WRITING KNOWHOW A Moment on Midpoints

What do you know about story midpoints? Jo E. Verrill has a quick delve into this essential piece of story structure

What’s the most important part of your story? Is it the beginning, which must be hookier than Captain Hook’s hook at a hook convention? Or the ending, which must leave the reader exhilarated, satisfied and (most importantly) tapping frantically at Amazon to get the next instalment.

Both are undoubtedly significant. However, if some of the most famous models of storytelling are to be believed, you should be putting just as much focus on the middle (or midpoint).

Next time you’re reading a book, or watching a movie, look out for the biggest popcorn-dropper moment. Stop the player/look at the page number and note when that happens. It’s probably (pretty much) slap bang in the middle. 

For example, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, at the midpoint is the famous Quidditch match where Harry’s broomstick goes billy bonkers, seemingly at the hands of the mysterious Snape. In Star Wars, at the midpoint the heroes’ ship begins to be sucked into the Death Star. 

Why is the midpoint so important? Stories depict characters embarking on a journey.  It might be as simple as a journey to find out the truth, such as in a whodunnit. Or it might be a more literal journey, like going into a cave to rescue a magical crystal. Whatever happens, on this journey they will (generally) learn and/or change. 

The midpoint is, literally, the middle of this internal and external journey. Your hero is transforming, and the midpoint will provide a key test of where they’ve got to. Usually this proves they’re not quite there yet, and transformation continues.

The midpoint is sometimes a party, or gathering, which gives the main character a chance to air the ‘new’ them. It might be at this point in the story the character appears to have won, or lost. But they absolutely haven’t. Instead, the stakes are raised, and time bombs start a-ticking. They might think it’s all over…but there’s more to come.

For further reading on midpoints, I recommend the fabulously readable Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody.

Picture credit: © Lynda Sanchez on Unsplash


Jo E. Verrill is an enthusiastic writer of humorous books for children, and an advertising and broadcasting standards consultant. 

1 comment:

  1. Great post - thanks. I've also found Novel Metamorphosis by Darcy Pattison really helpful. She has a list of suggestions for what she calls 'Sagging Middles'.


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