We’ve seen that the First Plot Point comes at the end of Act I, the 25% mark of our story. During the first half of Act II (recall, Act II comprises 50% of our novel) our protagonist and his allies react to the First Plot Point. H.R. D’Costa refers to the key scenes of Act IIA as try-fail cycles. This brings us to the Midpoint, AKA the Second Plot Point (the Third Plot Point comes at the end of Act IIB).
What should happen at the Midpoint? In sum, it’s a scene where everything changes once again. This is the end of our protagonist’s reacting. It’s the time his mindset transforms into a take-charge attitude. It’s the time his behavior pivots from reaction to action. Think of it as our second Inciting Incident.
Just as the first Inciting Incident causes the First Plot Point, the Midpoint follows the same logical, A causes B, pattern. It is a natural consequence of what has come before. Further, the Midpoint continues this causal chain by starting a chain of events that lead our protagonist to the story’s climax. But, the Midpoint is uniquely different from the many try-fail cycles of Act IIA.
It is important to keep in mind the one thing that doesn’t change throughout our novel until the very end: our protagonist is pursuing his goal. Whether you are writing Act IIA or Act IIB, our main character is on one key mission, whether he is in the reactive or active mode. However, the Midpoint is a dramatic and clarifying moment, one that will move our main character closer or farther away from accomplishing his goal. Either way, the event intensifies the protagonist’s commitment and determination.
D’Costa refers to the Midpoint event as the fulcrum. The Dictionary defines this word as “the pivot about which a lever turns.” The fulcrum event involves the protagonist or an ally (or both). It could be an attempted murder, a kidnapping, a near-fatal boating accident. The antagonist (or antagonistic force) has at least a minimum connection to the Midpoint event.
In my current work in progress, there is an explosion and fire that, on first consideration, appears accidental. It turns out, it’s not.
As a new writer, you quickly learn that Act II is the hardest part of creating a novel. Why? It consumes 200 pages of your 400-page book. It is where many a writer ‘hits the wall,’ and frequently tosses his manuscript into the trash. It’s the perfect place for your readers to get bored and grab another novel from their TBR (to be read) stack.
Having a dramatic and unique Midpoint is a key antidote for writer and reader.