4 Tips for Writing Your Story's Midpoint
Chapter 6 “Plot Points” – Section 6 “Midpoint”
“Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity and stumble from defeat to defeat.”
In the last tutorial, I compared the First Pinch Point to the rise of a metaphorical hammer over your protagonist's skull. The next plot point—the Midpoint—is when that hammer comes crashing down and knocks your hero senseless. We see this is Star Wars – A New Hope when Luke Skywalker and his friends try to escape the Empire and save Princess Leia, resulting in the death of Ben Kenobi. This point occurs because of how the protagonist reacts to the First Pinch Point's imminent threat or challenge; and it results in a defining moment of failure for the protagonist.
Tip 1: Define the primary antagonist force of the story.
In any complex story, there will be multiple antagonistic forces working against the protagonist, both from internal adversaries (doubts, fears, vices, flaws, weaknesses) and from external ones (villain, nature, society). However, most of these will be secondary antagonistic forces that will serve as constant threats or obstacles. During the Midpoint, it becomes essential to define the primary antagonistic force of the story. Why? Because if you do not define your primary antagonist by this point, then they will lose that status of importance in the reader's mind—becoming secondary or possibly even an irrelevance. Note that I say define; if your primary antagonist is supposed to remain a mystery or is physically isolated from the hero, you do not have to have them directly battling your hero. However, your hero and audience should get a very good idea of who or what is working against them. Most importantly, you need to show the audience the power of the primary antagonistic force by in some way making them the ultimate catalyst of your protagonist's defeat. This serves as a subconscious indicator for the reader as to what it is that the protagonist must overcome in order for the story to be resolved, giving power to your story. A New Hope utilizes this concept by using the Midpoint to show both Luke and the audience that Darth Vader is not only powerful enough to kill rebels, but to destroy a Jedi Master who is infinitely more powerful than the hero.
Tip 2: Have your antagonistic force play upon your protagonist's greatest flaw.
By this point in A New Hope, Luke is already dealing with the grief, fear, and rage that came as a result of his father, aunt, and uncle, being murdered by the empire. So what does the story do to him in order to crush him further? It capitalizes on his sense of loss, grief, rage, and fear by having the empire kill his mentor, Ben, as well. In your story, the Midpoint is the most critical place for low blows that your protagonist is not ready for, and which hurt him or her in the way most relevant to their development, personality, and story-arc. This is not only essential for showing the critical nature of what is happening, but it is essential for the development of your protagonist—in helping them overcome their greatest flaws. This difficult growth is essential if you want their development to be realistic. So hit them where it hurts most, and to the degree which your type of story would be best served by. Note that this does not mean that you have to have your protagonist raped, beaten, and their puppy killed—only that you need a single crushing blow to their character weakness, which is appropriate to the type of story you are writing.
Tip 3: Raise the stakes by treating the Midpoint as the failed ending.
To some degree, the Midpoint should be the point at which if the Protagonist were to be successful, the story would be pretty much concluded—just like if Ben Kenobi had defeated Darth Vader. Strive to create this feeling not only for your readers, but also for the protagonists. While your readers will be intelligent and know that the story cannot possibly be over so early, this strategy will allow them to experience the hope of success—to see the finish line in their race—and then to feel absolutely crushing emotions when the track crumbles beneath them and the idea of ever reaching success seems like an impossibility. This will create a stronger bond of empathy between your reader and your protagonist, and will also create valuable tension that will continue to hook them to the story.
Tip 4: Prepare for the Disaster plot-point.
The Disaster plot-point will be where the protagonist must deal with the consequences of their failure. In movies, this point is often abbreviated more than it will be in a novel. For example, the Disaster of A New Hope consists of brief sadness and Han Solo deciding to abandon his friends. Some stories will even combine the Midpoint and Disaster plot-points into one chapter. But in your first draft, you should keep your plot points separate until you are in the editing process and able to make the objective decision that this combination would serve to make your story better. So in your Midpoint, prepare for the ways, both foreseen and unforeseen, in which the events that take place will create emotionally devastating effects on the protagonist. This might include the deaths of people who are close to the protagonist, relationships being broken, inner demons reawakening, and great number of characters being hurt by what happened. These will be shown in the Disaster chapter, but go ahead and create setups and chain reactions that will logically progress to all the damage which will be done to your heroes.
Weekly Recommended Watching: Bojack Horseman (In this animated comedy, the hero frequently encounters Midpoints—critical encounters with emotional antagonists—and more frequently fails these encounters than any story I know. Your story does not have to be nearly so filled with defeat and emotional devastation, but pay attention to how his failures link to so much disaster in his life, as well as the effects they have on his development.)
Write-a-Novel Exercise 6.5
ANN - Chapter 9 - Our Terrifying Descent
Tips to Creative Writing
Writer's Tip: Writing Effective Sentences
Research: How to do It
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I've recently watched BoJack through and through so I can attest to its writing's quality.
I'm interested in that delicate balance between showing the threat of antagonist but keeping them hidden. I had one of the most intense experiences from Breaking Bad when (SPOILERS!) Hank Shrader got the first taste of Mexico with the turtle head: at that point the antagonist for that segment wasn't defined pretty much at all, but the event itself was executed with much detail and showed great malice from an unknown source, so that got me scared, it got me scared bad. The effect diminished when the antagonist was actually shown. I want to capture that in my writing.
P. S. True Detective's season one also thrived on this type of ominous mystery; horrors implied; I hear Lovecraft was a master of that as well.
In one of my WIPS, the Protagonists face an Antagonist who is a 'Zealot Superhero' who causes more harm than good. When the Protagonists begin to uncover the origins of the so-called hero, they begin to realize that there might be a greater threat that is the actual cause of the Antagonist they fought.
In a sense that is what happened in Star Wars. At first it was believed that Darth Vader was the True Threat.(A New Hope) But in the Midpoint Movie (Empire Strikes Back) Emperor Palatine is shown.