What is the midpoint? It’s just what it sounds like. It’s the middle of Act 2, the middle of your book, 60minutes into a 120 minute movie. As writers, when we reach the midpoint, we know we are half way there. Time to celebrate!
It’s also the point where you’re reminded that you still have half the book to write. But you got this far. You can make it the rest of the way.
So what exactly happens at midpoint?
Well, the story got kicked-started early on (within the first 30 pages) with the Inciting Incident. Then we gave it another push at Plot Point 1 propelling us into Act 2. The thing about Act 2 is that it’s twice as long as Act 1 and 3, so even though there are only three acts, the midpoint gives us four equal (ish) parts.
I like the phrase I first heard coined by author Janice Harding. She calls it the midpoint reversal, because ideally, something major should happen here to completely turn the story on its head, and throw the protagonist into a tizzy. It’s the lack of such of an event that creates what’s known as the saggy middle. You’ve probably read books like that (or maybe you’ve written books like that, I know I have), where you feel like skipping pages to get back to the exciting stuff.
Here’s a free tip. It should ALL be exciting stuff.
Planning a reversal of fortunes in the middle helps to give a story that extra punch.
The midpoint of HARRY POTTER (the first book) happens when the three friends get past the three-headed dog and claim the stone that Voldmort is after. This is the reversal event because possession of the stone changes their position of power (now they have it) and it makes them, and especially Harry an even greater target of Voldemort’s. Now they are in real danger, and the tension amps way up.
In HUNGER GAMES the midpoint happens at the Cornicopia. The Hunger Games begin and Katniss thinks Peeta has betrayed her.
By the midpoint in PERCEPTION Zoe knows what happened to her brother, but she doesn’t know why. She and Noah find a big clue together, which propels their search. It also marks a turning point in their friendship, which is strictly forbidden by their social classes.
In SUN & MOON the midpoint happens when Katja finds out what’s behind the locked door in Micah’s apartment. Her discovery puts everything she thought she knew about Micah into question.
The midpoint, or any of the major structure points, doesn’t always have to be a big external event. Sometimes it’s a subtler, internal affair.
In GINGERBREAD MAN the midpoint reversal isn’t anything that other people could witness. It’s a change of heart for Sage about her opinion of Marlow. She moves from not believing him to believing him, which changes everything.
This is what the scene looks like:
>>>He took another bite of his sub. “They can’t see me, you know.”
“The cops. No one can know who I am or that I’m here.”
Right. Already a Marlow Henry on campus. I saluted. “Okay, Mars.”
“That’s what I’m going to call you. So I don’t have to say Marlow and the other Marlow.”
“That’s cool, I guess.”
Marlow, or rather, Mars, disappeared into the bathroom. I finished my sub by the time he emerged. I held back a grin. “You look…”
“Like a geek?”
“No, I was going to say…clean.”
I couldn’t stifle the laugh this time. He looked like a kid in his father’s clothes.
Mars returned to Teagan’s laptop and started typing.
“What are you doing?” I scooted my chair up to him and noted that he definitely smelled better.
“Might as well use the time waiting to see if Teagan left any other clues.”
A wave of black washed over me. “Oh my God, I can’t believe I forgot.”
He turned and raised an eyebrow. “Forgot what?”
“She got this creepy message last week. Someone called the gingerbread man.”
I felt him stiffen. “Show me.”
I scrolled through looking for the message. “She showed the police and they said they’d keep watch.”
His eyes darkened. “What did the message say?”
He pushed away from the desk and into a standing position. “You’re next? You’re next?”
“The police just thought it was a prank because none of the other victims had gotten a warning message. They said they’d watch our dorm. And her.”
Marlow waved an arm flippantly. “And yet, she’s not here and neither are they. You need to call them again, Sage. Talk to someone else. We’re wasting too much time.”
His urgency amped up the level of fear I felt from concerned to desperate. My fingers shook as I dialed.
Can you identify your midpoint?
Next tip is, you guessed it, Plot Point 2.