Structure Series #7: Midpoint

Keepin’ the wheels a-turnin’…

Story Engineering Model (four-part story model): Midpoint, the turning point in the… umm… middle.

OK, we’re halfway there! It’s time for a revelation, for our hero, and our reader, to keep us plugging along. The midpoint serves up a new bit of information that changes the understanding of the reader, or of the hero, or of both. It is a sneak peek into the inner workings of the story.

The Midpoint ushers us from Part Two into Part Three, and this is where we need another shift in context. Our hero has been responding, and he is about to begin attacking. He was a wanderer, and now becomes a warrior. This is an exciting point in our story.

Laundry list of things to accomplish at this ‘hump day’ of our manuscript:

  • Revelation – Increased awareness is the boon of the Midpoint, for our hero or our reader (likely both). New information enters the story squarely in the middle that changes the contextual experience and understanding of our readers and/or characters. An a-ha moment, so to speak. The midpoint can be a huge twist in the plot, but it can also be a very subtle shift. Either way, things get bigger. Stakes get higher. Tension ratchets up another level.
    • Is there something we’ve been keeping a secret from our reader? Now might be the place to insert it.
    • Is our hero in the dark regarding something essential to his survival? This might be his saving moment. Turn on the flashlight and let him see. Open his eyes.
    • Sometimes letting the reader in before the hero is very effective as a story-tensioner.
  • Catalyst for Change of Context – The Midpoint ushers us from response mode into attack mode, but our hero is also transformed here from his wanderer self to his warrior self, finally throwing himself into the battle with guns blazing.
    • Each of our Plot Points (First, Mid-, Second) are context shifts.
      • Our story focus goes from:
        • Setup -> Response -> Attack -> Resolution
      • And our hero goes from being:
        • Orphan -> Wanderer -> Warrior -> Martyr
    • We will continually refer to these context shifts.
    • Think of them as the thick poles of a heavy teepee, 3 essential to stability.
      • Remember that plot twists can be anywhere, but MUST be at these designated spots!
    • However, the Midpoint is different from the other plot points. If the plot points are the three poles of the teepee, the Midpoint is special: it is the parting of the curtain so that we can see inside the teepee. A little glimpse where our hero or reader get to see who’s pulling the strings, the inner machinations of the plot-monster (that’s us).
      • The Midpoint may not change anything in the story, but it is a game-changer. This new information changes the reader’s or hero’s understanding of what’s happening, because to date, they’ve been kept in the dark.
      • Again, leaving the hero in the dark a little longer than the reader can really keep the pages turning.

One of these points bears repeating: It is possible that the Midpoint changes nothing. It is entirely possible that the something that is revealed was there all along, but our heroes and readers were just not privy to it until now. It’s a wild world out here in story land, but even though it feels like the middle should be the climax, that is not often the case. The Midpoint is hugely important, but not always hugely active. What’s behind our curtain?

Here’s a slightly more abbreviated outline of the MidPoint and its missions, all in a neat little pdf package, complete with space for you to make some notes on your own story: Four-Part Story Structure – Midpoint (#4)

To view a chronological listing of the posts in this series, continue below:

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