Go to any writers’ conference and you’ll find someone talking about turning points. The way they’re handled can determine a story’s impact on the reader.
Donald Maass, in his WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK, writes, “Stories, like life, are about change. Delineating the change scene by scene gives a novel a sense of unfolding drama, and gives its characters a feeling of progress over time.”
He offers the following as possible turning points:
●Arrival of new information
●Shift in the course of events
●Letting go of the old way
Maass challenges us to heighten the changes, which occurs when we build anticipation, increase tension or add surprise. I recently judged a submission in a contest where the writer had a significant turning point, but her delivery was off. My suggestion? Lay a dramatic foundation that builds step by step until the turning point is revealed.
Setting can play an important role. Think how an encroaching storm could symbolize a character’s growing rage or the gentle ebb and flow of waves on the sand could be an outward sign of an inner healing.
Sometimes seemingly inconsequential props and the way the character responds to those props can expose a deeper change that is occurring, thus intensifying the turning point. In my second book, SCARED TO DEATH, Kate Murphy finds her missing cross and places it around her neck, revealing she is ready to embrace life—and love.
Maass frequently finds turning points underplayed in the manuscripts he reads—and rejects. On the other hand, stories flooded with emotion, with conflict, with drama, with electrifying turning points capture his interest and his representation. This week, let’s work on our turning points so we can transform our stories into breakout novels.
Wishing you abundant blessings!