Meet Sue Coletta.
Member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers, Sue Coletta is a multi-published, award-winning author in numerous anthologies, and her forensics articles have appeared in InSinC Quarterly. In addition to her popular crime resource blog, Sue’s a radio show host — check out Partners In Crime on Blog Talk Radio — the communications manager for the Serial Killer Project and Forensic Science and founder of #ACrimeChat on Twitter. Learn more about Sue and her books at: http://www.suecoletta.com/
Guest Post – Pinch Points: What They Are and How To Use Them
After a quick Google search, I realized there isn’t much written on the subject of Pinch Points. Which is odd. They’re crucial milestones in fiction — especially mysteries and thrillers — because they show the face of evil in its purest form. Pinch Points demonstrate what your hero is up against, what causes her to jolt upright in bed.
Two wonderful quotes from my dear friend Larry Brooks, taken from Story Engineering:
“We need to see that antagonist form in its purest, most dangerous and intimidating form. Or if it isn’t dangerous, then at least we need to feel it for ourselves.”
“An example, or a reminder, of the nature and implications of the antagonist force, that is not filtered by the hero’s experience.”
Two Pinch Points in Every Story
The main difference between the First and Second Pinch Point is placement.
The First Pinch Point comes midway between the First Plot Point and the Midpoint. Because the First Plot Point comes at 20%-25% into the book and the Midpoint arrives at 50%, then the First Pinch Point needs to be placed at the 3/8th mark, or approximately 37.5%.
With the First Pinch Point, the reader needs to see the antagonist for him/herself and not merely hear it referenced or discussed. She needs to experience it, either through the hero’s eyes or through the antagonist himself. In crime fiction, this can be a murderer planning his next kill or stalking a potential target. Or a kidnapper beating his captor, and lovin’ every minute of it. Or even, the protagonist listening to the antagonist play prerecorded screams over the phone.
The simpler and more direct the Pinch Point is, the better. The important thing to remember is, the reader needs to feel it. Even if you choose to use a cutaway scene, you’ve fulfilled the need of the First Pinch Point. Anyone who’s ever read a James Patterson thriller has seen these cutaway scenes many times. They stick right out because he uses short chapters that show what the antagonist is doing — planning, scheming, killing. Make no mistake, Patterson knows exactly where to place the Pinch Points to keep the reader flipping pages, and that exact placement is at 37.5% and 62.5%, respectively.
The Second Pinch Point should appear between the Midpoint and the Second Plot Point. Regardless of whether you use a three or four act structure, the Second Pinch Point should appear at about the 5/8th mark, or 62.5%. This time, you need an entire scene devoted to it, whereas with the First Pinch Point you don’t.
A Pinch Point demonstrates the nature, power, and very essence of the antagonist force. And now, s/he’s more frightening than ever. Because at the Midpoint shift, your character changes from wanderer — where s/he is trying, failing, retreating, flailing — to a real hero, attacking the problem head-on. It’s at the Second Pinch Point where your antagonist will also up his game, and this is where you show just how evil he truly is. Incidentally, you should also show his softer side, but not at the Pinch Points. They’re reserved for the havoc he’s wreaking, or intends to wreak.
The Second Pinch Point could also be a discussion between two characters, which remind the reader what the hero is up against, even if the antagonist is within your hero, depending on your story.
As writers, we often concern ourselves with the hook and the big twist ending, perhaps even the Midpoint, but without well-placed Pinch Points the story will lose its sense of rising action and tension.
For example, in Silence of the Lambs the First Pinch Point comes when Hannibal Lecter gives Clarice the location of a storage facility where she finds a jarred head from one of Buffalo Bill’s victims. In their twisted relationship this is akin to Hannibal handing her a dozen long-stemmed roses. The Second Pinch Point comes when Hannibal gives her the map of Buffalo Bill’s murders, which ultimately helps her break the case and find the killer.
Have fun with your Pinch Points.
Make them deliciously evil, and you’ll ensure your reader isn’t going anywhere.
Wings of Mayhem: http://smarturl.it/WingsofMayhem
Other books can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Sue–Coletta/e/B015OYK5HO/