Welcome again, Campers.
Last month, we talked about the inciting incident in a romance novel. And if you’ve been following along, you know that our framework for this series of articles is Jami Gold’s Beat Sheet for Romance (found here). We’re sticking to the three act structure for these articles but, as I’ve said before, you don’t have to stick to it like glue.
There’s an old adage about three act structure that in Act One, you get your hero up a tree. In Act Two, you throw rocks at him. And in Act Three, you get him out of the tree.
After the inciting incident comes the end of the beginning. As Jami states: The end of the beginning is when the hero and heroine are forced by external plotting to spend more time together and start making decisions that reflect their desire for each other.
This could mean several things. First, the external circumstances are pushing them together and they are making decisions to stop that from happening. Or, as the external circumstances push them together, they make decisions from a desire to force that to happen more.
In this section, developments arise that raise the stakes and cause the hero and heroine to reinforce their goals. Often this sets them at odds with each other or at emotional odds with their goals. This turning point is what thrusts the story into Act Two.
This turning point completely changes their relationship. It’s a wrench in the gears thing. Enter the main conflict between your hero and heroine - the thing that’s going to force them apart. It might be new information. It might be new orders from a boss. It might be the entrance of an old flame. Truly, it’s the moment when these two people realize that this is not going to be a cake walk. And usually they make this realization separately, in their own minds and hearts.
In Hero’s Journey language, this turning point takes the characters out of their normal world and thrusts them into the journey - a journey from which they can never go home. Even if they do “go home,” things there will never be the same.
By the end of Act One, your characters will likely have stated - either in their heads or actually out loud - that they want nothing to do with the other, nothing to do with a relationship with the other. No way, no how. But the final plot point of this Act will not give them that choice. It will make it impossible for them to walk away. Not until. . . So at the end of this piece, your hero and heroine are completely “up a tree” with no way of escape.
Until next month, your homework is to watch a few chick flicks and figure out where this happens (hint: in a movie, look a third of the way in) and how the writer accomplishes this. Feel free to post your insights. Or, as an alternative, share some of these “points” from a favorite book. Even yours.
Next month, we’ll get into Act Two.
Of course, don’t forget: BiCHoK - Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard.