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Aristotle's Incline Plotting in 3 Acts

Plotting a Novel in Three Acts: Second Plot Point

The second plot point injects the final information needed to propel a novel toward its climax. Occurring around the 75% mark, this scene effectively rings the curtain down on the novel’s second act as it skews the story in an unexpected direction. From this point onward, the reader is aware that the climax has begun and is now inevitable.

Nothing intimidating in all of that, right? Breathe deep, and we’ll take it slow.

Aristotle's Incline Three-Act Plotting Method

Plotting a Novel in Three Acts: Second Plot Point

In the story of Cinderella, the second plot point occurs when she flees the ball, losing a slipper in the process. Could the first-time hearer of this tale have foretold she would lose a slipper? No. This event pivots the story and launches a chain of events in which Prince Charming finds Cinderella. She is forced into a position where she must choose whether to step forward despite opposition and overcome both her poverty and the animosity of her step-mother.

To help us grasp the second plot point, let’s look at its results.

  • Acceleration of the quest. Cinderella’s search for true love is about to be realized.
  • Loss of control creates an internal crisis for the antagonist: As the prince takes action, Cinderella is forced to respond to events beyond her control. She must choose whether to remain under the tyranny of abuse or believe in her own worth enough to escape it.
  • Uncertainty: At this point, there are no guarantees of a happy ending.
  • Raised stakes. The prize elevates from going to a ball into marriage to Prince Charming and rescue from the obscurity of poverty.
  • Heightened danger. The prince searching for Cinderella represents a danger because of her step-mother’s antagonism.
  • Heightened emotion. Cinderella has both fallen in love and glimpsed a different style of life. At the stroke of a clock, she has fallen from wealth back into poverty. Her sorrow and profound disappointment lay the groundwork to heighten her later joy.
  • The antagonist’s situation worsens. Cinderella returns to brutal labor as she serves her ever-more-demanding step-sisters and step-mother. In some versions of the story, Cinderella’s step-mother suspects she went to the ball and punishes her with an increased workload.

So, how do you bring all of this about?

Know the end from the beginning. Have at least a rough idea where your story is headed, and then brainstorm how to get there. Look for an event that will act as a turning point.

Work backwards. Take the results of the second plot point into consideration as you decide your second plot point. Use them as a ruler to measure your brainstormed scene.

Trust your instincts. It’s all too easy to second-guess a plot. While it’s good to leave yourself open to suggestion, once you are certain of your story’s path, follow it.

Plotting a novel becomes easier with an understanding of story structure.

Related Plotting Articles

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Written by Janalyn Voigt

Janalyn Voigt

© Janalyn Voigt
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I’m Janalyn Voigt, an author, speaker, and former social media mentor. DawnSinger and Wayfarer, the first two books in my epic fantasy series, Tales of Faeraven, released with Pelican Book Group and will be followed by at least two more installments. I’m also working on a romantic suspense novel set in an Irish castle, but then historical fiction has a grip on me too. Being unabashedly multi-genre makes me into what some might term a reluctant rebel, but I prefer to think of myself as a storyteller.

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