Story Structure: Writing the Midpoint [Novel Boot Camp #6]

The midpoint is the second major plot point or turning point in a novel. It happens right in the middle of the story and helps to refresh and rejuvenate the plot. In this video I explain the purpose behind the midpoint and how it might play out within your story.

Video Highlights

  • The midpoint occurs at the 50% mark.
  • It changes the context of the story by revealing information about the antagonistic force. In other words, the reader learns something that has been affecting the novel all along without the reader’s awareness (the antagonist’s plan or identity, a major secret of the protagonist’s, etc.).
  • The midpoint refreshes the story by forcing the protagonist to move in a new direction or solve a new problem. Alternatively, it changes the reader’s perception of the protagonist’s actions.
  • The midpoint marks the protagonist’s transition from reactive to proactive. In the first half of the book the protagonist is reacting to the antagonistic force and trying to avoid harm, but after the midpoint the protagonist moves towards defeating the antagonistic force.

Questions to Ask About Your Novel

1. Is there a major or subtle reveal at the midpoint that changes the context of what came before?

This may be a reveal about the protagonist (especially in literary fiction). For example, the reader may learn for the first time that the protagonist is an unreliable narrator or that the protagonist is pursuing a goal for a previously secret reason. More likely, the reveal at the midpoint will have something to do with the antagonist’s plan or identity, such as the character realizing for the first time what the antagonist is trying to achieve. It might also be the discovery of a vital clue.

2. Does the character become more proactive after the midpoint?

After the reveal at the midpoint of the novel, the protagonist should move towards defeating the antagonistic force in a way that is more active than was previously possible. For example, a character who discovers the identity of the antagonist can now move towards defeating him/her while previously that was impossible because the protagonist didn’t know the antagonist.

If you have any questions about writing the midpoint, please post it in the comments below.


Comment Question: Do you find you omit the midpoint in your writing? Can you think of any novels or films with interesting midpoint reveals?

Workshop #1 critiques will be posted later today and every day this week. If you didn’t get a chance to submit last week, the submission form is still open!

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4 thoughts on “Story Structure: Writing the Midpoint [Novel Boot Camp #6]

  1. Brett Mumford says:

    My midpoint plot twist is a little later than midway, but it does serve to provide a motivation to the main character. In some ways, it confirms her theory, but takes it in a direction she had not even speculated on. If I write it correctly, it should drive up the tension for her interactions with her peers and friends.

    Your description of how this part of the novel works to connect the beginning to the end is good to hear. All I have had to work with is my own ideas of how it should work and the confirmation is very gratifying.

  2. Andrew says:

    i think the midpoint in 1984 is a pretty big one…. *SPOILERS*SPOILERS* (why haven’t you read 1984 yet?!)

    – when we find out that the person who has been secretly watching and reporting Julia and Winston in their secret safe room is O’Brien. it’s important because, even though we are surprised that they have been discovered, and were being monitored, we find out that they were being monitored by someone (O’Brien) who they trusted as an ally. Now Winston realizes that there is nobody, at all, who can be trusted, as he fully trusted O’Brien. at first Winston’s resolve is hardened, and he resists conforming, and double-speak… but eventually, O’Brien’s betrayal eats away at his resolve, and he ends up believing that nobody can be trusted, except for Big Brother…

  3. Nicole L Ochoa says:

    My midpoint is fairly major. It is revealed to the reader that my protagonist’s boyfriend had planned to propose to her shortly before he died, but never got the chance. The reader also learns that my antagonist as a similarly painful past. It is at this point in the story that my protagonist decides to open her heart to new love, but only after a visit back to her home town and a talk with her old boyfriend’s/fiance’s family.

    Midpoints in Novels
    I picked three books on my shelf that I love and opened them up to the middle pages to see what was happening, this is what I found.

    by: Catherine Marshall
    The main characters discover two good people in the community are involved in the moonshine trade that is plaguing Cutter Gap.

    The Picture of Dorian Gray
    by: Oscar Wilde
    The artist who did Dorian’s portrait as come to get it to display at a collection, but Dorian has it hidden because it has become disfigured.

    by: Daphne Du Maurier
    A ball is held at the mansion and the portagonist comes down dressed in a gown that not only shocks her husband, but angers him and she doesn’t know why…spoiler alert…it is revealed that it was the same gown his deceased wife wore, unbeknownst to the protagonist).

  4. Pam Portland (@TruckingWriter) says:

    I’m a bit behind on the daily questions, but playing catch-up today. In my two previous works, there is definitely a midpoint reveal. In fact, listening to Ellen describe the purpose and the impact of the midpoint makes me feel my previous works were on point. However, I’m a good distance from the midpoint in my current project. As best as I can tell, the midpoint is probably not halfway through the protagonist’s travels, but the point at which she realizes her job is emotionally killing her and she has to divorce her company. Once that happens, she takes on much more individual responsibility, has much bigger life setbacks, and the action may signal the demise of the familiar world she has known.

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