Scene Structure: How to Write Turning Points

Author:
Publish date:

Are you in the middle of writing your story and wondering how to write a scene that indicates a turning point? Learn about turning points and how to show them within your story from Laurie Alberts, author of Showing & Telling.

how to show and tell in writing | turning points

Turning points in the action or the character’s emotions must be rendered in scenes rather than summary. Can you imagine Rhett Butler’s famous line “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” in Gone With the Wind relayed in summary instead of in the vivid scene in which Scarlett finally decides she loves him but Rhett has had enough and walks out on her?

In Herman Melville’s classic story “Bartleby the Scrivener,” a lot of initial summary describes the members of the narrator’s office, but when the narrator asks his (until this point accommodating) clerk, Bartleby, to do some copying, and Bartleby shakes the narrator’s little world by saying “I would prefer not to,” a scene conveys this turning point. After Bartleby’s refusal, the story has changed direction.

Turning points can be shown via actions, as when the teenage girl alone in her family’s house in Joyce Carol Oates’s story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” walks out the door to join the terrifying stalker Arnold Friend.

Turning points can occur without direct confrontation. A turning point scene might be wholly internal, as when it leads up to a character making an important decision or coming to see the truth about a situation without necessarily voicing that awareness. If Sally gets called to the principal’s office and is reprimanded and put on probation, and while the principal is chastising her she decides to quit her job, this would be a turning point. There’s been no open confrontation (though there’s plenty of conflict), Sally has said nothing, but the event has led to her decision to quit—that’s a turning point scene.

Think about what point in your narrative your protagonist or narrator reaches a turning point. Your turning point scene—and it must be a scene, not a summary—can show this change in the character’s life or consciousness through thoughts, action, or dialogue. But it must grow naturally out of what comes before so that the turning point is credible. In other words, if you’re going to show a girl walking out of her house to join a scary stalker, you better have already shown us that this stalker has, through terror and threats of reprisals on her family, broken this girl’s will. You want your readers to believe in the turning point, and they won’t if it comes out of thin air.

This excerpt is from Showing & Telling by Laurie Alberts. Buy this book and discover:

  • The purposes of scenes
  • Five types of scenes—flashback, suspense, resolution, conflict, and ones that introduce character
  • How to write the beginning, middle, and end of a scene
  • Practice exercises for writing scenes
  • What summary is and how to use it to set up a scene

Buy Showing & Telling now!

The Story That Drove Me to Write

The Story That Drove Me to Write

Award-winning author Stephanie Kane shares the book that launched her career and provides insights for how you can pursue your story.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Epiphany Moment

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Epiphany Moment

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let a character experience an epiphany.

Eat Your Words: Your 8-Point Checklist for Writing Original Recipes

Eat Your Words: Your 8-Point Checklist for Writing Original Recipes

Food writer, cook, and committed vegan Peggy Brusseau explains how you can craft a cookbook that engages your reader and stands out from the crowd.

Flash Fiction Challenge

28 Writing Prompts for the 2021 Flash Fiction Challenge Challenge

Find all 28 poetry prompts for the 2021 February Flash Fiction Challenge Challenge in this post.

How to Not Write in the Pandemic, Early Days

How to Not Write in the Pandemic, Early Days

Novelist Rebecca Hardiman gives us an insight into the obstacles that cropped up for writers at the start of the 2020 global pandemic.

7 Tips for Writing Police Procedurals That Readers Love

7 Tips for Writing Police Procedurals That Readers Love

Mystery and crime novelist Russ Thomas explains how best to create a police procedural that will hook your reader and keep them coming back for more.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 560

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write an alien poem.

3 Tips for Writing with a Co-Author

3 Tips for Writing with a Co-Author

Shakil Ahmad provides the top 3 things he learned while co-authoring the book Wild Sun with his brother Ehsan.

Viet Thanh Nguyen | The Committed | Writer's Digest Quote

WD Interview: Viet Thanh Nguyen on The Committed

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen discusses the challenges of writing his second novel, The Committed, and why trusting readers can make for a more compelling narrative in this WD interview.