A breaking point for a character is when they hit their lowest point in the story. It’s purpose is to upset the reader, either making them angry and/or devastated the main character or they’ll be angry/devastated at the main character. Every story, in every genre has a breaking point. It’s been referred to as the “crisis point”, the hero’s lowest moment, the black moment. If your character has hit rock bottom and is ready to quit you know that you’ve reached the breaking point of their story.
This will usually occur near the end of story, just before the climax. Your character has come to the lowest point of the rollercoaster before the steep climb upwards. In a three act structure, for instance, this is the break into act 3. It’s important to stick to this moment as it makes the climax and resolution of the story that much more satisfying. This epic fail moment connects the reader to the emotional plight of the character, they want to see how they will come back from this, for better or for worse. Having them fail, when they are so close to their goal, grounds the character in reality and, thus, when they succeed in finally achieving it, all the sweeter.
When it comes to writing this breaking point, consider the character and the plot and ask yourself, “What is the worst that can happen?” then do that. Be sure to relate the breaking point directly to the character’s actions and the plot, otherwise it won’t land as well with the reader. For instance say you’re writing a mystery novel and the character has a friend who is helping them investigate a haunting. If your character’s friend dies of a heart attack yes it’ll be tragic but it won’t impact the plot or your character in the same way as the friend dying from being attacked by the ghost as a result of their investigation. Because of the main character’s actions, his friend got killed and thus, that creates the breaking point or rock bottom needed before the climax.
It’s at this point that you need to dig deep and make that character suffer emotionally. They may deal with their rock bottom by crying, getting angry, being depressed and/or indulging in self destructive behaviours, maybe even going so far as to quit the quest altogether. It’s important that you really get the reader feeling for their plight and sorrow. Once they’ve spent some time in their funk, the next step is making the character remember what it is they are fighting for and begin their climb to the climax of the story.
Have you planned a breaking point for your characters? Let us know in the comment section below! And join us on Sunday evening for our Quackchat at 5:30PM(EST)!
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Emma_Clare at 12:00AM, March 6, 2020
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