how did it affect your life?

34 comments:

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

Good question! Turning points don't necessarily have to be as big as you have described either. They can simply be small steps, such as being sure about a choice made, or a decision suddenly becoming difficult when it had seemed relatively easy - small obstacles that prevent your protag from getting what he/she wants.

I guess if you think of turning points as obstacles, it might be easier to grasp?

Gosh, I have many turning points. No space to go into here! :)

Jessica Nelson said...

Oooh, I like that! Obstacles...that's really good. Thanks so much for sharing it! Sorry about all those turning points in your life, :-), but hopefully they've brought you somewhere good.

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

Why don't you join in on the fantasy island fun? You've got till midnight :)

Tabitha Bird said...

Turning point are really almost the WHOLE point of stories aren't they? I mean without them there is no growth and really, no story. I am aware that turning points don't have to be HUGE in order to be powerful. It is all in how they are written.

Jessica Nelson said...

I think you're right Tabitha!

Jessica, it sounds fun but I don't know if I'll have time today. All that linking and thinking takes time. LOL But if I do it another day I'll def. be linking to your post!

Sandie Bricker said...

Turning points are pivotal to solid characterization. By creating a flawed character, and taking them through a life-changing experience, the reader gets to live through the change with that character.

That said, I agree that turning points don't have to be monumental either. Cancer was a turning point in my own "characterization" ... but I have also been changed, inspired or driven by smaller things in life. Whatever the event, turning points are imperative to growth and evolution, particularly within the skeleton of a well-told story.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Keeps it exciting for sure. If we are talking about the same thing, I think I read once to have 3-4 substancial turning points in a novel.

I love writing them and working them into my plot. Most of the time I have them preplanned, but when one sneaks up on me and it's creative...that is such good stuff.

~ Wendy

Jessica Nelson said...

Sandie, thanks for stopping by and the input! Appreciate it. I didn't realize turning points had so much to do with characterization. Probably something I should study. :-)

Wendy, that's what I heard too! I like when one surprises me too. *grin* Keeps things exciting.

Jeanette Levellie said...

A big turning point in my life was moving to the midwest from So. Cali. Culture Shock? You betcha. But I'm still writing about it after ten years, so it proved a wise move for us.

Robyn Campbell said...

Hey, Jessica! How is every little thing? I have missed your posts. And I am thankful I came back today. I needed this one.

In have written three turning points into my novel. And thinking of one more that I believe needs to go in. It makes for such great reading. It's the inner stuff I have trouble with. But I'm working on it. ^_^

Kara said...

I like the way everyone is describing turning points. Sometimes things as simple as moving from one place to another can be a turning point. I had lots of those growing up:)
And I have an award for you on my blog today:)

Georgiana said...

Great thoughts about turning points in our own lives...

What I do know, is that once the main character has walked through that door, life can never be the same for them again.

Jessica Nelson said...

Jeanette, LOL! I know what you mean since my dad lives in S. CA. and when I visit, yeah, it's totally different!

Robyn, so nice to see you! :-) Sounds likes you know what you're doing with the turning points.

Kara, me too. (on liking what people say and on moving as a kid)
I saw the award! Thank you. I'm honored you thought of me. :-)

Jessica Nelson said...

Georgiana, you're right. By the end of ch1 something in the characters like needs to have changed. Good point!

Jody Hedlund said...

I'm writing my Black Moment. And that's one of the last major turning points for my story. I have others before that, but this is the most crucial, and hopefully will bring about a satisfying resolution!

Karen Lange said...

Turning points - don't know that I have any fabulous advice, but I do know how important they are in a story. There's been several in my personal life, a good thing to help me move forward.
Have a great week:)

Keli Gwyn said...

Jessie, one of the best resources regarding turning points that I've found is The Hero's Two Journeys, an audio workshop on CD by Michael Hauge and Christopher Vogler. There is a proven story structure that works, and the audio seminar does a great job explaining it.

T. Anne said...

I like to keep my stories fluid so there are several huge turning points in the novel. I like to keep my readers on their toes. I believe some people call them pinch points. I'll try and dig out some notes I took at a conference once and do a post on the formula. =)

Jessica Nelson said...

Thanks Keli. I've heard a lot about that book and I think the workshop too.

Karen, great point! Turning points move things forward. I guess they're supposed to make the character take action. :-)

Jody, ooh, good luck with that! I bet it will be awesomely done. :-)

Jessica Nelson said...

T. Anne, I've never heard the term pinch points but it sounds catchy. I like trying to keep my readers on their toes too. Fun stuff!

Erica Vetsch said...

I look on the turning points of my novel as those acts or doorways James Scott Bell talks about in his Plot and Structure. And I try to include an epiphanal moment for the main character, when he learns that he/she must change something, give up something, or acquire something in their character in order to change.

CMOM Productions said...

A turning point could come from so many different areas and be big or small. I love the possibilities! :)

Julie Dao said...

I love turning points! I love how they can be glaringly obvious or very subtle. They enrich a character and show his or her change in the story. I'm just about to reach mine!

Cindy said...

I love turning points--they're key in my plotting process. I use them at the very beginning to structure the story and make sure it has enough conflict and substance to even write it in the first place. I usually make myself come up with at least 3-5 so I can mold the book around them and break down the story.

Lynn said...

A major turning point my life was plot driven. My daughter became pregnant at 18, in her last year of highschool. It brought me closer to God, and He is changing my heart. I think I write character driven stories however I find it is a circumstance in the plot that causes a new perspective to be searched out. Really good post. Sure has me thinking.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Definitely a great thing! They give us a lot of room to play!

Erin Frost said...

My favorite turning points are often the ones I can't identify until later. I love that moment of "Hey, wait a minute. Things are falling into place."

Jessica Nelson said...

I like that Erin An epiphanal moment, do you usually incorporate that after the black moment?

Me too, Melinda!

Julie, you're right, sometimes they're subtle, sometimes not. I hope yours turns out awesome!

Jessica Nelson said...

Cindy, that's such an awesome idea! I know I had to think up TPs for a synopsis class and I think it really helped that particular manuscript to be more effective.

Lynn, thanks for sharing that. I'm glad the situation brought you closer to God! That's awesome. Also, great points about the plot driving the character's change.

Jessica Nelson said...

Kristen, yep, playing is good! :-)

Me too Erin! Because I don't want to be dissecting a story, I just want to read and love it. Some authors really have turning points down.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jess -

My heroine is on a career path when she's forced to choose between saving her biological brother's life or reaching her goals.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Terri Tiffany said...

I've loved reading all the responses! Such good information. I think all those turning points keep the pace going and me turning the pages:)

Debra E Marvin said...

I think that in my WIP, the turning points are plot related. I like to think of them as the times when, in a soap opera, the music changes to show something bad just happened and the actors just stare at each other! :)

The turning points for the characters are a bit more subtle and are always emotional. Best when it happens while they are trying not to show it!

Nancy said...

Your examples are so good, I'd like to read a story about them.

The turning points in my life were when something bad happened to my children. I clung to the Lord and He saw me through, but I never felt quite as "innocent" after that. Now I have to fight any negativity and totally rely on God's goodness.