The Moment In Your Story That Changes Everything

This is part two in a four-part series on story structure. You can read part one here. To learn more about story structure, be sure to sign up to receive a free copy of the eBook, How To Write Better Stories

There’s a moment in every story (or at least there should be!) where the protagonist is heading in one direction…and then everything changes.

New information has entered the picture. There’s been a “parting of the curtain” (in Larry Brooks speak). Suddenly things aren’t what they seemed even a moment before.

Now that’s powerful. And it’s also the job of this next piece of story structure: the Midpoint.

The Midpoint

The Midpoint is a plot point that happens smack-dab in the middle of the story, at the 50 percent mark. It introduces new and vital information–and it’s also the moment that shifts the context of the story.

It’s the catalyst that takes your protagonist from part two of the story (where he’s in “reaction mode”) to part three of the story, where he’s ready to start attacking.

Again, just like the First Plot Point, Larry Brooks, bestselling author of Story Engineering, has written a very detailed post about the Midpoint and what it’s all about. So head on over to his site, StoryFix.com, and read:

Then come back here for some Midpoint examples.

Breaking Down the Midpoint: Two Examples

Examples are the best way to really wrap your head around this story milestone and the significance it plays in every great story. So here are two Midpoint examples from movies:

Ian

Cameron Diaz plays Christina in The Sweetest Thing

The Sweetest Thing

In this movie we meet Christina (the protagonist), a party girl who just wants to have fun. Her and her friends are partying at a club one night when she meets Peter, a handsome real estate agent. At first they don’t get along, but then as the night progresses we see them getting to know and like each other.

Then we find out Peter is at the club celebrating a bachelor party for his brother, who’s getting married that weekend in Somerset.

The Midpoint happens after Christina and her friend arrive in Somerset where they’ve secretly followed Peter. They sneak into the church–late–for the wedding. They figure they’ll hang out, watch the ceremony and then find Peter at the reception.

But the context of the entire movie is shifted at the Midpoint–when we find out it’s actually Peter’s wedding.

Before this moment the story was heading down one path, but now it’s on a completely different path. That’s what the Midpoint does.

Paul Sherwood

Bill Murray plays Bob in What About Bob? [Image courtesy of Paul Sherwood]

What About Bob?

In this movie we meet Dr. Marvin, an up-and-coming psychologist who has a new book out. Things are going well for him, until he gets introduced to a new patient named Bob.

Suddenly Bob has started showing up everywhere, including on Dr. Marvin’s family vacation, driving him nuts!

The Midpoint happens when Dr. Marvin has his Good Morning America interview–Bob pretty much takes over the interview and ruins everything.

After that moment, we see the Doctor shift into part three of the story, which is “attack mode.”

Without a Midpoint in place to shift your story, you won’t have the catalyst needed to push your protagonist from being a “wanderer” to being a “warrior” (more on this soon).

But that’s not the last stop on the plot point trail. There’s still one more major milestone that has to happen in your story (plus two smaller milestones that need to occur). Up next in this series: Pinch Points, what they are and how to use them.

Share With Us

What are your thoughts on the Midpoint? Have you noticed it in movies or books that you’ve watched/read? 

Image of Bill Murray courtesy of Paul Sherwood

Image of Cameron Diaz courtesy of Ian

Image of Midpoint Cafe sign courtesy of Peer Lawther

11 replies
  1. Christopher Y
    Christopher Y says:

    “Without a Midpoint in place to shift your story, you won’t have the catalyst needed to push your protagonist from being a “wanderer” to being a “warrior” (more on this soon).”

    Jennifer, I think you’ve put your finger on the essential function of the Midpoint. It drives the story and at the same time (and just as importantly) it’s a major stepping stone in the development of the protagonist’s character arc.

    One Midpoint that I noticed, and constantly refer to, after learning about Midpoints in Story Engineering, is in the movie Jaws. This is when Police Chief Brody makes the decision to hire Quint and his boat to go hunt down the shark and kill it. The scene where this happens is around 63 minutes into the movie, which is 124 minutes long.

    Everything changes from here. Up to this point, Brody has been playing defence, trying to learn about sharks, trying to close beaches, organising shark spotters and so on. But he has always stayed on dry land—he admits quite early on that he doesn’t like the ocean (and we also know that he took this job because he wanted a quiet life). Now, he’s made the decision to go on the offensive, and this means finding it in himself to literally leave his comfort zone. This also changes the whole environment of the movie. We are taken from the little town, crowded with 4th of July holidaymakers, out into the wide open ocean, empty except for the shark and the boat with its three passengers.

    Thanks, Jennifer. Looking forward to your thoughts on Pinch Points.

    Reply
    • Jennifer Blanchard
      Jennifer Blanchard says:

      @Christopher The Jaws midpoint is a perfect example of how important this story moment is. It’s HUGE! It changes the entire story. And it’s interesting to contrast different midpoints, because some pack a lot more punch than others. In Jaws, as you mentioned, the midpoint is a slight shift, but it’s major. And then there are midpoints where you find out who the real antagonist is and it blows your mind. Midpoints can be slight shifts, or they can be huge shifts, but a shift of some kind definitely has to occur. Thanks for sharing that example with us!

      Reply

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  1. […] that something shows up as the Midpoint of the movie–when we find out what’s really been going on. Who she really is. What […]

  2. […] is part three in a four-part series on story structure. You can read part one here and part two here. To learn more about story structure, be sure to sign up to receive a free copy of the eBook, How […]

  3. […] is the final post in a four-part series on story structure. You can read part one here, part two here and part three here. To learn more about story structure, be sure to opt-in to receive a free […]

  4. […] The Moment In Your Story That Changes Everything […]

  5. […] As a writer, you need to educate yourself on the whole picture of how to tell a story that works. Up next in part two of this series: the Midpoint. […]

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