Written by JJ Barnes
The Midpoint in your story comes when you’ve done all the set up in your story. It acts as a pivot to steer it towards the climax. You have got your Protagonist and your Antagonist locked in conflict, and they’re both motivated towards achieving what they want to achieve. Now you need to start the process of crashing them together to see who wins.
I’ll explain where in your timing that your midpoint comes, what it does for your story, and how to write an effective midpoint.
Where Does Your Midpoint Come?
The midpoint comes half-way through your second act, right in the middle of your story. Sometimes the midpoint is so game changing that writers will opt for a four act structure as the midpoint breaks act two into two clear and distinct parts.
Whether you choose to write in three or four acts, your midpoint works to reframe your story. It will push your characters into their journey towards the end.
Examples of Effective Midpoints
This pivot can happen in a number of different ways. The film Titanic is an excellent example of how you can use your midpoint.
The start of the film is following Jack and Rose and their love story. They meet and fall in love. They are motivated to find a way to be together after the ship has docked in the USA.
At an hour and a half into the three-hour movie, they crash into an iceberg which changes the entire story. You are no longer watch Jack and Rose falling in love and wanting to find a way to be together. You are now watching them wanting to find a way to survive. It’s very effective and offers immediate high stakes for the story and works as motivation for your characters as you head towards the third act.
The midpoint in Titanic doesn’t completely derail the initial motivation of the characters, they still are in love and they still want to find a way to be together, but it has shifted and reframed their experiences and motivation due to the potential for imminent death.
A second example of an effective use of the midpoint in your story can be seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Throughout the first half you follow Steve Rogers as he realises he’s being hunted and he begins to develop suspicions about S.H.I.E.L.D.; then, an hour and fifteen minutes in, he finds out that Hydra have infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. decades ago. It changes the entire conflict.
Reframing Your Story
Have your characters learn something at the midpoint, something that totally reshapes your story. Even if your characters at their core are still pursuing the same thing, it’s in a different landscape with different consequences.
In Titanic, Jack and Rose still want to be together but now they’ve learned they’re also sinking. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Steve still wants to find Bucky but now he’s doing it having learned that Hydra have infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D.
Writing a Clear Midpoint
When you want to write a good clear midpoint, think of it like a pivot. You build up to this revelation like one side of a triangle, then you fall back down the other side towards the climax dealing with that change that has happened.
Something to remember is that if your word count isn’t putting your midpoint exactly in the middle, it really won’t ruin your story. There is always flexibility with story structure. Don’t get too bogged down with worrying about trying to get it at exactly halfway through. But it’s a good guide to try and work to for the most effective use of the midpoint.
More From JJ Barnes:
I am an author, filmmaker, artist and youtuber, and I am the creator and editor of The Table Read.
You can find links to all my work and social media on my website: www.jjbarnes.co.uk
Buy my books: www.sirenstories.co.uk/books
Follow me on Twitter: @JudieannRose