Last week I talked about what kind of stuff to stick in the middle section of stories.
Here's a tangent I found myself on, about the actual halfway mark:
Well, the middle bit almost always contains the actual halfway point of the story. In many stories this is a big moment that changes the course of the main character's life. Their story goal might change form. They might experience a big victory of some kind - not a complete victory of the story problem or fulfillment of their character arc - we still have lots of time left for that.
That halfway point, some say, is a good spot for the THEME to cross over with the literal story. It's why we'll often see the Protagonist kiss their love interest at this moment. I think I've mentioned before that apparently the old school screenwriters had the phrase “sex at sixty” to indicate this (the 60 page mark being the halfway point in a standard screenplay.
I notice in movies that the midpoint scene is a scene (or contains a scene) that feels different from the rest of the story. Kisses, sex, parties…in an action thrill ride of a story, it's a moment of quiet. In a small, quiet drama, it's a party. Quick, it's the Midpoint! Find someone to kiss!
I can sometimes recognize it in movies; usually it takes a couple viewings to know where it is (which is good; in a good story this structure stuff should be somewhat invisible to the audience. On the commentary to one of the last Avengers movies, the writers/directors have a humorous back and forth where they try to figure out where the midpoint is. It can get a bit murky even for the creators!
I think Shawshank Redemption's midpoint is where Andy broadcasts an opera record over the loudspeakers throughout the prison, giving the inmates of that bleak place an experience that lifts their spirits. Right after this is a scene where the main characters talk about hope, a big theme of the story, which will be important to have a a feel for to get the full emotional impact in the second half of the movie.
The midpoint of Thor: Ragnorok is the moment where the Hulk comes charging out into the arena to fight Thor.
The halfway point is an important, but often hard to recognize, part of a story.
Hope your day is good! Or…at least halfway decent…
Banes at 12:00AM, March 11, 2021
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