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JJ Barnes – Writing Advice

Free writing advice – writers supporting writers

By - JJBarnes

Writing Your Midpoint – Story Structure Advice

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I’ll be writing about the video How To Write Your Midpoint in your book or script SPOILERS – Titanic Captain America: Winter Soldier, from the writing advice series I’m doing on YouTube with Jonathan McKinney.

The midpoint in your story comes when you’ve done all the set up in your story, you have got your Protagonist and your Antagonist locked in conflict, and they’re both motivated towards achieving what they want to achieve.

Your first act is setting up what they want, the second act is where they start to pursue it, and the third act is where they’ve learned what they need to learn to go about getting it. Your midpoint comes at a point where your story pivots into a new setting or a new scenario.

The midpoint comes half way through your second act, and sometimes the midpoint is so game changing that writers will opt for a four act structure as the midpoint breaks act two into two clear and distinct parts. It’s fine to have three or four acts, as long as your midpoint works to reframe your story.

This pivot can happen in a number of different ways. The film Titanic is an excellent example of how you can use your midpoint. You start your story following Jack and Rose and their love story, then at an hour and a half into the three hour movie, they crash into an ice berg which changes the entire story.

At the midpoint of Titanic, the story changes from Jack and Rose falling in love and wanting to find a way to be together, to wanting to find a way to survive. It’s very effective and offers immediate high stakes for the story, and works as superb motivation for your characters as you head towards the third act.

The midpoint in Titanic doesn’t completely derail the initial motivation of the characters, they still are in love and they still want to find a way to be together, but it has shifted and reframed their experiences and motivation due to the potential for imminent death.

A second example of an effective use of the midpoint in your story can be seen in Captain America: Winter Soldier. Throughout the first half you follow Steve Rogers as he realises he’s being hunted and he’s developing suspicions about SHIELD, then an hour and fifteen minutes he finds out that HYDRA have infiltrated SHIELD decades ago. It changes the entire conflict.

Learning something at the midpoint, something that totally reshapes your story even if your characters at their core are still pursuing the same thing just in a different landscape, is a really good way of looking at it. In Titanic, Jack and Rose still want to be together but now they’ve learned they’re also sinking. in Captain America: Winter Soldier, Steve still wants to find Bucky but now he’s doing it having learned that HYDRA have infiltrated SHIELD.

A shocking or story changing revelation at the midpoint is fuel for conflict as you go into the second half of Act Two, which you risk being boring if you don’t have good conflict. It can be focused on conversations about what they need to do with the information they have learned as a way of setting up to go into Act Three where they go into active pursuit, such as in Avengers: Age Of Ultron when they spend time at Hawkeye’s house. But a good midpoint can be like rocket fuel as you go into the second half.

So, in your story, when you want to write a good clear midpoint, which I recommend putting time and effort into because it’s exciting and draws your audience in by flipping the story then hurtling you towards the third act, think of it like a pivot. You build up to this revelation flip, then you fall back down towards the climax dealing with that change that happened.

Something to remember is that if your word count isn’t putting your midpoint exactly in the middle, it really won’t ruin your story. There is always flexibility with story structure so don’t get too bogged down with worrying about trying to get it at exactly half way through. But it’s a good guide to try and work to for the most effective use of the midpoint.

You can find more writing advice on our YouTube channel where we’ll be releasing a piece of writing advice every day to help you become a better and more confident writer. If you have any writing questions, comment below and we will try to do a video for every question we get!

Click the picture to find details about all the books written by JJ Barnes and where to buy them.

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