Season 1, Episode 5: The Second Plot Point (on Gardam Street!)
Sue: Hello and welcome to The Mommy’s Pen podcast. I’m Sue Campbell, a writer and children’s book author, and I’m here with my cohost, my 11 year old daughter, Nora Campbell. Say hi, Nora.
Sue: Uh, this week on the podcast, we are going to take a little break from historical fiction and do a book from the Penderwicks Series. We’re going to be doing the second book, which is called The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. So the Penderwicks Series is now a five book series. The last book in the series was just published in May, and its by someone named Jeanne Birdsall. Nora, do you remember meeting Jeanne Birdsall?
Nora: Sort of.
Sue: What do you remember about it?
Nora: I remember you said she was wearing slippers.
Sue: She was. So we were at Wordstock, this is a few years ago now, probably at least four years ago.
Nora: It was before the fourth book came out.
Sue: Yes, it was before the fourth book came out, and it was when Wordstock was still at the convention center. Um, and we saw Jeanne Birdsall do a reading with another author, and she …
Nora: And the other author’s hair was really spiky.
Sue: I don’t remember that, but I’ll take your word for it. I remember she was wearing a pretty cute blue dress. Um, but Jeanne Birdsall became my double hero that day because she was wearing a pair of Haflinger slippers.
Nora: And you were crying.
Sue: What was I crying about?
Nora: I don’t know.
Sue: There’s one thing you should know about me. This was, does not mean that I was having, like, any mental health breakdown that day (laughing). I just cry…
Sue: I just cry a lot at public events where people are making themselves vulnerable, so people reading from their books, children singing, people juggling on the street corner, I’ll likely be in tears.
Nora: Yeah, or anyone singing or any part in a movie whatsoever are doing anything.
Sue: Doing any emoting whatsoever.
Nora: So back to the book.
Sue: Oh, right.
Sue: So the book we’re going to talk about today is the second book in the series, which might be annoying, but we’re going to do it anyway because the second book in the series, um, is called The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, and it is probably the most perfect of all the books in the series from a-
Nora: No, it’s not.
Sue: From a story structure perspective.
Sue: Right? Um, so the first book in-
Nora: I like Bug Man though.
Sue: In Gardam Street?
Sue: Yeah, we’ll get to Bug Man. Um, the first book in the series you meet four sisters. Um, and their father because their mother has died of cancer when the youngest child was born, shortly after the youngest child was born, so there’s four sisters. Rosalind is 12, Skye is 11, Jane is 10, and Batty is four.
Sue: So without thinking, just answer when I ask you this question. Who’s your favorite Penderwick sister?
Sue: Without thinking. You’re thinking.
Nora: (laughs) I can’t help it. Jane.
Sue: Really? I would’ve thought you would’ve said Skye. What do you like about Jane?
Nora: I just like her.
Sue: I do too.
Nora: She’s funny.
Sue: She’s funny and free-spirited and creative.
Sue: Okay, so again, without thinking this time.
Sue: What’s your favorite Penderwick book?
Nora: Um, Point Mouette.
Sue: Oh. What do you like about Point Mouette, the third book?
Nora: I just like it. I like how it doesn’t really have Rosalind in it.
Sue: Oh, that’s true.
Nora: That might come across as really rude.
Sue: But it’s interesting to look at them without the sort of lens of Rosalind mothering them.
Sue: Hmm. Interesting. Without thinking, who is your favorite Penderwicks character who is not one of the sisters?
Nora: Mrs. Tifton.
Sue: (laughs) I love it.
Sue: If you haven’t read the first book, Mrs. Tifton is sort of the villain character. She is their friend, Jeffrey’s mother.
Nora: But in the fifth book she’s actually sort of nice.
Sue: Um, sort of.
Nora: Okay, no, she’s not.
Sue: She’s got a little bit of a maturation arc over five books.
Sue: A little one. Um, but today we’re also going to be talking about the concept of a second plot point in story structure, so that was why I wanted to do the Gardam Street book because it has a very clear, um, second plot point. Um, also in this book, the main events of the story are happening to the Penderwick sisters themselves. I feel like in some of the other books, some of the most dramatic things are actually happening to their friend, Jeffrey.
Nora: Yeah, sort of.
Sue: Which I think is a little problematic. They’re still great. I love these books, um, and really, reading the first-
Nora: But it really affects them though too.
Sue: It does affect them. That’s true. Um, and I love this series of book, and reading the first Penderwicks book was what me, was what inspired me to start writing books for children to begin with.
