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Plot Turning Points

Six Stage Story Structure in film and book

This week I have been applying Michael Hague’s Six Stage Story Structure, with its five crucial plot Turning Points to the novel Bitter Orange, by Claire Fuller.

I shan’t describe the structure, many have done so before, but for those unfamiliar with Michael Hague’s work here is a link:

There are many resources on this site including a downloadable PDF of a graphical representation of the six stages and five turning points.

Michael Hague is a script consultant as well as a prolific writer, teacher, and coach. His work is primarily directed at screenwriting. I watched the Hollywood film Gravity the other night, and while watching I had a stopwatch and notepad with me. With almost clinical precision events occurred in the film storyline at the intervals suggested in the model. At exactly ten percent of the running time the astronauts are warned of the impending shower of destructive debris and their mission is aborted, exactly where the first plot Turning Point should be. The rest of the movie also fits the model.

As we all know, the book is never the same as the movie, so I was curious about my chosen novel, published only in 2018, and if it, too, would fit this model. I realise comparing Gravity to Bitter Orange is like comparing apples with, well, oranges; and I doubt very much that Claire Fuller wrote the book with Michael Hague’s structure in mind. But there are events that occur in the narrative that would match the Turning Point concept. They are not so clearly defined or so precisely timed as they are in Gravity, but I think they qualify as plot turning points. I am not going to identify them. I wouldn’t like to spoil the experience of anyone who has not, yet, read this excellent book. However, I think there is more to the book than the six stages and five turning points. Sure, it could be forced into the structure, and were a movie adaptation to be made then screenwriting priorities would doubtless inform the way the film was scripted. Despite it being possible to identify these points in the story, to reduce this novel to this relatively simplistic structure used for two hour films is to do it an injustice.

Nevertheless, my argument for Bitter Orange containing the plot Turning Points was strong enough for George to decide to read the book to see for himself. I’ll see if he agrees with me next week.

Current Reading

‘The Golden Notebook’ Doris Lessing (Half way)

‘The Story Grid’ Shawn Coyne

‘Writing Fiction’ Janet Burroway Chapter 5/6

‘Bitter Orange’ Claire Fuller (reread)

‘Bird by Bird’ Anne Lamott, Shitty First Drafts

‘The Girl on the Train’ Paula Hawkins

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