At the end of Part 1 — at the moment of the First Plot Point, which we’ll examine in more detail in chapter thirty you unveiled the real course and destination of the story: the path leading to an inevitable showdown between the hero and the opposing force that stands in the way of what he needs to do, acquire, achieve, or change in order to reach his goals. These were not the hero’s goals of Part 1, but rather they are new goals as created by the introduction of the First Plot Point.
The goal could be survival, finding love, getting away from love gone bad, acquiring wealth, healing, attaining justice, stopping or catching the bad guys, preventing disaster, escaping danger, saving someone, saving the entire world, or anything else from the realm of human experience and dreams.
But whatever the hero needs, there must be something opposing the hero’s quest to achieve it. No opposition, no story.
Before the Plot Point, which consists of the entirety of Part 1, that quest didn’t exist. At least in the form in which it will unfold for the remainder of the story. The hero had other plans. But with the appearance of the First Plot Point moment, everything changes, including the hero’s plans. Anew journey, quest, or need is on his plate now.
In Dennis Lehane’s novel Shutter Island, for example, the First Plot Point is when, during what is a combination of a flashback and a delusion, the ghost of the hero’s wife tells him that “Laeddis is here.” Everything that happened prior to this moment was a setup for what we (and the hero) experience afterwards. It’s a subtle moment that occurs right on time (page 88 of the 369-page mass market paperback), easily missed. There had been a series of confusing, foreshadowing dramatic moments prior to this milestone, but they were out of context to the big picture, and without ever launching the story in its intended direction. They existed solely to serve the setup of the macro story, which was the ultimate resolution of the hero’s grasp of his very dark reality.
Storytelling is all about conflict. Some would tell you it’s all about character, but that’s not accurate. Because character depends on conflict to illuminate itself. Every story has conflict, or it’s not a story at all. Conflict is what stands in the way of what the hero needs or wants in the story.
In Shutter Island, the conflict is the hero’s own impending insanity, preventing him from accepting reality and saving himself. Only through the pursuit of that goal do we see, and care about, the unfolding, de-layering of the hero’s true character.
The excerpt is retrieved from the book ‘Story Engineering’