Let’s talk about your midpoint. Assuming your script clocks in at 100 – 110 pages, this will happen somewhere between pages 50 to 55. The first part of Act Two saw our protagonist struggle to get their bearings in this new environment, try to advance their goal, and make quite a few mistakes. (If you need a refresher on the first part of Act Two, you can find it right here.) That’s why the midpoint is often an “up” moment.
The protagonist has finally figured it out. They’ve proven to all of the doubters that they can do this new job by landing a huge new client, or they’ve proven to themselves that they can live alone by fixing their own faucet or that they can navigate this alien world by knocking out a lizard man or that they can solve this case because they just found the missing clue that sets the investigation on a whole new course.
They are proud of themselves and they feel good, maybe for the first time since entering Act Two. Their new allies are there to celebrate with them. Yup, the midpoint is good to our protagonist.
But it is also often where something unexpected comes along to force your character to zig when they wanted to zag – something that may fundamentally change the nature of the story, such as a revelation or turnaround.
Apart from plot, let’s not overlook that the midpoint is also when the protagonist generally becomes aware of and accepts their character flaw – but they don’t know how to solve it yet. Yep, we’re talking character arc.
Let’s use one of our favorite Star Trek spoofs by way of example — GALAXY QUEST. We learn right up top what people think of Tim Allen’s character Jason Nesmith — He’s a washed-up narcissistic hack. By the midpoint, he comes to accept this truth. And it is only by becoming Captain Taggart for real and solving the crisis that he gets his mojo back (and gets to take his shirt off in the process.)
If you’re struggling with your protagonist’s character flaw, check out our column on setup.