If you’re a plotter like Heather and I are, you should know about the importance of the midpoint event. It’s one of those important story structure tentpoles Heather will be telling you all about in her O is for Outlining post. The midpoint is when critical new information is introduced to the story and it will lead the character(s) to make the most important decision of the story, the big fight or flight moment. This is a punch in the guts scene and it usually (but not always) is a reversal that negatively impacts the protagonist in a major way. After the midpoint moment, the story always move off in a different direction.
3 Tips for The Midpoint
The midpoint event happens in the middle of the story. However, it’s unwise to stress the exact percentage point. If your midpoint event falls at the 42% mark don’t start adding unnecessary information to adjust the timing. Think of the midpoint event as a massive change in the direction of the protagonist’s situation, and not just as the perfect chronological center of your manuscript.
Mastering the midpoint is not for wimps. This is a great time to make your beloved protagonist suffer. This event should set up not only the climax of your story, but become the tipping point for the big emotional growth the protagonist will undergo as part of their character arc. Some writers consider the first half of a novel the discovery and reaction phase, when the characters are asking questions and figuring out the problems. After the midpoint shift the novel moves into an action and attack phase, when the characters are formulating plans and taking steps to accomplish their revised end goal. A story without a true midpoint event might be maintaining the same story trajectory. Even if there is an escalation of conflict, without a midpoint event there is a strong likelihood the characters are not changing! A properly crafted midpoint changes the character’s (and often the reader’s) perspective profoundly.
Planning helps you get this right. I think one of the big downsides to being a pantser is the risk of middle mush, when the center of the novel becomes a dead zone. It’s much easier to plot for a midpoint event, than it is to correct for a missing midpoint in a finished novel. If you’re a tried and true pantster, don’t despair, you may have created a crisis at the midpoint without realizing it. Using Heather’s editing post as a guide, start by creating the beat sheet for your story. Hopefully, you are almost there and if you just roll up your sleeves and do a bit of rewriting you’ll have a midpoint in no time.
2 Examples of Great Midpoints
A great midpoint is often packed with conflict! To some degree picking out the most critical elements can bit subjective, especially when the story uses flashbacks and flash-forwards to confuse the timeline. I’m picking films this time and my first pick is BACK TO THE FUTURE. Marty watches as his elder brother fades from a family photograph. With this midpoint event, Marty realizes his actions have disturbed the past. Unless he can reverse his mistakes and make his parents fall in love again, his life and that of his siblings will cease to exist.
My second pick is EDWARD SCISSORHANDS. Edward is tricked into breaking into a friend’s home and caught by the police. The other teens refuse to own up to their part in the deception. Edward makes the decision to protect Kim at all costs and refuses to turn them in. Overnight Edward goes from media darling to hated monster.
1 Link for More Help
Midpoint is easiest to study in volume. When you can see about 100 films with the midpoints careful documented for you, it will help you see the patterns. My link today is from The Script Lab: Five Plotpoint Breakdowns Find some films you like and put their list to the test. Do you agree or disagree?
And in case you’re just dropping in now, here’s our April A to Z list thus far: