The Midpoint as the Swivel Point of Your Story’s Linked Structure by K.M. Weiland - Usa


The “saggy middle” of a story is one of the biggest challenges writers face. The Second Act is twice as long as the other two acts and yet is often less clearly defined. What’s a writer to do to keep the pacing just as tight and the events just as interesting over the long haul of the Second Act? The simplest answer is: Mind the Midpoint.

Writing instruction is often more prolific for the First Act and the Third Act, since their functions and responsibilities are more clearly defined. The First Act must hook readers and set up the conflict. The Third Act must ramp up into a satisfying Climax that concludes the conflict. Both of these acts are comparatively short, only a quarter each of the story, and so they are often very busy in their need to check all the necessary boxes.

The Second Act, by comparison, can seem a long desert trek. We understand something must happen between the setup and resolution, and we recognize this something is the conflict itself. But beyond that, we can sometimes struggle to keep this heart of our story pumping in a way that also keeps readers turning pages. Cue the saggy middle.

Structuring Your Novel (affiliate link)

Fortunately, there is an obvious and simple solution, and it’s the same solution writers use to compose the First and Third Acts: story structure. The heart of that structure in the Second Act—and, indeed, the heart of the entire story’s structure—is the Midpoint. If you have the Midpoint in place and working well (along with its fellow Second-Act beats the Pinch Points), your Second Act will be on its way to pulling its own weight.

Structuring Your Novel (affiliate link)

Over the last month or so, we’ve been exploring the idea that story structure is inherently chiastic—a pattern in which we recognize that the beats in the second half mirror, in reverse order, those in the first half. We can see this most plainly if we view story structure less as an arc and more as a circle.

So far, we’ve discussed the link between the Hook and Resolution, the link between the Inciting Event and Climactic Moment, the link between the First and Third Plot Points, and the link between the First and Second Pinch Points. Today, it’s time to discuss the final structural beat, the lone ranger of the bunch—the Midpoint.

As you can see in the graphic, the Midpoint reigns alone at the base of the circle. It has no paired beat but is rather the pivot point around which all the beats in the first and second halves swivel. As such, the Midpoint does not specifically mirror any other beat (although, as James Scott Bell discusses, it is often the representative Mirror Moment for the entire story). Rather, it acts to resolve certain elements in the first half, with this resolution then become the catalyst for all the mirroring elements in the second half.

Structurally Speaking: What Is the Midpoint?

Within the structural nomenclature I use, the Midpoint is technically the Second Plot Point. Other instructors and systems sometimes give the Midpoint no other name and refer to the Third Plot Point as the Second Plot Point. Don’t get confused, since although the names may sometimes differ, the structural beats at the 50% and 75% marks still perform the same functions in all the varied instructional systems.

The Midpoint occurs at the 50% mark, halfway through the Second Act and (obviously) halfway through the book itself. Although many writers neglect the Midpoint in comparison to more noted moments such as the First Plot Point or Climax, the Midpoint is arguably the most significant beat within the story. It is what director Sam Peckinpah called the “centerpiece” of the entire story. Everything hangs upon it. In many ways, it is the moment that decides the ultimate fate of the story. What happens here—what the characters realize and decide—will determine whether or not they arc positively and triumph in the Climax’s final confrontation.


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