Define the Midpoint to Structure Your Story

When most people get an idea for a story, they rush to write the screenplay. This usually lasts for 20 pages or so before the writer runs out of ideas and winds up with a complete mess of a screenplay that will have to be heavily edited to salvage it.

Here’s a better way to write a story. First, define your ending. Once you know your ending, you automatically know the beginning (and vice versa). The beginning and ending must represent opposite extremes. In romantic comedies, the hero is always lonely and alone in the beginning. By the end, the hero has found true love.

Sometimes the beginning and ending represent a journey. In “Little Miss Sunshine,” the beginning shows the hero wishing she could compete in a beauty pageant. By the end, the hero has finally competed in a beauty pageant.

Always start by defining the beginning and the end of your story as opposite extremes. Then define the middle or midpoint of your story. The midpoint serves two purposes:

  • The midpoint represents success for the hero
  • More importantly, the midpoint foreshadows the ending

In “The Hunger Games,” the midpoint occurs when Katniss talks with Peeta the night before the Hunger Games. This is the first time Katniss has had an honest an open conversation with anyone, and it represents a high point as she starts changing from being closed off from others to opening herself up to others.

More importantly, this midpoint scene foreshadows the ending. Peeta tells Katniss that he doesn’t want the Hunger Games to change him and he wants to show the government that he’s not a pawn they can use. Then in the end, Katniss and Peeta agree to kill themselves to deny the government a winner, which is how Peeta can keep the Hunger Games from changing him into a killer and to show the government that they can’t control him.

Study the midpoint of any good movie and you’ll often find that the midpoint foreshadows the ending. In “Top Gun: Maverick,” the midpoint occurs when Maverick gets his Top Gun pilots to work together as a team to play beach football. This foreshadows the ending when Maverick gets the Top Gun pilots to work together to perform a dangerous mission.

In “Terminator 2,” the midpoint occurs when John Connor and the hero (the good Terminator) rescue Sarah Connor from the asylum. To get away from the villain (the liquid metal Terminator), the hero uses a shotgun. Then in the end, the hero uses a shotgun to defeat the villain by knocking him off balance so he falls into a vat of molten steel.

When structuring your own story, start with the beginning and the end. Once you know the end, foreshadow that end with the midpoint. When you know your beginning, your midpoint, and your ending, filling in the gaps will be so much easier. If you don’t now your beginning, ending, or midpoint, writing your story will be much harder because you won’t have any guide posts to help direct your story.

Sign up to take a FREE course about how to write scenes in a screenplay.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.