I often talk about cohesion and resonance as being two of the most important qualities of great stories. Many factors are involved in achieving these effects, but one of the subtlest and yet most powerful is found within the structure of story itself. This is the hidden “circle” of story structure, in which all the important beats in the first half can be seen as foreshadowing for their “partner” beats in the second half.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been examining the idea that story structure can be viewed not just as an arc but as a circle.
In some ways, these plot points are less partners and more part of a triangle, along with the Midpoint. The First Plot Point marks the end of the First Act and the beginning of the Second Act, around 25% of the way into the story. The Midpoint halves the story and the Second Act at the 50% mark. And the Third Plot Point ends the Second Act and begins the Third Act, around 75% of the way into the story. In short, these three major plot points mark the quarter points within the story, with the Midpoint acting as the central fulcrum between all of the structural pairings.
These three plot points are the “big money” moments in your story. They are the set-piece scenes/sequences in which the biggest and most important action takes place. Although all the main structural beats are important and act as significant turning points within the story, it is the plot points that carry the most weight.
Because we are talking about “linked” structural beats and because the Midpoint has no actual partner, we’ll discuss it in a post of its own at the end of the series. For today, we’re going to specifically examine some of the parallel functions of the First Plot Point and the Third Plot Point.
Structurally Speaking: What Is the First Plot Point?
The First Plot Point is the first major turning point within the story in that it signifies the end of the Normal World in the story’s First Act and the beginning of the main conflict in the Second Act. It occurs approximately 25% of the way into the story.