I thought maybe I'd post this-- because I want to later talk about the Point of No Return, so thought it might be helpful to see how I envision the three-act structure and positioning of turning points (those scenes/events where the plot changes in some important way).
This is by no means the only way to plot a book, etc., etc., and we might discuss different turning point designations and positions. This is just to start up a discussion of structure-- and Theresa's way better at this than I am, so ask her how she would suggest a typical plot structure. And Aristotle thought up most of this a few years before I did. But enough disclaimers! This is simply one structural schema, and I elaborate on each turning point in my article The Three Acts, archived on my website.
So without further ado:
Turning points are *---
Act 1 (The Beginning)
Set up (establishment of character, setting, situation, whatever)
* Initiating Event (what starts off the new storyline, the interruption of the routine, etc. This often comes at the very end of the Set up Scene)
Act 2 (The Middle)
* Emergence of External Conflict (and following that, the protagonist's response)
(rising conflict in between)
* The Reversal (when something reverses -- the hunter becomes the hunted, someone trusted proves untrustworthy, something surprising is revealed)
(rising conflict in between, but usually these two scenes are pretty close together)
* The Point of No Return (of which more later-- some action or event that once embarked on by the protagonist, inevitably leads to the crisis/disaster/dark moment)
Act 3 (The Ending)
*Crisis/Dark Moment (when the worst that can happen happens, and then the protagonist faces despair- usually some major step towards resolving the internal conflict happens here, and that gives the protagonist the courage, skills, ability, whatever, to tackle the external conflict again)
* Climax (when the protagonist resolves the external conflict)
* Resolution (when the protagonist resolves the remaining internal and/or interactional conflict)
I think that in Act 1 and Act 3, there's more pounding drama-- less between the turning points. In the middle act, there are scenes of rising conflict between the turning points.
A good film example for this schema is Casablanca. Well, that's a good film for about everything. :)
The Casablanca set up is fairly long (because, I think, there are a lot of supporting subplots to set up).
Ugarte gives Rick the letters of transit.
(Notice that the interactional plot-- the romance-- has its own set of turning points, and the initiating event for that is, of course, Ilsa coming into the cafe.)
External conflict emerges:
Major Strasser comes into the cafe and recognizes Rick as a potential troublemaker, and Rick can't help but respond by being defiant. Same scene-- Ugarte is shot and killed, and Rick wants to but doesn't help him.
(Romance-- Rick sits with Ilsa and starts competing with Laslo.)
(The romantic reversal comes first-- at the market, Rick pretty much calls Ilsa a whore, and she reveals that she is married to Laslo and was even when she and Rick were lovers in Paris.)
Laslo reveals that he needs the letters and knows Rick has them, and Rick refuses to sell them and tells him to ask his wife for the reason. The reversal is that Laslo (as her patron) has had the upperhand with Ilsa, and now Rick does-- knows more about his wife than Laslo does.
Point of No Return:
The two plots kind of converge here, with the romantic and the external PNR in the same scene, where Rick throws his lot in with Ilsa and Laslo when he gives his band permission to play La Marseillaise. (More about this in next post.)
Ilsa arrives with a gun and demands the letters of transit, sure that her husband will be killed if he doesn't get out of Casablanca.
(same scene) Rick is willing to commit suicide-by-Ilsa rather than give into his love for her.
(Action that comes out of this-- She professes her love, and he surprises himself by agreeing to protect "all of them"-- taking responsibility for Laslo too.)
(This is an AMAZING scene-- one of the greatest ever in film.)
Rick gets everything organized to get himself and Ilsa out of Casablanca... but of course, at the airport he reveals that the letters of transit are to be used by Laslo and Ilsa. They get away, but Rick stays.
(Romantic climax-- he and Ilsa "get Paris back" because of his unconditionally loving act of sacrifice to save her and her husband.)
He kills Strasser (how cool that this is a resolution, not a climax!), and he and Capt. Renault decide to join the Resistance and fight the Nazis together.
Thoughts? Any one of those turning points stand out as especially important in your story?