Ending a thriller is nearly as important as beginning it. Effectively bringing some sort of resolution to the conflict in your story will be a key determinant of whether or not readers enjoyed your book. One of your most critical literary tools for ending your story effectively is the second plot point. If crafted effectively, the second plot point can give your readers one last jolt before your thriller’s climax, and help you control the story’s pacing. Let’s take a closer look at the second plot point, and how you can develop a good one for your own thriller.
Second Plot Point: a Definition
The second plot point is often defined as “the final injection of new information into the story, after which no new expository information may enter, and which puts a final piece of narrative information in play that gives the hero everything she or he needs to become the primary catalyst in the story’s conclusion.”
The second plot point is the moment in the story where everything aligns for the ultimate confrontation between the protagonist and the antagonistic forces arrayed against that character. In most thrillers, the second plot point occurs at approximately the 75 percent mark of the story.
The second plot point is often confused with other similarly-named literary devices that occur at different points in a story. For example, the first plot point normally occurs in the first 20-25 percent point in the story, and is when the protagonist is first affected by the conflict that is the thriller’s basis. The second pinch point, which occurs at the 60-65 percent mark in a typical thriller, is the place in a story where readers get a second glimpse of the antagonist’s power and motivation.
Examples of Second Plot Points in Popular Fiction
Here are some great examples where screenwriters or novelists used effective second plot points to advance their stories.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Force Awakens offers a great example of a second plot point. During protagonist Rey’s final confrontation with Kylo Ren on Starkiller Base, Rey comes to the realization that she can control the Force. She subsequently uses that knowledge to best Ren in lightsaber combat, and ultimately journey to find Luke Skywalker at the conclusion of the film.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
In Stieg Larsson’s phenomenal 2005 thriller, the second plot point occurs when hero Mikael Blomkist realizes the likely reason that missing heiress Harriet Vanger disappeared was due to fear of her brother, Martin. That realization sets up a fateful confrontation with the latter, who turns out to be a sadistic serial killer.
The Dark Knight Rises
In the final film of Timothy Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Batman, having been rescued by Catwoman moments before Bane was going to kill him, realizes that Talia al-Ghul is the actual architect of the Gotham siege. Armed with that knowledge, Batman and his allies then embark on a final confrontation with Talia, and ultimately save Gotham.
Using the Second Plot Point
In all of the aforementioned examples, the second plot point helps advance the story to a satisfying conclusion; in some cases, like Star Wars, they set up the protagonist for further adventures down the line, too. So what do you need do to craft an effective second plot point in your thriller? Here are a few things to think about.
Illuminate a Relevant Fact
The new information unveiled in the second plot point must be critical to the unfolding story. If it isn’t, then it won’t drive the story effectively. Rey’s realization that she was Force-sensitive, for example, enabled her to hold her own in a life-or-death fight with Kylo Ren, and gave her the determination to successfully seek out Luke Skywalker as well.
Organic versus Contrived
The manner in which the second plot point is revealed should feel natural; it should make sense to the reader how the protagonist discovered the information. Try to avoid deus ex machina contrivances in your thriller. Bilbo’s discovery of Smaug’s vulnerable soft underbelly in the Hobbit, for example, works better as a second plot point than Bryce Dallas Howard’s character discovering their community in The Village is actually some sort of commune.
Pique Interest and Drive the Pacing
The information revealed should be compelling for readers. Viewers of The Force Awakens, for example, strongly suspected there was something special about the protagonist Rey; when she realizes she can channel the Force, the audience was naturally excited to see what came next in the film’s climax. Similarly, Blomkist’s discovery of Martin Vanger’s dark side ratcheted up the suspense in the final pages of Dragon Tattoo as well.
The second plot point is yet another tool writers can put to good use when crafting their thrillers. Does the second plot point in your story draft reveal something that is relevant, excites the reader, and drive the story? If not, consider revising it, so that your novel keeps readers turning page after page.