Copyright 2009 by Gary L. Pullman
To ensure tighter unity between plot and character, make sure that the former’s turning point is the vehicle for the latter. The turning point, or climax, of a story is the point at which the protagonist’s fortune changes for the better or the worse or goes from good to better or from bad to worse. (If the story is a comedy, the main character’s state of affairs will improve by the story’s end; if the story is a tragedy, the main character’s state of affairs will worsen by story’s end.)
The turning point, as part of the tale’s action, is an element of the plot. The moment of recognition occurs when the main character learns or realizes something significant about him- or herself.
For example, in The Wizard of Oz, the turning point happens when Dorothy, sent by the wizard to seize the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West, throws water on her (trying to extinguish the fire the witch has set upon the scarecrow), thereby destroying her and obtaining the broomstick. Until this moment, Dorothy has been a dependent child who has not appreciated fully the responsibilities of adulthood or her family and her home life. Now, she takes responsibility for herself, acting on her own behalf, and matures. She is able to appreciate the responsibilities of adulthood and her family and home life. The act is the means by which she changes (for the better).
This same principle works in other stories, too, including horror stories. For example, in The Exorcist, the death of Father Merrin not only places the responsibility of the exorcism squarely and solely upon the shoulders of Father Karras, but it also becomes the vehicle for the younger priest’s recovery of his faith, which enables him to sacrifice himself to rescue the possessed girl, Regan MacNeil.