You know when you get to the middle and everything just… sags? No, I'm not talking about your not-so-young-anymore midsection, but rather the center of your work in progress. Saggy story middles can turn off a reader enough to make them drop the book and move on. Why? Because, instinctively, we know that something must change halfway through the story—we know our characters can't keep running away from what chases them. They have to fight back.
But fight back from what? In a good story, the midpoint is the moment of truth. This moment of truth halfway through the novel is when the main character realizes the real conflict of the story. This realization will cause them to change fromreacting to trials to proactively solving them. They are taking a different stance in the story, and you can tell just by how they act that something has changed within them.
In the first half of the book, you will notice they are confused, frustrated, afraid, or alone, while in the second half of the book, they will often be determined, make plans, possibly have a team behind them, and have a pronounced sense of knowledge about what they are up against. Take Disney's Tarzan as an example. In the film's first half, he is confused about his identity and why he does not look like the other gorillas. The midpoint is when he meets another human for the first time, Jane, and for the rest of the film, he is actively trying to understand this new world and where he fits inside it.
If you find that your story is falling flat near the middle, the first thing you want to evaluate is your midpoint moment. Ask yourself:
Is there a precise moment of truth? Is it at the 50% mark?
Does my character visibly change from the first half (reactive) to the second (proactive)?
Sometimes we have a moment of truth halfway through the novel, but it isn't a truth strong enough to thrust the protagonist into action. That brings up the question of why we need a midpoint/moment of truth in the first place, and the answer is because we can only watch our character get beaten down for so long before we get bored, or it just feels too depressing. The midpoint caps these reactive emotions to trials and puts the character on an active journey to the plot's climax—the moment when they will conquer.
Let's not forget the reader! Although our character is going on a journey, the reader is going on a journey too. The best midpoint moments are ones the reader did not expect. If the reader can predict what the character fails to see, they will be frustrated. On the contrary, how can you be mad at a character for not seeing the twist you didn't catch yourself?
By the midpoint, the reader should have a clear idea of the climactic moment of this journey so they have something to look forward to. Anticipation is exciting. Anticipation keeps people reading.
There you have it! No longer will your story be the couch potato of books. You can do away with saggy middles when you implement a midpoint where the character takes charge of the story and aggressively goes against the antagonistic force.
Melissa Hope is passionate about helping writers improve their craft and connect with the writing community. She escaped the frostbite normalcy of Canadian winters to live in Florida with her family, bipolar cat, and growing collection of scuba gear.
Visit her website www.authormelissahope.com to watch free writing tutorials.