Season 1, Episode 2: First Plot Point
Sue Campbell: Hello and welcome to The Mommy’s Pen Podcast. I’m your host, Sue Campbell, and I’m here with my co-host, my 11-year-old daughter, Nora Campbell. Say hello, Nora.
Nora Campbell: Uh, hi.
Sue Campbell: Um, so, today, we are going to talk about another book that Nora has been reading. Um, it’s from The Royal Diaries Series, and it is, uh, Cleopatra VII, Daughter of the Nile. Nora, do you want to tell us a little bit about the book?
Nora Campbell: It starts when she’s like 12, I think. Well, she goes to her sister’s apartment because her father went into hiding, because people are trying to assassinate him because they don’t like him because he makes them pay taxes, so her sister stole the throne and her sister tries to poison her, and then a lot of other people try to murder her, and that’s terrible, so she decides to flee to Rome with her father, and that’s nice for a while, but on pa- uh, but she complains that it smells … She has this bad trust to go back to Egypt because she fears that people …
Sue Campbell: Okay.
Nora Campbell: … are going to assassinate her there …
Sue Campbell: Slow down. Slow down.
Nora Campbell: … too, and so … (laughs)
Sue Campbell: The podcast can be more than a minute and 24 seconds, so just slow down. (laughs)
Nora Campbell: (laughs) Okay, and so she goes to Rome and she stays there for several years, and she meets this rude guy who’s called Marc Antony, but I’m not going to say anything more, and then she eventually goes back to Egypt.
Sue Campbell: Yeah, because we don’t want to do a spoiler because if, if nobody knows what happens between Marc Antony …
Nora Campbell: Yeah.
Sue Campbell: … and Cleopatra, right?
Nora Campbell: Yeah.
Sue Campbell: So, Nora, I feel like we need to give the audience a little bit of background and let them know, um, about what a history buff you are.
Nora Campbell: Excuse me?
Sue Campbell: A history buff. Have you ever heard that expression?
Nora Campbell: No, and I don’t want to.
Sue Campbell: So is there a term that you’d prefer?
Nora Campbell: Um, no.
Sue Campbell: Okay, so do you like history?
Nora Campbell: Yes.
Sue Campbell: Okay. What do you like about it?
Nora Campbell: I like the goriness and gruesomeness and the knowing-about-stuff-ness.
Sue Campbell: Mm-hmm (affirmative). What’s your favorite period of history that you’ve studied so far?
Nora Campbell: That’s far too much to ask, but I like a lot of periods.
Sue Campbell: So why don’t you talk about which periods you’ve studied so far?
Nora Campbell: Um, like I can trace, like I can tell you almost everything about what happened in Britain from about 1485 to 1900, but there are some foggy patches, but beyond that, I can’t. It kind of blurs out.
Sue Campbell: Okay. Um, so British history. What else?
Nora Campbell: Egyptian history, Roman history, Greek history.
Sue Campbell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Nora Campbell: Ancient.
Sue Campbell: And, lately, it seems like you’ve really been into British history and Egyptian history.
Nora Campbell: Yeah, and …
Sue Campbell: And that-
Nora Campbell: … Roman history.
Sue Campbell: And that’s what led you to read this book on Cleopatra?
Nora Campbell: Yeah, and also because I read it. I picked it up in the library at school, and it looked kind of cool.
Sue Campbell: Oh, okay, and then I got it for you for your birthday, right?
Nora Campbell: No. I bought it at Powell’s.
Sue Campbell: Oh, I didn’t buy you that one?
Nora Campbell: No, you didn’t.
Sue Campbell: Are you sure?
Nora Campbell: Yes, I’m sure.
Sue Campbell: I’m typically such a supportive and loving mother. I, I buy you books. Would say that’s true?
Nora Campbell: Yeah.
Sue Campbell: (laughs)
Nora Campbell: (laughs)
Sue Campbell: So, in this podcast, we like to talk about, um, stories and what makes a good story, and a big part of that is the story structure, and, last episode, we talked about the inciting incident, which is the beginning thing that really hooks the reader into the story and sort of grabs attention and sucks you in.
