plot points

NaNoWriMo Tips: Where are Your Cliffhangers?

Cliffhanger movie 1993 screencap of man falling from landslide on cliffHave you included some cliffhangers in your story? Cliffhangers are the moments in a movie or television show when there is a cut-away from the action, often for a commercial, and the viewer is left hanging, anxious about what will happen to the hero.

Cliffhangers are common writing devices, but they work. In a novel, these are found between scenes and chapters, but also between paragraphs, pulling the reader through the story to find out what happens next.

Where are your cliffhangers? Are they critical plot points or have you thrown in a few throughout the story to keep the reader on edge, eagerly turning page after page?

If you don’t have any, start adding them. Write them in. They add tension, conflict, and drag the reader through the story.

The key to a good cliffhanger is how it draws the reader into the story. They are a part of the action. They want to know what happens. A successful cliffhanger is one written to make the reader a part of the story, so they feel like they are the ones pushing or chasing the story forward.

You can find more writing tips, NaNoWriMo prompts, and writing tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.

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Writing Your Book: Plots and Stories

Tameri Guide for Writers by C.S. Wyatt and Susan D. Schnelbach includes “Plot and Story,” a fabulous breakdown of the basics you need to know about crafting your plot and story.

A plot is not a story, nor does every story have a strong plot. Good writers know the importance of both plot and story, especially before they dare to write a story with a “weak” or “thin” plot. Any plot can feature a love story; that illustrates the difference. Plots are events, stories reveal how characters react to those events.

The study of crafting a successful book goes back thousands of years, and stands the test of time as millions of books have been published covering billions of topics all on this timeless structure of storytelling. Your story has a beginning, middle, and end, but where do you take the reader along that structure?

This guide goes in depth into plot and story structure to help guide you on the path of developing a story that takes the reader on the journey with you.

The Inciting Event

The Monday morning workshop recently focused on scriptwriting, specifically tracing inciting events and the patterns of storytelling for television, film, and even books.

An inciting event in a plot is the shift forward in a story, the twist, hook, and plot points of the story.

K.M. Weiland, author of the book, “Structuring Your Novel,” helps us understand the confusion in and around an inciting event in a story in “Your Book’s Inciting Event: It’s Not What You Think It Is” on Helping Writers Become Authors.

What the heck is the Inciting Event? That’s a question just about any writer can answer. The trouble is that sometimes we all have a different answer.

Is the Inciting Event the first thing that happens in the story?

Is it the moment that kicks off the plot and the conflict?

Is it the First Plot Point at the end of the First Act?

Is it something in between?

Is it something that happens before the story ever starts?

The chief trouble with identifying the Inciting Event is that the term is used rather wildly to apply to just about any of the above. One writer calls the Hook the Inciting Event, another calls it the First Plot Point. Argh! No wonder we’re all so confused.

Weiland demonstrates three examples.

  • The Hook: The opening moment in your opening scene, the first moment something happens that keeps the reader reading or “hooked.”
  • The First Plot Point: The thing that happens at the end of the first act that changes the course of the story. She calls it “where your story really begins…the moment that fully engages your character in the conflict. He couldn’t walk away now, even if he really wanted to.”
  • First Act Turning Point: This is the moment that is the “call to” adventure or action, the no-turning-back point, the lit-match moment. She explained that most writer’s don’t include nor think of the turning point in the first act as the inciting incident, but it is. It is the moment that can be pointed to throughout the rest of the story, the moment when everything was shaken up and decisions needed to be made and action inspired. This is the inciting event.

Weiland explained that the first act turning point, or inciting event, should be placed at the 12% mark or 1/8th the way into the story. The first eighth of the story is character development, the time the audience needs to connect with the main characters, the time, and the place, the set up. (more…)