Story Structure Breakdown: Zone 2

by Melissa Borg
July 13, 2021

Trying to find out why my stories kept breaking down, I stumbled onto the idea that stories can be broken down into roughly four equal zones, which was first presented to me by one of my favorite teachers, Lisa W Miller, during her Story Safari class. Plus, I'm currently reading Plot Basics by Paul Tomlinson, which is amazing and expanding my story structure ideas. (Full disclosure, the book link is an affiliate link.)

Previously posted blogs about story structure:

This post will define Zone 2, the second quarter of the story. In the last post, I discussed Zone 1 which introduced the reader to the main character and their ordinary world.

Four Zone story structure. Zone 1 - 4
Four-Zone Structure

Zone 2 covers the second one-fourth of the story and is the main character's Response to what new information was unearthed during the First Plot Point resulting in the creation of the character's main story goal. At the First Plot Point, the main character has everything they thought they knew upended. This is the point where the story launches and carries the reader and characters to the end of Zone 4.

We leave the Set-Up behind, and Zone 2 introduces the reader and the main character and the "strange new" world they now inhabit. While the strangeness could be a different city, town, living environment. It can also be her normal world that has been permanently altered and where they have to discover the new rules.

The main character will have obstacles/tests thrown at her to highlight her mental, physical, or emotional blind spots. Around the middle part of this zone is called Pinch Point I. There is a similar point in Zone 3 called Pinch Point II, which we'll discuss further in the next structure blog post.

The two Pinch Point scenes are typically when the antagonist, henchmen, or antagonistic force pushes on the main character, causing strife. With Pinch Point I, the main character may be a bit naive or overly optimistic about how to solve the problem. She charges forward in an attempt to achieve the main story goal. The attempt after the first pinch, the proceeding loss, and further troubles propel the stumbling main character to the end of Zone 3 and the Midpoint. This section will continue to exhaust and wear her out, exposing the truth: she's not ready or strong enough to solve the main story goal yet.

At the Midpoint, the full nature of the story goal's implications hits the main character in the solar plex and reveals new information or her standing in the world, shifting the main character's situation. This moment may be an emotional high or low with little action happening.

The reader may have known or guessed the extent of the problem, yet the main character is forced to face how much bigger, worse, or life-changing it all is for the first time. Thanks, Midpoint. She now knows this is seriously bad juju.

This discovery leads to the final sequence in Zone 2, the Leap of Faith. This is a decision from the main character on what to do next and begins Zone 3.

Whew, are you tired? I know most characters around the end of Zone 2 are bone-tired.

I hope you enjoyed learning about the second quarter in story structure.

Onward onto the learning journey,

Melissa Borg

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