Sue Campbell: Um, today, we’re going to talk about a concept called first plot point, so this is a story event that really sets the character on the path for what kind of adventure the rest of the book is going to, um, give to the reader.
Sue Campbell: So, Nora, can you tell us, uh, what you think the first plot point is in this book about Cleopatra?
Nora Campbell: Well, I think it’s where she discovers people want to murder her, but, uh … and then she decides to flee to Rome with her father because she thinks people won’t want to murder her there.
Sue Campbell: And, um, first plot points are usually about between 20 and 25% of the way into the story. Does that seem like it hits in the right spot in this …
Nora Campbell: Yeah.
Sue Campbell: … book?
Nora Campbell: Maybe a tiny bit early, but I don’t think …
Sue Campbell: Okay.
Nora Campbell: … that early.
Sue Campbell: Okay, so she goes to Rome with her dad, and that’s what kind of kicks everything off?
Nora Campbell: Yep.
Sue Campbell: And does she think about Rome?
Nora Campbell: Well, she thinks it smells bad, but I don’t think she has the right to say that because she wears viper deodorant anyway.
Sue Campbell: Uh, what’s viper deodorant?
Nora Campbell: I think it’s what you think it is. It’s basically you take … and it’s … Uh, well, the official instructions are take one live viper, crush one live viper, smear one (laughs) now dead viper in armpits.
Sue Campbell: Okay. How did that work?
Nora Campbell: (laughs) Um, I think it masks your body odor with the smell of a dead viper, which could of have been pleasanter.
Sue Campbell: (laughs) So let’s give another example of a first plot point because not everyone’s read this story. I think it’s helpful to use a story that a lot of people have read. What do you think?
Nora Campbell: Um, yeah, I agree with that.
Sue Campbell: So what book do you think we should do?
Nora Campbell: Um, Harry Potter, I guess.
Sue Campbell: Okay, so, the first Harry Potter, um, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, uh, the first plot point of that, so the thing where we kind of know what we’re in for, um, and the path that Harry’s going to set out on, what do you think that is?
Nora Campbell: Is it where he discovers he’s a wizard?
Sue Campbell: That makes sense to me, yeah, where he discovers he’s a wizard and he is going to Hogwarts, and we just looked it up, and the page number where Harry finds out he’s a wizard and he’s going to be going to Hogwarts is page 50, and there’s about 308 pages in the copy that we’re looking at, so that’s about 16% of the way into the novel, and, again, your first plot point is usually somewhere between, um, 20 and 25%, so that’s pretty close to on the money.
Sue Campbell: So I think we should talk about Cleopatra and the rug.
Nora Campbell: Yeah, that isn’t in this book, um, but she does get rolled up in the rug later in her life.
Sue Campbell: So where did you learn about the rug rolling up?
Nora Campbell: In the epilogue.
Sue Campbell: Oh, tell us about the epilogue?
Nora Campbell: Well, the epilogue is quite interesting, and it’s way more interesting than the rest of it. (laughs)
Sue Campbell: So what’s the timeframe for this book? Like she is … You said, what, she’s 12 at the beginning?
Nora Campbell: She’s 12 when it starts and she’s 14 when it ends.
Sue Campbell: Okay, and so the epilogue is fairly vast than I would imagine. (laughs)
Nora Campbell: (laughs) I guess it is fairly vast. The thing is she lives to be 39, such an old age. (laughs)
Sue Campbell: Terribly, terribly old. I can’t believe she lived that long.
Nora Campbell: Yes, it’s so surprising. (laughs)
Sue Campbell: So what did you learn in the epilogue?
Nora Campbell: Well, basically, the rest of her life. Well, hmm, should I read the section?
Sue Campbell: Sure.
