What’s up, my friend? Abbie here, and welcome back to Writer’s Life
Wednesdays, where we come together to help you make your story matter and make your author
dreams come true. Today we are talking about writing the first
plot point of your story. So if you’ve been here for a while, you know
that we’re doing a video series breaking down in detail the three-act story structure. We already explored writing a gripping opening
hook and a mind blowing inciting incident. Plus I also did a video case studying real
inciting incidents from stories. So check out all of those videos to get up
to speed. The links are in the description box below. And then come back to this video, because
you need to write a killer hook and inciting incident in order to pull readers into your
story and bring them to the first plot point. If you’ve already been watching the series
and you’re ready for the next step, awesome. That’s what today’s video is all about. We’re going to be unpacking the elusive first
plot point, which is essentially the first important decision that your protectionist
makes, which then determines what happens next. We’re not just going to talk about writing
in characters though. We’re going to go beyond that and explore
the science behind how the human brain makes painful decisions. Why does your story matter? Good question. What if I told you that there’s a science
behind every great story? I don’t just teach you how to write. I teach you how to change the world with your
story and make your author dreams come true. Remember how we talked about the impossible
choice in the inciting incident video? The hook is what set up your protagonist’s
internal conflict and drew the comfort zone, your protagonist’s comfort zone, and then
the inciting incident stepped in, push them outside their comfort zone, and then forced
them to make a choice, a difficult choice, an impossible choice. The first plot point is when your protagonist
makes that choice. Let’s read it from the three-act story structure
template, which is linked in the description box below, by the way, so grab your copy and
follow along. First plot point: protagonist makes a decision
which determines what happens next. Your protagonist is a conflicted person, torn
between desire and fear. So when the inciting incident steps in and
shoves them outside their comfort zone, their fear takes over and they respond based on
that misbelief, which sets up more obstacles for the rest of the book. The human brain makes decisions by avoiding
the most pain. So what is the least painful option in the
long run? Venturing into the unknown and risking some
danger, but ultimately getting what you have always desired. Prompt, ask yourself, how is my protagonist
going to react to the inciting incident given their fear and misbelief about the world? What decision are they going to make now to
avoid the most pain and get what they want while steering clear of the thing they’re
afraid of? Okay, so in order for me to take you deeper
into this, we first have to talk about how the human brain makes decisions. Whether you realize it or not, your brain
is constantly making decisions, okay? Every day, every hour, every minute, every
second, your brain is sifting through hundreds of possible choices and deciding on one course
of action. Our lives parallel and intersect with each
other based on the specific set of choices we make. And although it may seem like just a random
assortment of events that create this chaos called life, there is actually a method to
our madness, and that method is what I like to call pain versus pain. What if I told you that every single decision
you ever made was to avoid the most pain? Even when you thought you were doing the harder
thing, you actually weren’t doing the harder thing, you were merely rewriting the definition
of pain in your mind. Let’s use an example that we’re all familiar
with. Waking up in the morning. Let’s say you have to get up at 4:00 AM because
you need to catch a flight that leaves at 7:00. It takes you an hour to get ready, 30 minutes
to drive to the airport, and you like to be through TSA at least one hour before your
plane takes off. So you set your alarm for 4:30 because that
gives you two and a half hours, just the amount of time that you need, right? Well, when that alarm rings at 4:30, you don’t
want to get up. Your bed feels so soft and warm and comfortable,
and you’re tired and it’s still dark out. Why would you want to get up when it’s still
dark out? The thought of getting up is literally painful. So you hit the snooze button, you don’t need
a whole hour to get ready anyway, right? The pain of giving yourself a little bit less
time to get ready is not as painful as the pain of getting out of bed right now. So you sleep a little bit more. And then the alarm rings again. You still don’t want to get up because it’s
still dark out and you’re still tired, and your bed is still really comfy, and the thought
of getting up is still really painful. So you hit the snooze button again because
you don’t need that much time to go find your gate anyway, right? I mean, last time your flight was delayed
and you had to sit there for 20 extra minutes anyway. So you can sleep more, you have time. So you sleep more, because the pain of running
through the airport to find your gate is still not as painful as the thought of getting out
of bed right now. But then the alarm rings again, and it’s 5:00
AM! Now you only have two hours to get ready,
drive to the airport, get through TSA, find your gate and get on your plane; 30 minutes
less than what you needed, which means now you’re running late and there’s a possibility
that you could miss your flight. So you finally shut off your alarm and jump
out of bed hurrying to get ready. Why? Because the pain of missing your flight is
greater than the pain of getting out of bed. But here’s the thing, the feeling of getting
out of bed did not change, only your perception of it did, because you started comparing it