Nora: Yes, yes, yes. You mentioned that in the first episode by the way.
Sue: Well, yeah, but maybe not everyone has listened to all the episodes.
Sue: I mean they should go back and listen to all the episodes.
Nora: Yeah, but can we get back to the book we’re supposed to be reviewing.
Sue: Right, right. Gardam Street. Um, so Gardam Street starts with a prologue, uh, and in the prologue for the first time we actually get to see the mother of the girls up close, and, um, Rosalind, the oldest, who was eight at the time, um, that her mother died.
Nora: No, I thought she was nine. No, she was eight.
Sue: Is that really worth interrupting?
Sue: Um, Rosalind witnesses her mother and her aunt having a conversation about what could happen if Mrs. Penderwick dies, and how she wants her husband, um, Martin, to be happy and to date again, and she gives, um, her sister-in-law, Aunt Claire, a letter, uh, to give to him in a few years. So that’s the prologue setup, and Rosalind doesn’t quite understand everything that’s happening, but she understands enough to be unsettled, and the in Chapter One, we learn that it is now time for Mr. Penderwick to get the letter. Aunt Claire comes to visit, hands over the letter, and, um, Mr. Penderwick is forced into a situation where he has to promise to try dating.
Sue: And what do the girls think about that?
Nora: They hate it.
Sue: Yeah. And who hates it the most?
Sue: Who’s usually the steady, mother figure in the Penderwick family.
Nora: Yeah. I think it’s because the mother figure that she minds so much, she thinks that because family has her, they don’t need anyone else.
Sue: Yeah, I agree, and she kind of feels like she’s going to be replaced.
Nora: Yeah. I think she feels kind of cheated, so, um, can we keep talking not just on Rosalind’s personal feelings, because that’s not about the book exactly.
Sue: Um, right, but they’re a big driver, and so the sisters get together and decide that they need to put a plan in place to prevent Mr. Penderwick from forming a serious romantic attachment.
Nora: But it’s a seriously evil plan.
Sue: You can’t point your face away from the microphone because no one will be able to hear you.
Nora: Oh, sorry. I am so sorry I offended you.
Sue: People won’t be able to hear you.
Nora: So back to the book.
Sue: Basically the girls decide that they need to thwart their dad’s attempt at dating, and so they engineer a series of bad dates for him.
Nora: Yeah. But is it a series? I thought it was just one.
Sue: Uh, there’s the skating coach.
Nora: Yeah, and then there was Ms. Munce, but that one, um, they didn’t arrange.
Sue: Okay, so they really only had to do the skating coach, I think.
Sue: But then it looks like he has a serious attachment, and so that’s very, very worrisome.
Nora: But that-
Sue: Ah, ah, ah! And then, um, let’s talk for a minute about the second plot point, and you explain what that is in Gardam Street.
Nora: Okay. Should we tell about Iantha first?
Sue: Oh, sure. Tell them about Iantha.
Nora: So Iantha is their new neighbor, um, and you explain more.
Sue: Iantha is adorable. She’s a redhead. She’s an astrophysicist.
Nora: And she has big kind of hazel eyes.
Sue: And she has a young son, and she has no husband because her husband has died.
Sue: Um, so there’s a little, uh, love interest thing happening right next door unbeknownst to everyone.
Nora: Except for Batty.
Sue: Oh, you’re right. I forgot about that little bit.
Nora: Yeah. I know, I’m brilliant.
Sue: So that’s Iantha. So every week on the podcast, we talk about, um, uh, a piece of story structure, and this season we’re doing the four act structure. Uh, if you want to learn more about the four act structure and take a deeper dive rather than our little short podcasts, you can look at the work of Larry Brooks, um, and basically we’ve been describing those big tent poles of the four act story structure, so we went over inciting incident, we went over first plot point, we went over a pinch point and a midpoint shift, and now we are at the second plot point, so second plot points-
Nora: But we skipped second pinch point, and if you like, um, symmetry too, something else to listen to, but it’s basically like a first pinch point except later.
Sue: Right. So first pinch point takes place before the midpoint shift, then there’s another one after the midpoint shift, uh, and then we have our second plot point, which is generally, um, at about 75% of the way through the novel or through the story if you’re talking about a movie. Works for that too, or a play, and it is the last chance to get any new information in the story, uh, and this new information that sort of launches the characters into the climax of the story. Um, if you put new information into the story after this, basically your reader is not going to buy it. It’s not going to feel believable. Um, it’s going to feel like a deus ex machina.
