Pacing in a thriller is everything, especially after the initial setup. So many thrillers begin with promise, only to bog down in the middle. Fortunately, there are numerous literary devices we can apply in our story to keep the story’s pace on track. Some of these tools can even heighten the tension, and make the thriller more riveting. The second pinch point is one of these tools. Using one in your thriller can help remind readers of the stakes in your conflict, and keep the reader turning pages to find out what happens next. Let’s discuss the second pinch point, and why it is an important part of any good thriller.
Second Pinch Point Defined
So what is the second pinch point, anyway? Let’s do a quick review of the first pinch point for some context. As we discussed in a previous article, the first pinch point is a structural component within your story that gives the readers their first glimpse of the dark forces facing your character. The first pinch point normally occurs approximately one-third of the way into your thriller, during the story response.
The second pinch point once again gives the audience a clear view of the antagonistic forces arrayed against the protagonist. The second pinch point occurs during the Part 3 Attack portion of the story, when the protagonist has resolved to decisively engage the antagonistic forces arrayed against him or her. Typically, you’ll find this pinch point at about 60-65 percent into the story.
Besides their locations in a story, the two pinch points typically differ in length as well. The first pinch point is normally a small, but dramatic glimpse of the antagonist force; just enough to whet readers’ appetites and keep them engaged. However, most experienced thriller writers recommend devoting an entire scene to the second pitch point, in order to remind readers one final time of the stakes in the conflict.
The Second Pinch Point in Popular Thrillers
There are some great examples of second pinch points in recent thrillers and other popular fiction. Let’s look at a few, so you gain a better understanding of this useful literary device.
- In the original Star Wars film, Darth Vader kills the powerful and last Jedi Knight, Obi-Wan Kenobi in a duel, demonstrating the power of the Dark side, and shaking the protagonist Luke Skywalker’s resolve.
- In Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring the most powerful member of the fellowship, the wizard Gandalf, is seemingly killed by a monstrous Balrog. This causes the rest of the party to question the arduous task ahead of them all.
- In the 1984 classic science fiction thriller The Terminator, the eponymous cyborg attacks a police station where heroes Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese are being held, slaughtering the police and demonstrating his tremendous power.
Using the Second Pinch Point
What does a second pinch point do for a story? A well-written one can do a great deal, actually. Let’s look at how you can use a second pinch point to advance your thriller.
Remember the Stakes
The second pinch point occurs well into the Part 3 Attack portion of a thriller. Up until this point, things have been going well for the protagonist. The character has confronted and vanquished any inner demons that were holding him/her back, and has resolved to confront the antagonist decisively. Suddenly, the second pinch point occurs. The protagonist and the reader are reminded of the antagonist’s power, and the reason there is a conflict in the first place. This can help keep readers engaged in the story.
Advance the Plot
The antagonist’s reappearance can also be an effective catalyst to advance the plot. In the Terminator example, the Terminator’s attack on the police station convinced Sarah Connor that Reese was telling the truth, took the police out of the equation, and set the film up for a final confrontation between the protagonist and the killing machine.
Showcase the Characters
The second pinch point also offers an opportunity to highlight or contrast the characters. This can show their growth over the course of the plot, or provide the audience greater insights into their motivations. In the 1995 classic crime film Heat, the second pinch point is actually a conversation over coffee between Al Pacino’s relentless cop Vince Hanna and Robert Deniro’s determined bank robber Neil McCauley. Their conversation reveals the dedication they have to their respective causes, and foreshadows the ultimate confrontation that is to come.
The second pinch point may be a minor part of a novel. However, it can play a big role in advancing your thriller. A well-crafted second pinch point can help remind readers of the antagonist’s power, and the stakes involved in the conflict. It can also advance the plot, and help you further develop your story’s characters. So take the time to draft an effective second pitch point as you write your thriller. It will help make your thriller a memorable one.