Turning Points

Sharp turn sign
Turning Point
I have talked, more than once, about what constitutes a turning point. This post takes another look at this all important topic, adding what, I hope, is fresh insight.

A turning point, we are reminded, is that moment in the story, when something big happens to spin it around in a new and unexpected direction. I’ve mentioned that this takes the form of new information granted to the protagonist and audience.

I’ve also intimated that an action-orientated turn ought to be supported by a strong inner motivation and goal. I’ve further suggested that such motivation is nested in the inner journey—so, if we draw a line to represent the outer journey as the physical series of actions and events, the inner journey is the line that rides below it in parallel, with the various turning points seen as spiking intersections between the two.

But precisely what form should this new information take? Specifically, should it come from the outer journey–such as the news that a solar flare seems set to destroy the earth, in the filmKnowing, then pull the inner journey closer to it, or should it spring from he inner journey directly, as in Oblivion, when the Tom Cruise character realises that the flashes of memory that have been plaguing him are, in fact, actual memories of his wife (albeit, as we’ll later find out, through the medium of resonance, which unites his clones).

Does it really matter, which comes first, you may well ask, since the outer and inner journeys meet at the turning points anyway? My personal view is that it does. A turning point that comes from the inner journey then lifts to touch the outer journey, contains more of an “Aha” moment. It draws our attention to the character’s background and motivation and makes us care more for her predicament. It makes the action that springs from it more meaningfully, right off the bat, and invites empathy and verisimilitude in our apprehension her response.

Of course, that is not to say that action can’t initiate the turning point then drop down to the inner journey and fuse with it effectively. Action films such as Die Hard and the crop of superhero films such as Batman and Superman. often take that route. Still, letting the turning point spring from the inner journey heightens the authenticity of the protagonist’s actions and may be the more appropriate place to mine for turning points in drama-ordinated genres.


A turning point that springs directly from the inner journey increases character authenticity and verisimilitude and may be the more appropriate place to mine when writing within drama-orientated genres.

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Stavros Halvatzis

I'm a writer, teacher, and story consultant.

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