Think of every story as two halves where the first half is the opposite of the second half. In the first half of any good story, the hero is trying to accomplish something and finally succeeds. Then the second half is about where things start rapidly falling apart despite the hero’s success. That’s why the midpoint of every story is a False Victory.
For example, in “Captain Phillips,” the first half of the story is about keeping the pirates off the ship and when that fails, getting them off. By the midpoint, they’ve succeeded, except things get worse when they take the captain hostage and get off the ship in a lifeboat. The first half story is about getting the pirates off the ship. The second half story is about saving Captain Phillips.
In “Star Wars,” the first half of the story is about getting to Princess Leia’s planet, but that fails and they wind up getting caught by the Death Star. Then the second half story is about getting off the Death Star.
There are always two goals in a story where the midpoint represents the False Victory or false goal, and the second half represents the real goal that was initiated in the beginning by the villain. In “Captain Phillips,” the villain’s original goal was to take the ship and the crew hostage. By the end, the villain’s goal is roughly the same, which is to get a ransom for taking Captain Phillips hostage.
In “Star Wars,” Darth Vader’s ultimate goal was always to find the rebel base so he can blow it up and Princess Leia’s ultimate goal was always to get the stolen Death Star plans to the rebels so they can find a weakness and blow it up. The midpoint goal simply represents a false goal that helps lead to the real goal in the end.
In “Die Hard,” the first half of the story is about the hero trying to contact the police. Even though he succeeds, that doesn’t solve his real problem of getting back with his wife, so the second half story is about fighting the terrorists on his own without the help of the police.
In “WALL-E,” the first half of the story is about getting Eve to fall in love with the hero. In the second half of the story, the goal is to get the human race back to Earth.
Every story is really two stories in one. There’s the main goal (usually initiated by the villain) that defines how the story begins and ends. Then there’s the secondary goal (usually initiated by the hero) that forces the hero to pursue a goal that leads to a False Victory where it seems to solve the hero’s problem, but doesn’t. In “Captain Phillips,” getting the pirates off the ship is the goal, but then this doesn’t solve the problem after the pirates take the captain hostage in the lifeboat.
Design your story with these two halves in mind. The second half essentially is the opposite of the first half. In “Alien,” the first half is about getting the alien off the ship. In the second half, it’s about getting the humans off the ship. “Captain Phillips” is the same pattern. The first half is getting the pirates off the ship and the second half is about getting the hero off the lifeboat safely.
Think of your overall story in two halves that are opposites. This will help structure you story properly and keep your overall story unified until the end.