to the pain of something more significant, missing your flight. All that time, whether you were conscious
of it or not, you were comparing the pain of getting out of bed with the pain of other
unpleasant things like rushing to get ready and sprinting through the airport to find
your gate. But finally there was a tipping point when
you realized that the pain of not getting out of bed was actually greater than the pain
of getting out of bed, so you got out of bed. Most of this comparison decision making happens
backstage in our minds, it happens in the subconscious mind, most of the time without
us even noticing. Our brain is hardwired to avoid pain, which
makes sense because it’s a survival skill. Okay? You avoid pain, you avoid danger, you live
longer. It’s a very basic primal psychological tool
that usually works in our favor. But it doesn’t always work in our favor, because
it fosters our brain’s default path of least resistance program, and that’s when you need
to take the steering wheel and say, “Hey, I need to do the harder thing because I know
it’s the right thing to do.” But here’s the freaky part. Your brain literally won’t allow you to do
the harder thing. It’s built to avoid pain and that’s why you
have to consciously rewrite your definition of pain. Let’s take, for example, the most extreme
military training in the world, the US Navy SEALs. When you hear about the totally insane physical
and mental tests that a person must pass to become a Navy SEAL, it almost seems impossible. The most infamous part of SEAL training is
called Hell Week, and it’s designed to push you beyond your limits and see if you can
endure under extreme physical pain and exhaustion. Nevermind having to get out of bed at 4:30
to catch your flight. Recruits are only allowed four hours of sleep
for the entire week. It’s called hell for a reason. Which raises the question, why would anyone
want to put themselves through actual hell to be a Navy SEAL? Aha, the answer is in the question, why? Everyone who graduates from the Navy SEAL
program must know the answer to that question before they even enter the program. They have to know why they are personally
driven to become a Navy SEAL, otherwise they won’t even make it through first phase. Because in order to make the decision to put
yourself through hell, you have to have a very clear reason why this matters so much
to you. You have to have a reason so incredibly persuasive
that it now becomes more painful to ring that bell and quit the training than it is to go
through hell week. So yes, you can choose to do the harder thing,
but only after you redefine pain in your mind, you have to make the harder thing less painful
by foreseeing the outcome of not doing the harder thing. So what does all of this mean for story? That’s a great question. Just kidding. If you want your characters to seem human,
they have to respond to difficult decisions the same way humans do. Okay? They have to experience this conflict of pain
versus pain. When the inciting incident shoves them outside
their comfort zone, they have to face this impossible choice, stay inside my comfort
zone and risk never getting what I desire, or venture into the unknown and accomplish
my goal while still avoiding my fear? We know they’re not going to stay inside their
comfort zone, because that would mean there’s no story. The plot is what forces your characters to
change. But they have to decide how they’re going
to respond to the plot, otherwise they’re just a proverbial punching bag. So we know that they’re going to venture into
the unknown and they’re going to try to accomplish their goal while still trying to steer clear
of the thing that they’re afraid of. Because as they’re weighing these options
here, they realize the less painful thing longterm is actually to venture into the unknown,
venture further outside my comfort zone, and maybe experience some risk and danger, but
ultimately get the thing that I’ve always wanted. So even though it might seem more immediately
uncomfortable, it’s more ultimately rewarding. So they make the decision and they step outside
their comfort zone. And because the reader understands this comfort
zone and knows what it means for the character to step outside of it, now, oh my gosh, we
are pulled right in and we are desperate to know what’s going to happen next. You might already be seeing how this is going
to apply to your story, but just in case it’s a little bit fuzzy still, I want to show you
some examples from real stories. Okay, I have two examples today, they’re both
good examples, because I kind of already did the bad example of the inciting incident or
a lack of an impossible choice, and if you didn’t see that video, check it out right
here. But first up for the good example of a first
plot point, we have Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austin. It’s really amazing actually how much this
story follows the three act story structure. I was noticing that last time I rewatched
the BBC adaptation, best version by the way. The hook and the inciting incident show up
pretty fast. John Dashwood dies. Leaving his wife and three daughters nothing
because laws of the time forced every penny of inheritance to go to the son in the family
who happens to be a half-brother who happens to be a jerk. His wife is even worse, and when the two of
them move in with the Dashwoods immediately after their father’s death, let’s just say
it pushes everyone outside their comfort zone. Conflict and angst abound as the Dashwood
girls try to cope with the death of their father and their witchy sister-in-law who
makes it very clear that they are not welcome in their own house. This forces Mrs. Dashwood and the girls to
make a decision. They need to find a new place to live, but
they can’t afford the kind of house they’re used to. Finally, they find a cottage by the sea and
