Ah, middles. No, not mine. I really don’t want to talk about my waistline. I’m talking story middles. You know, that place where, if you aren’t careful, the story becomes a wasteland. After all, from the 1st Plot Point to the 3rd is SO far! Sometimes, in the belief we’re clever, there’s the temptation to hide the void by running characters around pointlessly.
The saggy middle. And, no, we’re still not talking about my waistline.
You know, the 50% marker, otherwise known as the Midpoint, Flip Point, Moment of Truth, Halfway Point, or, of course, the 2nd Plot Point. So many names! In many technical accounts it’s that moment when the protagonist realizes a central truth about the nature of the conflict.
Okay, I jest. That’s important. If you’ve ever read my posts, though, then you know my brain locks up in the face of technical direction. Talk to me in dramatic terms I can understand. That’s why, even when I understand the technical aspects, my mind eventually disassembles, then reassembles, a lot of advice.
Sometimes that means creating my own terms.
My view of the Midpoint is that it’s pretty difficult to have a wasteland in the middle of the story if there’s something amazing halfway across it. Whenever there’s a significant event, then there’s automatically buildup before it and fallout afterwards.
So much for the wasteland.
Think of that desert as a tectonic plate. The story is beginning to slow after the 1st Plot Point and then the plate slips and suddenly you have San Francisco in 1906. It doesn’t have to be that dramatic, but you get the idea.
That’s why I think of it as the story’s Major Shift Point.
For me, the truth about the central nature of the conflict is too impassive. That conjures a character reading a status report. “Oh, okay, yes, I see how it is now. Let’s increase production, maybe offer people some extra shifts.”
In Christina’s version, the Major Shift Point is a reminder that it’s time to shake-up the story. That same character is reading that same status report. “The fourteen workers who haven’t been showing up for work have, in truth, gone on killing sprees around the city?”
How much you shakeup the story, of course, depends on the story and its length.
In Taking Flight, for instance, a short story on this website, Clarta Baris has enough problems. Afraid of flying, she has to take an airship to speak before a large gathering. One terrifying undertaking in order to accomplish another. Worse, seated beside the last person she wants to run into, her secret is endangered. The simple solution is to keep to herself. At the Major Shift Point he not only draws her into conversation, but she forgets about her tendency to ramble.
In Riparia’s first novel in her series, Trust in the Forgotten, the Major Shift Point is a series of revelations that happen in quick succession. The first is discovering her destination bares no resemblance to what she was expecting. The second is learning there are expectations she can’t escape. The third strips away the principal defensive mechanisms she’d spent over a decade developing…
The room shifted. Faintness accelerated at a rate equal to the color draining out of the reflected face. “No.” She sank to her knees and covered her face. “Dear Genessa, no.” It couldn’t be, it couldn’t. “No! How could they do this to me?”
In Bk2, A River in Each Hand, there’s a monumental discovery that literally changes the nature of the mission at hand. All the more so because five people are at risk as a result. In the periphery novel to the series, Torment Surfacing, a catastrophic event leads to the infamous raft trip downriver that takes up most of the second half of the novel.
At the moment I’m toiling away on the Revision Map for Bk3, So Others Might Remember. The third book in the series is a unique beast because it, like all my stories, it has a Major Shift Point. At the same time, the entire novel is a Major Shift Point since there are to be five Riparia novels.
I’ve been having my own Major Shift Point dealing with that. After all, I drafted the novel almost two years ago.
Avoidance. How embarrassing.
It’s in So Others Might Remember that Riparia’s character arc, the novel, and the series share a common Major Shift Point, which is exciting, but daunting.
In the first draft, this is how it reads:
—Riparia was flailing, trying to grasp something, anything, solid, but it was as if she wasn’t solid or thoughts weren’t solid or—
She was trying to answer, but more powerful than the hands holding her to the floor were those trying to pull her down through it. There was screaming, screaming that wouldn’t stop, screaming that was her. Convulsing, she reached again, but the physical world had become relative.—
How significant is the moment? There are hints all the way back in Chapter One—of the first book, Trust in the Forgotten. That’s how long this has been building, though, Riparia was missing the clues until well into Bk2. It’s also significant because it ties directly to the end of Bk5, A Glorious Past Reimagined. I’d call that a really significant moment. A major shift.