Nora: What is that?
Sue: Which means the hand of God is just coming down and solving all the problems in the story that you’ve created, which is very unsatisfying because when you read something and see a mess that characters have made for themselves, you want them to be the ones who solve it.
Sue: So that’s a second plot point. Um, it’s usually a, um, a memorable story event, and in the Penderwicks on Gardam Street, the girls have spent the whole book trying to prevent their dad from dating because they imagine all the horrible step-mothers that they could end up with.
Nora: I think they read too many fairy tales.
Sue: Probably. And then Rosalind actually notices that there is a connection and a spark between her dad and Iantha, and Rosalind happens to already love Iantha, and so she realizes sort of the error of her ways, so this new information that there is actually a chance for her dad and Iantha sets her on a new path and a new, um, set of high jinks, but this time with the intention of bringing those two together.
Sue: One note on the second plot point for The Penderwicks on Gardam Street is that it comes a little bit later than expected.
Nora: It does?
Sue: It does, and of course I looked it up like two weeks ago when I knew we were going to do this podcast, and now I can’t remember what it was, but I want to say it was like maybe 80, 85%. There’s flexibility in these rules, these are just guidelines, but if you veer too far from them, your reader’s going to leave the story really unsatisfied.
Nora: Yeah. So also one of my favorite parts is the stuff between Skye and Jane. You know what I mean?
Sue: Yes. Yes. So a little bit of background on Skye, Skye wants to be an astrophysicist. She’s very math-oriented. She loves science.
Nora: She doesn’t like writing.
Sue: She doesn’t like writing. Jane.
Nora: She isn’t, like, creative in that sense.
Sue: Right. Jane, however, is a writer and has been writing a series of books.
Nora: And is not science or math-oriented.
Sue: And is not science or math-oriented. So Skye gets an assignment to write a play, uh, and Jane gets an assignment to write a science paper.
Nora: Yeah, it’s some essays about, um, I think it’s modern medicine, but I’m not sure.
Sue: Antibiotics, I believe.
Nora: Oh, right.
Sue: Um, and they decide to switch, and hilarity ensues.
Nora: Yeah, it does.
Sue: So, Nora, tell us how Bug Man comes into the story.
Nora: Well, Batty is playing.
Sue: And Batty’s the four year old in the story.
Nora: Yeah. With their dog, Hound, we haven’t mentioned, who is a huge hound, as might be expected.
Sue: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Nora: Um, and she tied him to her wagon, which she got from Aunt Claire, the aunt, and she’s like going around, and she’s like, “Pull me, Hound,” so he starts running and running and running, but then the wagon tips over and she falls out, and so does, um, her teddy bear, and he rolls into the road, and ex- even though a car’s coming, she stops and gets him, and the car stops. So she wants to thank the driver.
Sue: For not hitting her and crushing her little four year old self.
Nora: Yes. You’re making her sound darling. She’s an evil character.
Sue: Batty is not an evil character. What on earth are you talking about?
Nora: Okay. It just sounded good to say that.
Sue: Oh my gosh.
Nora: Except she’s too frightened to talk to him because he has huge sunglasses on that she thinks are bug’s eyes, so for basically the rest of the book after that she’s convinced that he’s, like, a bug who’s, like, stalking her.
Sue: And no one believes her that he even exists.
Sue: But he definitely comes into play later on in the story.
Sue: So I highly recommend The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. It is my favorite of all the Penderwicks books, but just to give you a rundown of all the titles to aid your searching-
Nora: Can I do it?
Sue: Sure. Okay.
Nora: So it’s The Penderwicks, which for the longest time I thought it was The Penderwicks at Arundel, which it should be, um, and then it’s The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, the one, who’ve like heard about all this time, and then it’s The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, The Penderwicks in Spring, and The Penderwicks At Last.
Sue: Thank you.
Nora: So, um, I think this is over? Bye.
Sue: I don’t think I’m going to let you do the sign offs anymore.
Sue: Um, that’s it for this episode of Mommy’s Pen where we covered The Penderwicks on Gardam Street and the story structure concept of a second plot point. You can read the full show notes at our website, MommysPen.com, and you can also sign up there for the mailing list, which is going to have very cool subscriber only benefits, and they’re going to become-
Nora: Oh, by the way are those going to be?
Sue: Very soon.
Nora: You sound so official.
Sue: Very soon.
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