Midpoints that impel the story onwards


We are at the letter M in our series on “Authors’ Tips – A to Z of Writing

If you’ve read the previous posts on the subject, you’ll recall that the eight of us – Devika Fernando, Preethi Venugopala, Paromita Goswami, Adite Banerjie, Ruchi Singh, Sudesna Ghosh, Saiswaroopa Iyer and I – are blogging on a myriad of writing-related topics with the topic corresponding to the Alphabet of the Week.

This week I’m going to talk about how to write a midpoint that keeps the reader turning the pages.

As the word suggests, the midpoint of a story comes right at the center of it.
How should it be written?
Why should we care?

Regardless of what genre we write, the first quarter of the story is invariably where the characters are introduced to the reader and where the events that complicate the main characters’ lives take place.

This part is the set-up to the second quarter of the story which highlights how the characters react to the life-altering events (job offer, job loss, tragedy, natural disaster, unexpected inheritance) that beset them.

Their reactions drive the story forward – if they don’t react, there will be no story.

The first half is, thus, full of drama and conflict with challenge after varied challenge forcing the characters to struggle – and it, in its own turn, sets the stage for the second half of the story.

In the third quarter of the story, the character is usually seen as taking charge of the narrative. Something prompts her to change and to become proactive about the challenges being thrown her way. That ‘something‘ forms the midpoint of the story.

Here are some tips on writing a great midpoint:

  • The midpoint is a dramatic event – something horrible happens and it reveals to the character that she has to change tack otherwise she risks losing it all.

  • The event marks the transition of the character from one who was defensive (in the second quarter of the story) to one who goes on the offensive (in the third quarter).

  • The midpoint event can be action-packed or emotional, literal or figurative, depending on the genre you’re writing, but it should be compelling enough for the character to silence her inner demons or to temporarily disregard them, and also for her to decide that she is going to face up to her external challenges and try to conquer them.

  • If the character is floundering before the midpoint, she attempts, after that point, to take control of her life – as a result, the direction of the story changes in an exciting way. If what happens at the midpoint is not exciting or dramatic, the story tends to sag about the middle.

  • Be careful to create a midpoint that is plausible – even if the midpoint crisis comes as a surprise to the reader, in retrospect, the reader should be able to see how the events of the first half of the story led up to it.

  • While you’re crafting the midpoint, just remember that the character still has to face the climax of the story. The climax is the biggest challenge that she’ll encounter, so try not to make the midpoint more dramatic or more devastating than the climax.

What else can one do to tighten up the midpoint? I’d love to learn some new ways – do share!

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