Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Beats - Turning Points - Stages - Pinch Points

One of my on-going challenges as a story consultant has been to clarify terminology and minimize the equivocation in terms. (Thus the recent post Protagonist vs. Hero with assistance from Chris Volger). Clarifying terms was a motivation behind writing the The Moral Premise regarding what others were calling various things like "the Controlling Idea," "Theme," "Premise," and so on.

The Story Diamond (link to PDF of Diamond) was not original with me, but I saw the opportunity of layering other story  concepts onto it and thus demonstrating how the wide variety of terms used in our niche industry, are really all about the same thing.

So, this post is another attempt at that...with hopefully some nomenclature consistency. It was prompted by the last several posts by Michael Hauge over at StoryMastery.com. Michael has made the turn from calling every sequence and turning point a "beat" to differentiating between the different kind of beats as "turning points" and story "stages".  This solves an on going problem. I would tell my clients that some beats are "moments" (a single scene) and others are "sequences" (numerous scenes.) Yet the connotation of "beats" still sounds  instantaneous...which is confusing since half of the beats are not moments at all.

So, taking this hint from Michael, I offer up the following and the Story Diamond has been updated to reflect this subtle shift in labeling conventions.

As a further update, the 8 stages can also be called Mini-Movies, which reflects the ideas of Paul Gulino (Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach), and Chris Soth of ScreenwritingU.

Recall that our goal is to create an emotional roller coaster effect for our reader/audience. That end goal demands a regular (up and down) progress of scene sequences and turning points (or beats) or pattern over which we can apply our story elements and plot.

The latest PDF Annotated NOTES document for The Story Diamond is HERE.

Additions and Revisions

1. Around the perimeter (in dark red) I've added a version of the Staging convention that Hauge uses, with the addition of dividing up Stage 3 and 4 into 3A, 3B and 4A, 4B. (I don't like this particularly because it is not cogent with the previous convention of Act 2A (Stage 3) and Act 2B (Stage 4). But if you don't mix systems, you'll be okay.

2. Then it occurred to me that the Inciting Incident and the Final Incident were very much like Pinch Points A and B (which were originally at the mid points of Act 2A and Act 2B. None of these points were "turning points" but rather places where the antagonist (or antagonistic force) raises its head to prod the protagonist (or hero) forward. "Turning Points" were moments where the Protagonist or Hero make decisions that takes the story in a new direction. This interconnectedness between the Protagonist and "new direction" reinforces the story dictum that the Protagonist is in charge of the story, and not the Antagonist. The protagonist changes the antagonist prods. So, I am now labeling the Inciting Incident "Pinch Point A" and the Final Incident "Pinch Point D" which leaves the former Pinch Points A and B to be relabeled C and D.


Then if we refer to the Climax of Act 3 a turning point (which is clearly is in redemptive stories where the protagonist makes his/her biggest change) we then have a wonderfully symmetrical story system.  There are 4 Turning Points, and 4 Pinch Points, and they alternate, helping to create the roller coaster effect we're after.

Plus, the Sages alternate with the Points, for a deeper symmetry and a satisfying roller coaster ride.
  1. (Prologue)
  2. Stage 1
  3. Pinch Point A (Inciting Incident)
  4. Stage 2
  5. Turning Point 1 (Act 1 Climax)
  6. Stage 3A
  7. Pinch Pint B
  8. Stage 3B
  9. Turning Point 2 (MOG)
  10. Stage 4A
  11. Pinch Point C
  12. Stage 4B
  13. Turning Point 3 (Act 2 Climax)
  14. Stage 5
  15. Pinch Point D (Final Incident)
  16. Stage 6
  17. Turning Point 4 (Act 2 Climax)
  18. Denouement
A full explanation of the Story Diamond is presented in my On-Line Storycraft Training series.

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