decide to take it, not because it’s particularly appealing, but because it’s less painful than
living with their spiteful relatives who more or less wish them dead. Mrs. Dashwood reaches a breaking point when
she can’t take it any longer. She snaps up the offer of the cottage because
even though it’s going to be nothing like the luxury she’s used to, it’s less painful
than staying in her posh yet conflicted home. The decision to move is the first plot point
of Sense and Sensibility because it sets up literally everything else that’s going to
happen. That’s what I’m talking about. Okay? Pain versus pain. One more great example because I can’t help
myself: Poldark. This is not even a book. It’s the screenplay for the show. And I’ve talked about this show before, but
not nearly enough. Seriously, it’s one of the best, most gripping
story openings that I’ve ever seen. Ross Poldark gets one hell of an inciting
incident after he’s wounded in the revolutionary war, he returns home to Cornwall only to find
his father dead, his estate in ruins and debt, and his one true love engaged to marry his
cousin, because she thought Ross died in the war. Needless to say, this is kind of a rude awakening
for Ross and it would be for anyone, but as we get to know Ross, we see how these events
push him outside his comfort zone. We learn that he has a deeply rooted fear
of being controlled. We see it in his tongue-in-cheek attitude
toward the law and government and the way he rolls up his sleeves and get stuff done
instead of complaining about it or begging others for help. He snubs polite society and would rather break
a jail than go to a party any day of the week. The first plot point shows up for Ross after
the inciting incident. He’s been sufficiently pushed outside his
comfort zone, especially after Elizabeth marries his cousin Francis. Still struggling with debt and his inner conflict,
Ross’s uncle offers to send him away with a bunch of money to start afresh in London
or basically anywhere away from Elizabeth. But Ross struggles with this choice. Leaving Cornwall would mean escaping his present
pain and torment, but it would also mean abandoning his friends and the mine he wants to reopen. It would mean turning his back on everything
he values. And that just doesn’t sit right with Ross. So finally, after some floundering indecision,
he decides to stay, because staying and facing his struggles at home is actually less painful
than the idea of leaving his friends and family behind. It seems like the more right and heroic thing
to do, and Ross is definitely a heroic character, but he’s also very human, and the first plot
point makes sense because we see what he values and how he arrives at this pivotal choice. Okay, so that is what the first plot point
looks like. And by now you’re probably thinking of a hundred
other different examples of first plot points in other stories. So definitely comment below right now and
tell me, what is your favorite example of a well done first plot point? Now let’s recap everything we learned about
the first plot point today. The first plot point is the moment your protagonist
makes the impossible choice, which determines what happens next. Remember to show your reader why this impossible
choice is so difficult for your protagonist to face because of her desire, fear, and misbelief. The human brain makes decisions based on avoiding
pain. Even when you think you’re doing the harder
thing, you are actually just rewriting the definition of pain in your mind. There comes a tipping point when inaction
is more painful than action, even if the action is extremely painful. That being said, your protagonist is primed
to make a decision based on her misbelief. She can stay inside her comfort zone and risk
never getting what she desires, or she can venture into the unknown and accomplish her
goal while still avoiding her fear. Upon consideration and redefining pain in
her mind, your protagonist will realize that the second option is more rewarding in the
long run. Ask yourself, how is my protagonist going
to react to the inciting incident given their fear and misbelief about the world? What decision are they going to make now to
avoid the most pain and get what they want while still steering clear of the thing they’re
afraid of? Okay, boom. That’s the first plot point, and we’re getting
really close to wrapping up act one of your story or the first third of your story. But before we close out the first act, there’s
one more thing that really kicks your story up a notch and that is the first pinch point. What the heck even is a pinch point? We’re going to talk about that next time,
how to add that little sprinkle of impending doom and suspense to hook your readers even
more. And of course we’ll talk about the human brain
on danger. So that’s coming at you the week after next. And if you’re from the future, the link will
be right there. Smash that like button if you liked this video,
and be sure to subscribe to this channel if you haven’t already, because I post writing
videos and publishing videos every single Wednesday, and I would love to have you here
in the community. Also, be sure to check out my Patreon because
that’s where we go beyond videos and take storytelling to the next level. Okay? The Patreon community is not only the best
way to support what I’m doing here on YouTube, but it’s also the only way to connect one-on-one
with me and get better guidance on your story. So go to patreon.com/abbieemmons and check
out all the awesome, extra, exclusive, bonus content that I have over there for you. Until next week, my friend, rock on. And there’s a possibility that you could miss
your flight. Maybe I shouldn’t have used a plane metaphor
because there are just like plane after plane after plane flying over this house right now. It’s so annoying. I love airplanes. I love all kinds of aircraft. But I just wish they wouldn’t fly over my
house when I’m filming a video. That’s all I ask. That is all ask.

