Flashpoints are events that provide the writer with a story to tell. They introduce chaos where none existed. A flashpoint can occur before the story begins. Sometimes it occurs after the introduction, when the characters are introduced and the scene set. What matters is to get the reader hooked early on. In Twisted Vines, the first book in my Shakespeare in the Vineyard series, the critical moment comes in paragraph one of chapter one when my protagonist receives a phone call that changes her life—she inherits a vineyard and two Shakespearean theaters from someone she’d never heard of. If she accepts her inheritance, it means she has to move cross-country and give up a job she loves.
Without conflict, there wouldn’t be a story. It’s what drives the plot, what makes us sympathize with the characters, and what compels us to keep reading because we want to know how it will be resolved. When characters have opposite goals or desires there’s bound to be reaction. Tempers flare, violence/anger follow, and provoke action. Flashpoints, moments of truth, hours of indecision, or that frightening zero hour will create suspense and intrigue to keep readers turning the pages.
These examples of “points of no return” will be familiar to most readers:
The Wizard of Oz: the flashpoint is the tornado that transports Dorothy from Kansas to Oz
Star Wars: Darth Vader attacks Princess Leia’s spaceship
I think all authors struggle where best to place flashpoints, where they’ll have the most impact on the story and the reader. I couldn’t resist this cartoon. I wonder what they’re writing, suspense or romantic suspense.