Every Story Has a Tipping Point (Plus, an Invitation)
Good stories are made up of moments: good moments, bad moments, but most of all, life changing moments.
One of my favorite writing quotes from Robert McKee’s famous book Story is, “The mark of a master is to select only a few moments but to give us a lifetime.”
“The mark of a master is to select only a few moments but to give us a lifetime.” —Robert McKee
Some call the moments in a story scenes or beats or plot points.
A writer’s job is choose the best, most essential moments in a character’s life and throw the rest out. (Share that on twitter?)
You only get so many moments to share in your story. Choose them wisely.
What Makes a Good Moment?
All the moments you share in a story revolve around a tipping point.
What is a tipping point?
A tipping point is that moment that changes everything, when a character is forced to make a decision, take a stand, or do something he or she usually would not.
A moment that changes his or her entire life.
Does your story have a tipping point when all the pent up tension in a character and plot get released in one, surprising decision.
Tipping Points Are Rare
I think everyone has at least two or three tipping points in their lives, but tipping points are rare. These are not every day moments, and that’s why they make such good stories.
Examples of tipping points might include:
- A character’s decision to get romantically involved with someone
- A private detective’s decision to discover the truth behind a perplexing case, despite his misgivings
- In a horror story, the decision to enter a foreboding place (e.g. a haunted house, a creepy island, a graveyard after midnight)
- In a fantasy story, the hero’s decision to begin a quest
- In a thriller, the protagonist’s decision to sacrifice it all in order to rescue another
The Key to Every Tipping Point
Did you notice a pattern in the examples above?
They were all decisions.
The psychologist and philosopher Victor Frankl said, “A human being is a deciding being.”
If your protagonist does not decide, he or she is not a protagonist but a side character only tangentially important to the plot. Ignore this character until you find a character interested in making a decision.
A story where the character isn’t sucked up into some greater purpose, a quest, a mission, a love affair, is a boring story.
Is your protagonist making a decision that will change his or her entire life? If not, find a new protagonist!
How about you? Does the main character in your story have a tipping point that changes his or her life? Let us know in the comments section!
Invitation to a New Writing Contest
I’m very excited to announce that this month we are partnering with Wordhaus literary magazine to host a new writing contest based on this theme.
Winners will get the chance to be featured on Wordhaus magazine AND here, on TheWritePractice.com. We’d love to have you participate.
The contest’s theme is Tipping Point—that moment that changes everything, when a character is forced to make a decision, take a stand, or do something he or she usually would not. A moment that changes his or her entire life.
You can learn more and join the fiction writing contest here. Sign ups for participation in the contest close Friday, May 15, but make sure to sign up today!
A character is about to make a decision that will change the course of his or her entire life. What is the decision? What makes the decision so difficult to make?
Have a tipping point story you’d like to submit for publication? Click here to learn more about the fiction writing contest we’re hosting this month.