Tag Archives: point of no return

How to Write Your Story’s Midpoint

A halfway line on a playing field

Halfway Line

Although much has been written about the midpoint, not least of all in this blog, it is a crucial structural element in a story that deserves revisiting.

Midpoint/Moment of Illumination/Point of No Return

The middle of a story is the point in which the Hero makes an important decision: She can choose to turn back from the path she has been following, or, choose to press on, but with renewed insight and illumination stemming from an event that causes her to reassess her situation and her inner approach to it.

Unlike the first or second turning point, the midpoint does not necessarily involve a huge climax or intense action scene. What it does do is: cause the Hero to reassess the quest, have the Hero consider giving up, lead the Hero to realize that she must continue, have her formulate a new or more specific plan of action, have her commit to this new goal in a way that she can not back out of, have her learn something new about her innermost self.

Film Examples

In Field of Dreams, the midpoint occurs at the baseball game with Terence Mann, when Ray notices the sign about Archibald ‘Doc’ Graham, then hears, once more, the voice saying ‘Go the distance’. In The Crying Game, the midpoint occurs when Fergus uncovers Dill’s physical secret. In both cases, there is a strong inner, or, psychological aspect to the midpoint.

Typically, the midpoint changes a crucial aspect in the Hero’s inner life that impacts on her outer life: if she was not in control, she seizes control, if she was uncommitted, she becomes committed, if she was a victim, she decides to hit back, if she was hunted, she becomes the hunter, if she was delusional, she starts to deal with reality, if she was defeated by the goal, she begins a new struggle to achieve it. In this sense, then, the midpoint brings the inner and outer journeys together by fusing self-illumination to a plan of action, which leads to her achieving the story goal.

Summary

The midpoint is not only the half-way point of the story in terms of length, it is also the moment in which the Hero reassesses her situation, regathers her strengthen and resources, and presses on with renewed insight and wisdom.