One Fifth, Three-Fifths, One Pillar, Two

September 4, 2015

 

If you have ever taken one of my fiction writing courses, whether at a writers conference or via BelieversTrust, you know that I subscribe to James Scott Bell's methodology. A few years ago, "Jim" noticed that in both film and in books, the plot seemed to be divided into fifths rather than thirds as we had so often believed.

 

You know ... a beginning, a middle, and an end.

 

But Jim saw something that maybe had been seen before ... but, well, not by me. Those beginnings, Jim noted in his book Write Your Novel From the Middle only took up the first fifth of the book, the endings only took up the final end, and the middle is the second, third, and fourth fifths. 

 

Jim also likens book or movie plots to a suspension bridge. The beginning rests on one stretch of

 

land, the end rests on a parallel piece of land, and the middle of the plot is the actual bridge. But that bridge is held up by two pillars, one at the end of the first fifth and the other at the beginning of the final fifth. Both of these pillars indicate a "point of no return." 

 

Okay. I don't want to re-write Jim's book here ... but allow me to say that rarely have I found a book or a movie that doesn't prove Jim to be correct. 

 

A few days ago I watched a movie that, once again, proved the point ... so, if you want to watch a delightful movie with a lot of details to note (truly, a LOT) when it comes to plotting and character development (and conflict, conflict, conflict!), check out "Leap Year."

 

Pillar One: Anna walks into the Irish pub (in Ireland) and employs Declan (the pub owner) to drive her to Dublin.

 

Pillar Two: Anna pulls the fire alarm.

 

Have you seen the movie? What are your thoughts on the plot and character arcs?

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