The Writer’s Bag of Tricks (Part Four)

Basic Plot Structure Continued: The Point of No Return

The purpose of the Point of No Return scene in your plot is to force your character to move toward the final goal according to the plot type you have chosen. For Overcoming the Monster, the Point of No Return scene forces the main character to pursue the only course of action available to them that will allow them to engage and defeat (or be defeated by) the monster.

The Point of No Return is the result of the inciting incident, which is that singular event which so disrupts the character’s reality that there is no going back to daily life. This incident creates the domino effect that creates the flow and arc of the novel. It is this scene that will define your whole story concept and where the reader will know exactly that the story is about Overcoming the Monster, or The Quest (Lord of the Rings), or The Voyage and Return (Alice in Wonderland), or Rags to Riches (Cinderella), etc.

It is also the Point of No Return scene that concludes all the story set-up. All foreshadowing, clues, introduction of your main character, introduction or hints of your antagonist, etc…should be written into all the set-up chapters prior to the Point of No Return Scene. Remember that these 10 Scenes are not the first 10 chapters of your novel. These are scenes which ensure your storyline works from beginning to end.

Note also that whatever your main character’s central and overwhelming problem is in this scene is the same problem that will only get worse until it seems incapable of being solved. Your character must face the enemy and defeat it or die. It’s always victory or death, in the end. Always.

Let’s look at Star Wars Episode IV again. We left off with Luke rushing off to warn his family after meeting with Obi-Wan. Luke learned of the impending danger from Imperial Forces because they tracked the droids carrying important information to Tatooine, which is Luke’s home. Now in the Point of No Return scene, Luke returns to the farm and finds his aunt and uncle dead (inciting incident). Luke then decides go with Obi-Wan to fight the imperial forces (Point of No Return). There is no way back for Luke. He can only move forward.

You plot and characters hang on the Point of No Return Scene.  It is one of the most important scenes in your novel and is that single scene which can make or break your plot.


Next time: The Main Complication.

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