By the middle of your story, everything should look like your hero is going to succeed. Then immediately afterwards, everything starts falling apart rapidly. The reason for this is for contrast. You want to give your audience hope that your hero’s problems are finally solved, then there’s nothing more dramatic than completely wrecking the hero’s plans. Watch any movie for the greatest hope for the hero in the middle and then wait for the immediate disaster soon afterwards.
The midpoint in “Avatar” occurs when the hero makes love to the alien female. As soon as he wakes up, that’s when he sees bulldozers razing the forest so he attacks the bulldozer and gets caught on video.
The midpoint in “The Martian” occurs when the hero has finally succeeded in growing potatoes in the Martian soil, only to have his greenhouse suddenly burst open and the cold air kills all his potato crops.
The midpoint in “Die Hard” occurs when the hero finally contacts the police to let them know about the terrorists, and then the terrorists proceed to completely wipe out the SWAT team sent to rescue the hostages.
In the first half of your story, your hero goes through four main stages:
- Hero has a goal but no way of achieving it
- Hero meets a Symbol of Hope created by the villain that provides a path for the hero
- Hero learns new skills in a new world
- Hero looks like he or she will meet with success
The second half of your story is where the hero’s plans start to fall apart:
- Hero survives a major setback
- Hero starts losing
- Time starts to run out for the hero
- The hero makes one last desperate attempt to succeed
In the first half of your story, you want your hero to succeed so the audience cheers and roots for him or her. Then the second half of your story is where everything falls apart because this creates suspense as the audience wants to know how the hero can possibly succeed as things get progressively worse. This sets up the final climax in the end.
Divide your story in half and make sure the first half creates optimism and the second half creates pessimism. This will create the most suspense for your story that will keep people waiting for the end.