Life’s Turning Points
Our ancestor’s lives rarely followed a straight line. There were twists and turns along the way. In our family histories, turning points are the story events that mark where the story “turns” in a new direction. Where your ancestor changes his goal and direction. This new direction is usually caused by a choice or a dilemma faced by your ancestor and often thrusts him into a path of uncertainty.
The New World
The end of the first quarter of your story, the end of the beginning marks the first turning point of your story. As we’ve discussed, we open our story demonstrating our ancestor in his normal world. It is the point where your ancestor is thrust from his normal world into a new world. Of course, this new world is frequently filled with uncertainty, and so it brings with it high tension to the story.
Your mission is to understand what in your ancestor life constitutes being that first turning point.
Every scene you write will have something happening and there may be any number of small turning points throughout your story where your ancestor changes direction. However, these are small changes, they do not affect the overall story goal or conflict. Your ancestor is still on his path to the same goal.
To be a turning point, the event must have major repercussion for the rest of the story, there’s no turning back for the ancestor.
Let’s look at an example.
Adam is living in small village in Poland. He is 21 and without a job. He does not read or write. Soon he will be conscripted into the Russian army. Adam is anxious to avoid this situation but has little resources to avoid what is about to happen. This is Adam in his normal world and his story problem.
One day, Adam’s father presents Adam with a ticket to Canada. He wants Adam to settle in Canada and pave the way for his siblings. His ship leaves in a few short weeks. He’s anxious to get Adam out of the country before he is called to duty. While Adam accepts his father’s offer, it comes with pressure and anxiety. He does not read or write Polish or English. He’s never left his small village before. He’s heard how terrible conditions are on the ship. Will he be accepted for entry? To not succeed would be an embarrassment to his family. His father is counting on him for the future of this family. Adam’s world is about to change.
Think of it this way there wouldn’t be a story without this event(scene) and the ancestor can’t go back from this event, without major consequences.
Here’s a different example
The Normal World
Helen and her husband James are living on a small farm in Huron County in Upper Canada in 1855. They work hard, but they own their own land and they are happy for the most part. Helen is in her first trimester with their sixth child.
A storm blows through the town and rips the roof of the shanty. James heads to town to the local mill to purchase some wood to fix the shanty.
While in town there is an accident, a boiler blows up, James is killed. Helen’s world has just been changed forever, and she now is thrust towards a new goal – Raising a family without her husband.
Here are some thoughts to help you identify the turning point of your story. Of course, these ideas can apply to your first turning point or any turning point throughout your story.
Looking for the Turning Point
Your ancestor decides to become involved in the story conflict for the first time.
Your ancestor discovers a new situation and envisions a story-size goal for the first time
Your ancestor tries to avoid the main story conflict and has now been forced to deal with it.
Your ancestor faces a new obstacle complicating their path to the story goal and forcing them to reevaluate?
Your ancestor takes a significant step toward their own growth necessary to overcome the main story conflict.
Your ancestor finds a new story goal.
Your ancestor learns that their story goal is wrong.
Your ancestor changes their approach to the main story goal.
Your ancestor has a new understanding of their goal and that changes their perspective.
Your ancestor has an epiphany that affects how they proceed toward the goal.
** If you’re following the One Month to a Draft then you should be finishing up the first quarter of your story and finishing with the final scene, in the beginning; the turning point.