Monday, April 28, 2014

Crafting Your Best Story - Writing Tip #6 - Midpoint Reversal

What is the midpoint? It’s just what it sounds like. It’s the middle of Act 2, the middle of your book, 60minutes into a 120 minute movie. As writers, when we reach the midpoint, we know we are half way there. We can go celebrate with milk and chocolate chip cookies!
It’s also the point where you’re reminded that you still have half the book to write. But you got this far, you can make it the rest of the way.
So what exactly happens at midpoint?
Well, the story got kicked started early in chapter one (within the first 30 pages) with the inciting incident. Then we gave it another push at Plot Point 1 propelling us into Act 2. The thing about Act 2 is that it’s twice as long as Act 1 and 3, so even though there’s only three acts, the midpoint gives us four equal (ish) parts.
I like the phrase I first heard coined by author Janice Harding. She calls it the midpoint reversal, because ideally, something major should happen here to completely turn the story on its head, and throw the protagonist (main character) into a tizzy. It’s the lack of such of an event that creates what’s known as the saggy middle. You’ve probably read books like that (or maybe you’ve written books like that, I know I have), where you feel like skipping pages to get back to the exciting stuff.
Here’s a free tip. It should ALL be exciting stuff.
Planning a reversal of fortunes in the middle helps to give a story that extra punch.
To go back to TWILIGHT as one of our example stories, the midpoint reversal begins at the baseball game when James and co. show up. James gets a whiff of human Bella Swan and his primal nature kicks in. He wants her. And more than that, he wants to take her away from Edward. Now there is a brand new problem and the tension soars.
Let’s look at another popular book turned movie, HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S(SORCERER’S) STONE.
Since we didn’t cover this in earlier chapters, let’s quickly go over the Inciting Incident and PP1.
The inciting incident in the first Harry Potter book happens when Hagrid shows up to whisk Harry away to Hoggwarts. If this event didn't happen, Harry would’ve unhappily grown up living with the Dursley’s and the rest of the story wouldn’t have unfolded.
Plot Point 1 occurs when Harry and Ron rescue Hermione from the troll. This event forges their three-way friendship.
The midpoint of the first Harry Potter book happens when the three friends get past the three-headed dog and claim the stone that Voldmort is after. This is the reversal event because possession of the stone changes their position of power (now they have it) and it makes them, and especially Harry an even greater target of Voldemort's. Now they are in real danger, and the tension amps way up.
In HUNGER GAMES the midpoint happens at the Cornicopia. The Hunger Games begin and Katniss thinks Peeta has betrayed her.
The midpoint, or any of the major structure points, doesn’t always have to be a big external event. Sometimes it’s a more subtle, internal crisis.
In CLOCKWISE, the midpoint reversal isn’t anything that other people could witness, but it’s a huge game changer for Casey. Up to this point she and Nate were growing closer together through their adventures in the past. She’d been crushing on him since the beginning, but somewhere along the line those feelings became serious. And she believed Nate’s feelings towards her had changed as well. So when they finally go back to the present and Nate barely acknowledges her presence, it’s a blow that turns Casey around and causes some serious soul searching.
This is what the scene looks like.

-He drove into the school parking lot in his rusty ’82 BMW. It was great to see him in jeans and a hoodie again. He looked tired, but hot, hot, hot.

I waited by the door, wondering what he’d say to me, hoping he’d talk first, because I had no clue what to say.

He caught my eye. His mouth pulled up slightly at the corners, a sparkle in his countenance, an acknowledgment: we shared a secret.

Then his eyes flitted over my head to his jock friends and he brushed by me with a little nod. No one else would have noted our brief communication.

That was it. Just like I knew it would be. I was beneath him. Lucinda and I, we were minions on the totem pole of Cambridge High. Nate, he was perched on the very top.--

Can you identify your midpoint?
Next post is on, you guessed it, Plot Point Two.

No comments:

Post a Comment