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33 thoughts on “HOW TO WRITE THE FIRST PLOT POINT OF A STORY

  1. It would be awesome if you made a separate psychology series with things that are good to know when it comes to writing 😊.

  2. Awesome video. I love how you explain these terms, and aspects of writing craft. Even when I'm already familiar with the concepts, your insights are invaluable, and help to add clarity. I do also love the Jane Austen examples. πŸ˜ƒπŸ’

  3. I really like this series Abbie! Because of you I have fallen in love with the art of storytelling and because of that I have enjoyed watching reading stories a whole that more than I use to.
    Thank you for all the time you put into this Abbie!

  4. Came for story writing advice, left with cool facts about my brain and possible tools for how to not procrastinate so much. You've done it again Abbie! 😁

  5. I've never seen that version of S&S – I love the Kate Winslet version too much lol

    S&S AND POLDARK OMG I AM FANGIRLING

    dude, seriously, why isn't everyone watching poldark. I'm so sad it's over.

  6. I swear, I'm addicted to your channel. Every Wednesday is known as Abbiee Day in my home. I love you girl!

  7. Once again, another fantastic video! You're videos seriously give me the drive to keep going with my story.

    And as a first plot point, I have to turn to my favorite SciFi movie War of the Worlds with Tom Cruise.
    The main character, Ray, is a divorced dad who has his estranged kids visiting for the weekend, only to have aliens beam down in lighting and start to vaporize everyone into dust. Since Ray starts out as a bitter and self-absorbed person, his immediate choice isn't purely to get him and his kids to safety as a dad should, it's to get the kids to their mom's house so he can dump them on her so that he wouldn't have to deal with them.

    I love this because it isn't necessarily something noble or honorable, it's a selfish and fear-driven decision that would make Ray's life, in his opinion, a lot easier.

  8. Well, now I have to rewatch Poldark and Sense and Sensibility (all versions!) lol
    All kidding aside, this is another fantastic video! You are teaching this old dog new tricks and in such a way that I don't feel like an idiot for not grasping these craft points. Please continue and thank you for sharing so much of yourself with the writing community!

  9. β€œWe must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” – Jim Rohn

  10. I'm trying to decide what's the first plot point in "Casablanca."

    I think the inciting incident is when Rick lets Ugarte hide the Letters of Transit in his cafe.

    The first plot point must be when he decides to face his pain of seeing Ilsa again by telling Sam to "Play it." I guess it's become more painful to continue to ignore his getting dumped in Paris than it will be for him to face Ilsa now and settle things.

    Or???

  11. One that comes to mind is the first plot point in the Hunger Games, when Katniess chooses to take her sister's place at the reaping. She decides that going through the Hunger Games herself would be less painful than having to watch her little sister go through it and living with the guilt the rest of her life.

  12. I admire your commitment to sharing your writing method to new writers. It's very helpful, and you're very kind for doing so.

  13. My cousin and I are co-authors on a series we've been writing for about a couple of weeks now. We've decided to write via google docs. My question is since my cousin is the one who created the idea for the series, How and where do I get inspiration from?

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