The first pinch point is the first part of the story, where the enemy and the villain loom over the whole thing. It’s not necessarily where the story reveals who it is or what it is, but that threat begins to come about. So a character might perceive it as a villainous threat but not the true villain. They may be their internal conflict coming to light. So, It’s the first part of the story where the pressure starts to get put on them by the external, which preys upon their internal.
You have to pinch points in the novel. One is in the middle of the second corner and the middle of the third corridor. I’ve had many people ask, How can you tell what should happen between the first plot point, the midpoint, and the second plot point?
The first pinch points can give you more direction. They occur in the middle of the second and third quarters. So you can plan how you’re going to get from the first plot point to the pinch point to the midpoint to the next pinch point to the second plot point. Stay with me if you need help with the first pinch point. I’ll explain it with an example.
What is the purpose of the first pinch points?
The first pinch points are intended to raise tension by reminding the reader of what’s at stake. So the points are usually something that occurs that indicates what the character has to lose or indicates the power of the antagonistic force. It’s normally something negative that raises the stakes or reminds the reader of what’s at stake.
You want to pinch points in your novel because it’s easy for the reader to lose touch with what’s at stake. Often because of novel structure. It’s typical that the stakes will be introduced early on and might only be relevant for a short time. They may not be relevant from the first quarter to the fourth quarter. It often leaves the middle two quarters with limited or no reminders of what is at stake. So there are many ways the first pinch points could be used to demonstrate what’s at stake.
How to write first pinch point?
The first pinch point doesn’t necessarily have to be dramatic. It can be a lot simpler. In some novels, the pinch point is as simple as a flashback or the character remembering something that reminds the reader of what’s at stake. So again, this is where the reader is more important than the character in terms of that tension. By ratcheting up the tension, your protagonist feels the tension regardless. But what you want is to get the reader to feel that tension.
Because the focus is on the reader, that reveals the pinch point or what occurs at the pinch point could be a reveal that isn’t necessarily new information to the protagonist. It may not even be new information to the reader, but it’s a reminder of what is at stake.
So in the film, or if you have a book with multiple perspectives, that might even be simply showing a scene of the child while the child is being kidnapped. It doesn’t necessarily focus on the protagonist at all. But this depends significantly on the type of book you’re writing and how you structure the novel.
So the key to writing an excellent pinch point is to remind the reader of what’s at stake, or it needs to increase the stakes or the tension. Here are more tips for you.
1. Introduce a first battle
You’ll have more of a battle scene at the first pinch point. If you’re not writing fantasy or sci-fi, it doesn’t have to be an actual battle, but you’ll see more stakes and conflict. The protagonist is that there’s a lot more riding on their decisions.
So instead of a small group of friends and followers, they realize what they’re trying to do by standing up against the bad guy’s forces. It’s about the fate of humanity or the world or civilization because what the bad guy’s minions are after is on a grander scale than what the protagonists had realized initially or recognized. So that’s what the pinch point is.
Generally, they will succeed in the first battle or at least survive. They may have some injuries, but nobody gets seriously hurt. Everything should feel like the conflict is mortal, even if it’s not fighting and there’s no actual potential for death or dying. The stakes always have to matter.
So even if it’s not literal life and death, it has to matter life and death. Somebody probably gets seriously hurt if you’re writing more general commercial fiction, sci-fi, fantasy thriller, the first pinch point. Somebody could die, but not one of the allies, close companions, maybe some incidental death so that you realize these are life and death stakes. This is a serious conflict, and they need to be more careful, and they also need to become more powerful so that the next time they get into that a conflict with the enemy forces.
2. Set a goal
After realizing the conflict, the characters understand the enemy’s opposition, who the enemy is, and who is threatening them. Also, it’s a greater recognition that they need something to defeat the enemy later. Maybe they thought they were fun. It’s where they recognize their weakness and mortality. They realize these stakes are bigger, so they have more of a clearer idea of what they need to defeat the enemy. That will influence the next few chapters regarding where they go and what they do. It’s generally going to be something now with their new awareness and understanding of the conflict.
So they have new goals they’re going to pursue to get that thing after that or defeat the enemy, if that’s their primary goal, to defeat the enemy.
Example of the first pinch point
Say you have a story where the protagonist’s child is abducted in the first quarter. They’re trying to save their child through the second and third quarters. Then in the fourth quarter, they successfully get to the climax, save their child, and end the story.
The problem is that the child is absent from the first quarter to the fourth quarter, and you only have the investigation. It can be difficult for the reader to keep in touch with what the character with the protagonist has to lose. So the pinch points function to remind the reader this character has this child that they could lose. So it ratchets up the tension.
In this particular story, maybe in one of the pinch points, the protagonist gets a phone call from the antagonistic force who kidnapped their child, and the antagonist says, instead of $1,000,000, now we want $10 Million. In the background, he can hear the daughter crying. All of a sudden, the tension dramatically increased. So this reminds the reader this child exists.
So I hope this article gave you a better idea of what happens at the first pinch points and how you might use them in your novel.
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