Feed Your Brain Enhance Your TP's

Now, I don’t know about the rest of you but when it comes to conjuring up maniacal plots I’ve just got to have my brain food. And if I happen to be contemplating crucial TP’s in my manuscript—bring on the big bag of M&M’s. Something about those colorful, little candies makes my brain hit warp speed. (scary, I know) In fact, it’s a requirement to have M&M’s when plotting especially when it comes to TP’s.

By the way, TP’s stand for Turning Points. Pivotal plot points positioned properly. HUH?

Say you’re writing a 400 page manuscript with 20 page chapters. Go ahead, say it. I’ll go grab the M&M’s and be right back. . . . Okay, ready? I use a really large dry erase board for this part but a poster board would work too. Mark off five columns with four rows so you end up with 20 squares in your grid. 20 chapters at 20 pages each equals 400 pages. Here, have a handful of M&M’s. I promise it will help. If you’re writing a shorter novel then divide your grid appropriately.

Number each of the boxes 1-20 going left to right and top to bottom. Down the far right side of your grid you should have boxes 5, 10, 15 and 20. (20 won’t be a TP, but the last time we told him we didn’t need him, he got his feelings hurt) When you start plotting your manuscript, those boxes will be your TP’s—except for you know who. He gets to be the happily-ever-after so I don’t know what he’s upset about.

Box 5 is approximately ¼ of the way through manuscript and will be your first TP. This scene should impact your novel in a big way. It should build on the conflict or introduce a new one. Depending on the genre you write, it could be a first kiss, a declaration, an admission or even the first time a couple makes love. Think hook, only on a much grander scale.

Box 10 is the midway point in your book and responsible for keeping your middle from sagging, because believe me when I tell you, there is nothing worse than a middle that sags. Box 10 holds the power to make or break your manuscript so, of course, Box 10 should include a cliffhanger that packs a powerful punch. Again, depending on the genre and your story, this cliffhanger should be something big enough to alter a character’s perception of someone or something.

Box 15 is the beginning of the end and also another major cliffhanger. It’s here that we, as the responsible party, have to build the intensity and sustain the romance/action/drama for the remainder of the book. From here on out you are building toward the black moment. Which, of course, is the TP of all TP’s.

If you think about it, Turning Points are like the moments right before a commercial in your favorite TV show. It’s what brings you back to your Lazy-Boy for the next segment. You just have to know what is going to happen to the characters you have fallen in love with. Turning Points in books should have the same draw. When filling out the remainder of the grid boxes, remember to add a hook ending to each chapter and build toward those Turning Points. It will maintain the level of intensity and keep your readers begging for more. Now grab some brain food, you’ve earned it.


Jessica Mobley said...

Aw yes, the M&ms! I remember wanting them and not being able to have them. Very well written mother! I always liked the dry erase board idea. I thought it was very clever of you! Love you!

Reese Mobley said...

Wish I could say I came up with the idea for the dry erase board, but I didn't. And as for being deprived of M&M's I guess I do owe you. lol. I just knew I needed the brain food when it came to plotting. Of course, I had to feed my crit partners too, because three heads are always better than one. Hugs.

Roxann Delaney said...

Wow! (Digging out my M&Ms and munching) Double wow!

I needed you yesterday, Reese. You definitely know your TPs.

I do mine basically the same way, but with a shorter book and 12 chapters, the TPs come every 3 chapters, and in-between I have "pinches". Can't use a dry erase here. Grandkids would have it wiped before I could get it on paper, so I have a cork board with squares taped off. They sell the brightest pink duct tape! And you know that everything can be fixed with duct tape and bailing wire. ;)

Fantastic job! You need to do a WARA program on it. I'm going to get another handful of M&Ms and do some thinking.

Pat Davids said...

Perfect explaination. Pass the M&M's.

Reese Mobley said...

M&M's for everyone! I guess I can't stress enough how important it is to plot a book and keep the gusto going through to the end. Stop laughing, Pat. I'm learning.

Rox,I want some pink duct tape!

Roxann Delaney said...

Pink duct tape, blue duct tape, all colors, but pink seemed SO appropriate for romance. I even bought a new cork bulletin board to go with it. All fresh and new! Now if only my brain was as fresh.

I do have a big dry erase board though. Right now it has the GMC of the characters written on it. A nice BIG reminder!

Don't forget, I was a panster before I was a plotter. We all learn something along this never-ending journey. :)

Joan Vincent said...

The TP--forgive me for thinking of teenagers teepeeing someone's house--explanation was super. A great review of information I need but sometimes forget. I gave up detailed outlining because my characters willful ways made me rewrite it every few chapters. TP will be much more manageable. (M&M's are proven brain food--I did the research!)

Reese Mobley said...

Joan, I actually tried to work toilet paper into my post but even I couldn't make it work. (evil grin) Someday we'll share a bag of M&M's and discuss TP's and not even worry about the calories! XOXO

Roxann Delaney said...

For anyone not familiar with Turning Points, here are some links to Alicia Rasley's articles on them.

The Three Acts: Major Turning Points

Romantic Turning PointsAlso deals with Turning Points:
Plotting Without FearI have the Plotting Without Fear workshop tape and am happy to share, if anyone is interested.

Penny Rader said...

Thanks, Reese! Now I know why I'm having trouble plotting. I'm not eating M&Ms. I shall remedy that. (grin)

Thanks so much for the tips on TPs. I have struggled with those. And I agree with Rox that you should do program or workshop on this subject. I, for one, learn best by seeing examples.

Becky A said...

Ok Miss Reese, while I understand the concept I'm going to need some visuals too. So can you do some examples, like now? I read your post, looked at my book, and went aahhhh!!!! I think they're there (TP's) but don't want to assume. I thought I understood what a Hook was too, until I read a few. :-) Also, do you guys really plot your whole book out before you write it? I just started with an idea and went from there. Is it because the publishers guidelines make you write your books a certain way? Do you find it can stifle your creativity? Are all your chapters really that uniform in length? Bet you're wishing right now that I had skipped your post all together. Ha! Thanks for all the info, great post and sorry I'm late. Becky

Starla said...

An excellent explanation and nicely detailed. I love the M&Ms thing, too. I don't get quite as complicated as you when I create my TPs outline, but I do something similar.