Monday, March 5, 2012

Pivotal Statements

Laurie's Journal

Where Am I?

This last week I've been working on revisions for my first novel. Based on feedback received, I've been giving a lot of thought to what can improve the plot, tension, and better define the characters goals.

In other words, what are the building blocks of a great story? What are some of the things that worked in my favorite novels? How did the plot unfold and how were things revealed? What was the pace of the story?

My Current Mood

Pivotal Statements

I wanted to share one of the plot elements I've been defining in my story--"pivotal statements." 

What are they?

The definition of Pivotal:
1. Of crucial importance in relation to the development or success of something else.
2. Fixed on or as if on a pivot

I think of a pivotal statement as a point in the story around which a plot wheels. It's something discovered or related by a character that changes the context or direction. It can be a major or (what appears to be) minor revelation. As an example, I'll use a pivotal statement made in P2PC.

First, the set up.  

Sair, the hero, seeks to escape a very bad situation by negotiating passage with the female captain (heroine) of a P2PC--a planet-to-planet courier. He has a keen interest in ship design--a former hobby--and knows this particular ship is a very unique prototype created by a famous, now dead, ship designer. He learns the captain has inherited the ship. A confrontation with a battleship ends in a surprise. P2PC-1, Battleship-0.

After the battle, the heroine makes a pivotal statement. 

"My father didn't build Specter to be a cargo ship, Sair."

This revelation opens up a series of questions that need to be answered.

Why did her father design the ship?
What is its true purpose?
What was the big picture for him in creating the ship?
Why is his daughter operating the state-of-the-art vessel as a cargo ship now?
How will this affect the hero?
How has it affected the heroine?

Her words suggest there are secrets about the ship--and herself--the hero needs to discover. The statement creates a "pivot point" in the plot.

Not all pivotal statements are spoken. Sometimes they are shown to the reader. In a Mystery, the "pivotal statement" could be the uncovering of a crucial clue or evidence that sets the sleuth off in a new direction. In a Paranormal, a pivotal statement may mark the moment the character discovers the physical laws of the "normal" world he/she lives in no longer apply.

Here are two pivotal statements made in popular films:

Harry Potter: "You're a wizard, Harry!"

And some of the questions that must be answered:
How is Harry a wizard?
Who were his parents?
How will this affect his life?
How will he learn to develop and control his powers?
What will he do with his powers?

Star Wars: "You must learn the ways of The Force if you're to come with me to Alderaan."

The questions?
What is The Force and how will it affect Luke?
Why is it important he go to Alderaan with Obi Wan Kenobi?
How will he learn to develop and control this power?
What will he do with this power?

There can be, and often are, a series of pivotal statements in the story that reveal physical (external) and/or emotional (internal) changes in the course the main character/s will take. ("Luke, I am your father.") Pivotal statements act as a benchmark for the exact point that this change of direction, growth or discovery occurs or begins to occur. This information can be revealed to the reader in either a subtle or dramatic way.

Maybe this has reminded you of a pivotal statement in a book you're reading (or writing). Ask yourself what questions it raises that must be answered in the story. How does it help change the direction of the plot or character and is this communicated effectively to the reader?


  1. I enjoy reading your blog... there's much to think about here. If you're up for a little travel back in time visit my blog,its a " mix of history, reality and fiction".

  2. Interesting stuff about pivotal moments! Can't wait to read your book!

  3. I really need to work on adding pivotal statements in my writing. I love when stories drop mini-bombs of information. Successfully done, I can't stop reading until I've learned the whole story behind the teaser. Funny how I can love something in other's writing and yet forget to use it in my own.

  4. Thanks, Pauline. I can't wait until you can read it, either! :)

    Sarah, I think that's a common problem. Sometimes as writers we're too close to the story and forget to use all the skills and techniques we've learned as writers. Thanks for stopping by to comment.

  5. Oh yes, I love those pivotal moments!!! I particularly like them at the end of chapters so you have to keep turning the pages.

  6. Hi Barb. Oh yes, cliffy pivotal statements are always fun!


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