How to Strategically Face Your Screenplay's Midpoint

'Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring'Credit: New Line Cinema
The midpoint should represent a shift in the story. 

When you're writing a screenplay, most people consider the second act to be the hardest part. You usually go in with an ending in mind, and writing act one can be the most fun. But when it comes to the second act, you often stare at the blinking cursor and wonder where to go. 

One of the reasons this happens is that you do not have a defined midpoint. 

The midpoint of your story represents the opportunity for the story to change, shift, or even leap forward. If you get there and nothing happens, you might have a lot to rewrite later. 

It's a really important part of the story that can make your life a lot easier if you know how to face it, and this video from Tyler Mowery wants to show you how. Check it out below and let's talk after the jump. 

How to Strategically Use Your Screenplay's Midpoint 

As the video states, the midpoint can represent a dramatic shift in your story. Lots of people like Blake Snyder see the midpoint as a false ending. You think the characters will solve their mission, only to have everything shift in a different way. 

The story is trundling along, and then bam. Something unexpected happens to throw everything off.

It can be when Indy finds the Ark, and then the Nazis take it. In Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, it's the Council of Elrond, where Frodo tries to give up the Ring but is then tasked with taking it further. When Curly dies in City Slickers. When Buzz and Woody get left behind in Toy Story.

You leave the audience wondering what could possibly happen next.

It can also be a moment when the entire plot shifts. In Alien, the midpoint is when the genre changes from science fiction to monster movie.

One thing that helps my writing is to pick my midpoint like I would pick my beginning or end. 

I like to think about the shift the midpoint will create. How can I change up what the audience thinks is going to happen? So when I outline or make a beat sheet, I pay close attention to the midpoint. 

How does your midpoint shift the story? 

How does it change the audience's perception? 

You can make it about a false ending or a different genre, but either way, you want to focus it on something dramatic happening. Think about a movie with almost no action, American Beauty. Its midpoint is when Lester quits his job and fully commits to his midlife crisis. 

Or how about Casablanca? The film's midpoint is when Ilsa tells Rick that she thought Viktor was dead, only to find out he was alive. This makes Rick and the audience reconsider her actions in Paris and understand who she might be now. 

All in all, you want to make your midpoint decisive and revealing. 

Think about how it can affect your character's emotions along with the plot. 

And get writing. 

What's next? Get our free screenwriting eBook

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