Pinch Points – #BreakingBad

There are two points in your story that should be subtle reminders of 1) the size of the threat the hero has to face and 2) the lengths/depths/heights the hero will go to win. These are, respectively, the first and second Pinch Point.

Structurally they are located roughly midway between the First Plot Point and the Midpoint (that’s the Pinch Point that demonstrates the ferocity of the opposition) and midway between the Midpoint and the beginning of Act Three (the Pinch Point that reflects the hero’s determination to win against all odds).

As an example, let’s look at the Breaking Bad Pilot episode. Structurally perfect. And at 48 minutes long (excluding commercials), the math is really easy.

The first plot point is at 12 minutes — the cancer diagnosis. Smack dead on 25%. At the midpoint, changing everything for Walt, he’s showing off the chemical flasks he’s stolen from the high school. That’s at the 50% (24 minutes) mark.

And halfway between there, at 18 minutes, Walt witnesses the almighty force of the DEA, storming the meth lab abandoned by Jessie. Walt has already mentally made the decision to get into the business — the wads of cash represent a way out of the financial problem presented by cancer. So it’s appropriate for him to see what he’ll be up against. In all of their uncompromising glory. Pinch Point number 1.

The end of Act Two has Jessie selling a small amount of Walt’s first batch, to critical acclaim. At 36 minutes (75%). They are “back in business”.

And halfway between the Midpoint and the beginning of Act Three, at exactly thirty minutes in, Walt storms through the front door of the clothing store, after witnessing bullies making fun of Wal Jr’s disability, and physically dominates the bullies, both larger and younger than him. this is the first evidence that there’s steel in Walt, and it demonstrates his willingness to fight. Pinch Point number 2.

You’ll find these scenes strategically placed in TV dramas, movies of all sorts and books. Keep an eye out for them. Occasionally you see a little variation where the second Pinch Point is a further reminder of how bad the bad guy is, but generally it’s as described above.

But like I said above, they need a subtle introduction. Don’t just slam the scene in with no build up or reaction. Make sure the scenes fits within the flow of your story and don’t call attention to themselves.

Happy writing!

What do *you* think?

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