The post is more technical, as I break down a scene concept called the alpha point.

An alpha point is the one thing within a scene that must happen so the story can move forward. It’s a bridge that keeps the story together. An easy check for the alpha point is to ask: if you removed this scene, could someone still follow the story? If you can remove the scene without affecting the story, the scene isn’t story-significant, and doesn’t have an alpha point.

It’s a bridge that connects the character’s old world to their new world. This could be as simple as a transition from a car in motion (old world), to a car on the side of the highway with a flat (new world). Or this could be a realization that going outside without a mask during a pandemic will get you called nasty names that hurt. A character’s world changed. Their future plans are forever different.

In the car, the alpha point, the bridge is a blown-out tire. In the pandemic, it’s learning going outside without a mask is dangerous, because a neighbor will shout that you’re an evil fascist pig who gets off on killing senior citizens.

Often this bridge is simply what the character learns in the scene, from the events that happened.

A scene in Die Hard will demonstrate this. Hans Gruber, the antagonist, enters the scene motivation to take action on the next step in his hostage plan. After the scene, Hans is no longer focused on the hostages. He learned of a bigger threat. There’s an unaccounted person in the building — the wonderful John Mcclane — lurking around the building. That new piece of information propels the plot forward. Without it, Hans would never know about John and we wouldn’t have a story since he would freely execute his plan, without any conflict. We would never learn from his brilliance in handling obstacles and outmaneuvering his opponent at every turn.

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Alpha point is an idea originally from Lisa Cron, Story Genius.