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Writing a memorable thriller is challenging, and you need all of the help you can get. One of the most effective tools out there as you are crafting scenes for your novel are pinch points. We described pinch points in previous posts; However, while understanding what pinch points are is important, writers need to understand how they can put pinch points to work for them as well. Pinch points can actually make it easier to write an effective thriller; let’s see how.

Pinch Points: A Quick Review

Pinch points can best be described as “an example, or a reminder, of the nature and implications of the antagonistic force, that is not filtered by the hero’s experience.  We see it for ourselves in a direct form.” Pinch points help readers understand the antagonist’s power or motivation, and often foreshadow how the conflict between the antagonist and protagonist are going to play out.

There are typically two pinch points in a novel, the first pinch point and the second pinch point. first pinch point should occur at approximately the one-third point of a novel, at the beginning of story response. The second pinch point occurs at around the 60-65 percent mark of a novel. The first pinch point may be slightly longer than the second, since it may provide more characterization of the antagonist or antagonistic force.

Some examples me useful here. In the recent superhero film Logan, the first pinch point occurred when the villainous cyborg Reavers attacked Logan’s desert compound in Mexico, capturing Logan’s ally Caliban in the process. This scene highlighted the utter ruthlessness of the Reavers, who spend the rest of the film in hot pursuit of the film’s protagonists.  In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the second pinch point occurred when the evil first order demonstrates the immense power of Starkiller Base, using it to destroy multiple Republic planets.

Now, let’s look at what pinch points can do for you.

Shape the Conflict

Your first pinch point is going to give the protagonist and the reader their first real view of the antagonist’s power. As a writer, you can use that scene to drive the plot for a considerable part of your novel. For instance, in Logan, the Reavers’ attack at the first pinch point effectively shaped the entire plot of the film, turning into a road movie.  If you intend your thriller’s plot to take a certain direction, you can use enhanced drama at the first pinch point to get it moving that way.

Focus Your Outline Development

If you are outlining your novel (and you should be) one benefit of doing so is being able to view the novel’s plot holistically. As you are imagining the flow of scenes in your story, placing your first and second pinch points will be very helpful. Since they perform a variety of functions in the story, driving tension, advancing the plot, and facilitating character development, they will help aid you tremendously in developing the outline of your novel. Like plot points, identifying where to place your pinch points and what they contain will make it easier to actually flesh out your story.

Heighten the Tension

Both pinch points can be used to increase the drama at key points in your novel. A memorable first pinch point can intensify the stakes for your protagonist in the novel, and get your readers riveted to the action. An effective second pinch point can increase the pacing in your novel as it moves closer to the climax. This can be especially important if previous scenes in your novel required significant exposition for plot or character development, and you need to get back to “high tension pacing.”

Drop Hints

Effective pinch points can help your readers understand the characters and the nature of the conflict better. When the Ringwraiths stab Frodo Baggins at Weathertop in the Fellowship of the Ring, readers for the first time understand the fearsome, otherworldly power of Sauron and his minions. The reaction of the other characters to Frodo’s wound also provides readers a view of the conflict’s vast scope as well. As a writer, if you draft an effective pinch point, you can help your readers understand the totality of the conflict and the stakes in your novel in a few short pages.

Parting Thoughts

Pinch points are terrific tools that can help take the guesswork out of writing your novel. Placing them on a plot outline will help clarify the overall story for you, so you can develop other key elements of your story. They can also provide you terrific venues for character development, and help you control the pacing and tension in your novel as well. So don’t forget the pinch points when you’re writing your thriller; using them effectively can ensure your story is a memorable one.

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