“I’m so sorry,” Sally said, sitting down and unwrapping her scarf from her neck. Outside, ice glazed the puddles, the sky a slate gray. The first hint of snow hung in the air, the world of northern Minnesota in crisp expectation. It was a perfect day to teach Sally about how to understand Turning Points in a novel.
I love the change of seasons. I blew on my candy cane mint mocha. “Why?”
“Our high school football season is over,” she said. “I know how you love to go to the games.”
I do. I live for the Friday night lights. “It was a tough game. A number of game-changing turning points that could have turned the game our way. Our boys fought a tough fight.”
“I heard that on the second play of the game, the other team got past our defense and ran for a touchdown.”
“Yes, and then when we got the ball – we fumbled and they ran it back for another touchdown. Two touchdowns in less than five minutes of play.”
“Pretty tough for an undefeated team.”
“Yes. Suddenly, the game became a fight. Can you say Noble Quest?”
She smiled. “Is everything about writing with you?”
“Yes. I’ve often said that a football game is like a novel – the teams the protagonist and antagonist, the downs representing scenes and how to create tension. I like this analogy because it also works for understanding the different between Turning Points and Bumps in the Road. Which is what I wanted to talk to you about today.
“With so much going on in the Second Act of your novel, how do you distinguish the real Turning Points from the other steps along the journey?
“Act Two of your novel is the part where you character confronts his flaws and fears and begins the process of character change. Act Two is fraught with obstacles, challenges, decisions and frustrations that require your character to learn new things about him or herself, all of which cumulates in the Epiphany of Act 3 and then causes them to finish their journey victoriously.
“What does that have to do with football?”
“After the two touchdowns by the other team, our players realized they had to do something different if they wanted to win. We entered into Act Two of our game/story.
“In order to win, we had to change how we played defense and stop the other team from running the ball. It worked and the other team was forced to start passing the ball. Which is what we wanted…until they completed a pass and ran it in for yet another touchdown.”
“Or, we might called that a teaching moment or Turning Point. Because our players had to figure out what to do. They needed to score, so they rearranged their offense and drove down the field for a touchdown.
“And, another Turning point, and the mood of the game changed. We came out at the second half with a new defensive and offensive strategy…and it worked.”
“Sadly, it wasn’t enough to win.”
“Thank you, Sally. But, we learned from the mistakes of the first quarter, and by the time we finished the game, we not only played our best, but we felt triumphant about how we’d grown as a team. We had nothing to be ashamed of, despite our loss.”
“I agree,” Sally said. “Great season.”
“Alright enough about football. Let’s apply this to our Act 2.
“Turning Points in a novel are those big plays that change the course of a story. They add new stakes, new trouble, even victories. The Purpose of a Turning Point is to teach your character something they’ll need in order to achieve victory.
“A Turning Point also involves big sections of a novel rather than tiny events.
“People often define a Turning Point as a crisis –and yes, this can be a turning point. But think back to your own life. Sometimes it isn’t a crisis that turns us from our course, but some sort of event, decision, information or even obstacle on our journey. We need to start thinking of Turning Points as those things that teach us something. They open the door to new lessons, opportunities and relationships.
“Besides, if you are writing your scenes correctly, you’ll have an goal, an obstacle and stakes for every scene. Often, these will also have a crisis of some kind. But not every scene can act as a turning point. It would simply be too high drama. Imagining a player fumbling or scoring in every play.”
“I thought we were done talking about football.”
“Right. Okay, bumps in the road are the smaller roadblocks or mini problems that occur during the Turning Point sections. They may be a result of the Turning Point, or contribute to the turning point. They may reinforce a lesson or a fear. But most of all, they simply contribute to the impact of the turning point.
“Bumps in the road in a football game might be a quarterback getting sacked. Or a badly thrown pass.
“Turning Points in a football game are touchdowns or turnovers (that’s when the other team gets the ball).
“Stay with me — Turning Points are the big events in a story that require us to learn and adjust and then keep going.
“Right. So, as you’re writing this week, look at your novel. Do you have 2-3 big turning points in your novel, with bumps in the road between each one?”
Outside, flakes began falling past the window.
“Here’s to next season,” Sally said, holding up her mug.
“Here’s to basketball,” I said with a wink.
Truth: A great story has 2-3 big turning points in Act 2 that drive the character forward and teaches them a mini-lesson (or confirms a mini-lie) that will be used in the Climax/Black Moment and Epiphany.
Dare: Watch a movie this week and see if you can find the Act 2 Turning Points. Can you find the Turning Points in your own novel?
Have a great writing week!
P.S. Was this helpful? Maybe you’d like to learn how to apply Turning Points to your novel? Watch the entire Turning Points Advanced Writer’s Lesson available in the Premium Membership! Get a 24-hour free pass today and check it out in the Advanced Team Member Lockerroom under Chalktalk: Advanced Monthly Lessons! Or, to find out more about MBT membership, both FREE and Premium, check out: http://www.mybooktherapy.com/join-the-team/