(LESSON 2.1) 2 Foolproof Ways to Prevent the Middle of Your Story from Sagging

Lesson 2.1

2 Foolproof Ways to Prevent the Middle of Your Story from Sagging

Let’s start with the basics.

As its name implies, the midpoint occurs approximately 50%, or midway, through your story.

Midpoint equals 50%

The term midpoint also implies that it’s limited to one point, or an isolated moment. But oftentimes, that’s not the case. The midpoint may be comprised of several moments that add up to one scene…or even several scenes that add up to a sequence.

The midpoint comes in different forms. It could be a point, a scene, or a sequence.

The midpoint doesn’t just divide your story itself in half. It also divides its middle, or Act Two, into two parts of roughly equal length. In screenwriting, the first half of the middle is commonly referred to as Act 2A, while the second half of the middle is referred to as Act 2B. Because these terms are so handy, we’ll be using them throughout this course in reference to both scripts and novels.

Act Two = Act 2A + Act 2B

By dividing the middle of your story into two chunks, the midpoint makes your task of finishing Act Two more manageable. It feels less daunting to come up with plot points for Act 2A and then come up with plot points for Act 2B than it is to come up with plot points for ALL of Act Two in one go.

Which is easier? To come up with plot points to fill up (a) the entire middle or (b) half of the middle?

But the midpoint is more than a divider. It functions as a fulcrum that swings your story in a new direction. Because of this shift, Act 2B will differ in some key respect from Act 2A. This means that you won’t be repeating the same story beat over and over again. With a midpoint fulcrum, the middle of your story won’t turn into a monotonous snooze fest that will put audiences to sleep.

Check out the infographic below, which recaps these points:

Why the midpoint is crucial for telling a gripping story [infographic]: With the midpoint fulcrum, the middle of your story will be dynamic—and audiences will be entertained. Brought to you by: SMARTER STORY STRUCTURE, http://scribemeetsworld.com/3AS/

For the most part, you can use anything you like as a fulcrum. If you can explain how Act 2B feels different from Act 2A, then you should be in good shape. You’ll see what I mean in the video below. Click play to start!

Writing Exercise: Building a Bond

To complete this exercise, use pages 22–23 of your Three-Act Structure Workbook.

From a screenplay or novel that you’ve written, pick two characters who don’t like each other at the beginning…and who are still at odds with each other at the end.

For example, your protagonist + a:

  • demanding boss
  • irritating colleague
  • nasty-tempered relative
  • romantic rival
  • nemesis
  • villain

Next, describe an event that would make these characters display vulnerability to each other.

This event doesn’t have to fit in with the plot of the story that your characters came from, but your characters should still behave in a manner that’s true to themselves.