Every story starts off innocent enough, but about halfway through, there’s a sudden twist. This twist reveals the real goal of the villain.
In the first half of the story, there are plenty of hints of what the villain is doing, but it isn’t until the halfway point that we learn exactly what’s going on. In the first half of “Die Hard,” we think a bunch of terrorists have taken over a skyscraper to hold hostages for random. Only later do we discover that the terrorists plan to blow the hostages up on the roof to create a diversion so they can escape with corporate bonds.
In “The Menu,” the hero joins a man to have dinner at an exclusive restaurant located on an island. At first, this dinner seems normal but the first sign something isn’t right is when people request bread with their meal but the waiters and waitresses refuse.
Then the sudden twist arrives when we realize the head chef isn’t just providing a glamorous dinner for his guests, but he’s also planning to kill all of them.
That’s a twist that completely reveals the villain’s real goal.
Pick any good movie and there’s always the halfway point where the villain’s actions suddenly get darker and more sinister. Even in a comedy like “Legally Blonde,” the first half of the story lulls us into thinking the hero is just attending law school to win back her ex-boyfriend. Then by the halfway point, things get more serious as the hero gets picked by her law professor to help on an actual court case.
Suddenly the hero isn’t just struggling to pass her classes but she’s fighting to prove the innocence of an actual client. Then her law professor propositions her for sex in exchange for passing his class. That suddenly raises the stakes.
Up until the halfway point, the hero can always back away and give up with no problems. In “Star Wars,” Luke could have given up halfway through and nothing bad would have happened to him. But the moment he blasts off in the Millennium Falcon (the halfway point), he’s committed and reaches the point of no return.
So in your story, identify the halfway point. You already know what your story is about, so the first half of the story is about disguising what your villain actually wants to do. Then reveal this sinister plot in the second half of the story to provide a twist.
The halfway point of your story is crucial. In the first half, your hero faces little risk. In the second half, your hero faces increasing danger, and that’s what keeps your story holding the audience’s attention until the end.