Nora Campbell: Okay, so there’s a paragraph before this that is kind of, uh, boring. All it says is that Julius Caesar’s daughter dies and that makes him sad, and that also makes, um, her husband sad, who was one of his friends, so they kind of split apart and get mad at each other, and this happens, uh, and so Pompey goes to Egypt because he thinks … Pompey, her husband, goes to Egypt because he thinks he’ll be safe there. I don’t know why he thinks that, so I’m going to read this.
“It was an unfortunate miscalculation. He didn’t realize the 13-year-old Ptolemy wanted to gain favor with Rome and was not the least concern with, with old friendships. One of Ptolemy’s advisors suggested murdering Pompey because, after all, dead men don’t bite. That’s when Pompey sails into Alexandria’s harbor in the fall of 48 BC and stepped shore. He was swiftly beheaded, uh, supposedly as his children and wife watched screaming from their boat.
“Um, some days later, when Julius Caesar arrived in Egypt as a conqueror, Ptolemy presented him with a royal gift, the severed pickled head of Pompey the Great along with his ring. It is said that Caesar wept at, at, uh, the loss of his former friend and son-in-law.”
Sue Campbell: And what do you like about that section?
Nora Campbell: I like that they cut off his head and pickled it. Why? (laughs) Why are you giving me that look?
Sue Campbell: So you actually learned about ancient Egypt in school this year. Do you want to talk about that?
Nora Campbell: No. No. No. No.
Sue Campbell: So part of, um, your fascination with history manifests in …
Nora Campbell: Clothing.
Sue Campbell: … clothing …
Nora Campbell: Makeup.
Sue Campbell: … makeup, so tell me about your Cleopatra costume.
Nora Campbell: Well, it was this kind of fluffy white T-shirt, uh, and this tie-on skirt with this cool pattern, and a lot of makeup.
Sue Campbell: Like the, the classic Cleopatra eye makeup?
Nora Campbell: Yeah.
Sue Campbell: So can you give people, um, some suggestions if they want to learn about more history? Where do you learn about history?
Nora Campbell: Well, I watch documentaries by Lucy Worsley, who was mentioned in the last podcast, and I also read books like this and other books. The Royal Diaries Series is really good because it offers accurate history, just slightly fictionalized, but it still shows people as they were in history.
Sue Campbell: And does the … In that series, do all of The Royal Diaries Series have epilogues that give you some more like actual history?
Nora Campbell: Yeah.
Sue Campbell: Okay, and what about Mary Beard? You should tell people about Mary Beard.
Nora Campbell: She’s this amazing Roman historian who does great documentaries.
Sue Campbell: And where can we find those? Do we do them on … We do those on YouTube, right?
Nora Campbell: Yeah, we do those on YouTube.
Sue Campbell: And Lucy Worsley also has a series of documentaries about British history.
Nora Campbell: Yeah, and you can do those on YouTube, too.
Sue Campbell: Yeah.
Nora Campbell: And if you’re into slightly more gruesome things, you should watch Horrible Histories, which is on Hulu, and- (laughs)
Sue Campbell: That’s hulu.com, for everyone out there.
Nora Campbell: And it’s really good, but it’s also slightly violent, and if you don’t want to see severed limbs, you might not want to watch it.
Sue Campbell: But it’s also funny, right?
Nora Campbell: Yes, it is very funny.
Sue Campbell: So that’s all for this episode of Mommy’s Pen. Be sure to check out The Royal Diaries Series and, in particular, uh, Cleopatra VII, Daughter of the Nile. Stay tuned, uh, for next week’s episode where we’ll be talking about The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands.
Sue Campbell: And, Nora, do you have a warning to go with this episode?
Nora Campbell: Well, if you don’t like hearing about murder we’ll try confine it, uh, um … I mean, keep it away from the episode, but you probably shouldn’t read the book if you don’t like it.
Sue Campbell: And be sure to visit us online at mommyspen.com where you can sign up for a mailing list, and you won’t miss any of our cool subscriber-only benefits. Until next time, I am Sue Campbell. Thanks for listening.