M is for Midpoint

BLAST_MIf 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:

A is for Antagonist

B is for Backstory

C is for Character Change

D is for Dialogue

E is for External Conflict

F is for False Stakes

G is for Genre

H is for Heroes

I is for Internal Conflict

J is for Juxtaposition

K is for Kittens!

Coming up:

N is for Narrative

O is for Outlines

 

 

Author: Robin Rivera

Robin trained as a professional historian and worked as a museum curator, an educator and historical consultant. She writes dark young adult fiction, with diverse characters. She's currently querying a novel, and working on two new manuscripts that started off as NaNoWriMo projects. You can follow her on Facebook(https://www.facebook.com/robin.rivera.90813) or on Twitter @robinrwrites. However, Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/RRWrites/) is where her inner magpie is happiest of all.

19 thoughts on “M is for Midpoint”

  1. What do you do when you have writer’s block? How do you get through it so I can finish it. Please help.

    1. Hi Fannie,
      You are not alone! Almost every writer I know has a moment like this. Number one tip is don’t give up. The problem may be that you need to renew your love of your project. It could be something as simple as telling the story to a friend and getting some positive feedback. Or you might try talking over any plot problems with your critique group. If something about the story just feels off it can often prevent us from making progress.
      Everyone has tips for what works best for them, but I find changing anything helps me. So if I’ve been working a lot on a laptop, I shift to pen and paper. If I’ve been working at home, I try writing at the library, or a coffee shop. Music also works for me. I love soundtracks to movies, they really help me capture a mood. Heather and I both swap over to a different project when we get stuck! We might write a blog post, or work on short story or a screenplay for a while until we feel ready to pick up the book length project again. I love to take a walk! It must be the fresh air, but I can solve all sorts of writing problems during a long walk.
      Try experimenting with a few things and keep track of the ones that work for you. Good luck, Fannie! You can do this, just keep writing!

    1. Sorry, Alex. I just saw this comment. Thanks! Midpoint is not a big deal with some writers, but I think it makes a huge difference to the overall success of a story. : ) You will love O, Heather is the queen of outlining.

    1. Hey Patricia,
      As long as you don’t try to bypass the midpoint I think you’re way ahead of many pansters. : ) I’m not as connected to perfect structure as Heather is, but I sure notice when a writer skips the big stuff. And for me midpoint is huge.

  2. I am so happy that I found your blog! I’m learning so much from your posts. I have a book in me, I know it, as the idea has been percolating in my head for years. I just have to have the confidence to flesh it out and make it happen. Your posts are giving me courage. Thanks for all the great information!
    Michele at Angels Bark

    1. Michele, I love hearing this. When Heather and I started the blog, becoming a source of positivity and encouragement was tops on our goals list. But to have you say we are giving you the courage to write just gives me so many happy vibes. Thank you for this lovely comment.

      1. Oh, I’m so glad! I know how that is when you work so hard at something and it yields the effect that you always intended for it. I have a dogsitting business and it’s absolute music to my ears when my customers tell me that absolutely do not worry about their dogs when they’re with me. That was always my main goal with the business: I wanted people to be able to go on vacation and actually ENJOY their vacation without any thoughts or worries about their canine companions. And then when I see the dogs pulling the owners up the driveway because they can’t wait to get into my house: it’s nirvana for me! 🙂 I’m happy that I was able to give you happy vibes! Thanks for letting me know.

  3. Midpoint is also a crisis point for non-fiction writers. Up until then, it is wonderful. Around the halfway mark you begin to hear voices in your head saying things like, “What are you doing this for?” or “No-one is going to ever want to read this!” Or just “This is a load of rubbish!””

    1. Hi Shirley,
      It’s funny how that happens. We fiction writers do the same thing. At some point every writers starts second guessing all of their choices. It’s the evil internal editor! I call mine an inner yeti. Hang in there. : )

    1. Hi,
      I find A to Z posts are a great way of learning new things. I’m thrilled I was able to play it forward today and introduce you to something new. : )

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