If your book sags in the middle, understanding the midpoint scene Aristotle described in his classic plot structure will help you trim the flab and whip your story into shape. If you’ve read Plotting a Novel in Three Acts, you know that the second Act is the longest (at 50% of the story). So, besides ocurring in the middle of the book, the aptly-named midpoint scene also sits smack in the middle of Act 2. Up until this point conflicts have built at a steady pace, but now the wind-down begins.
Plotting a Novel in Three Acts: Midpoint Scene
Another name for this scene is the reversal, because at this point the main character stops merely reacting to the change introduced at the inciting incident and begins to take a proactive stance.
The midpoint scene in Gone with the Wind comes when Scarlett returns home after escaping the burning of Atlanta only to find her mother dead, her father out of his wits, her sisters ill, Tara looted, and the world she knew gone forever. Rhett, who she thought would protect her instead has abandoned her just when she needs him most. The slaves, much of Tara’s finery, and the life she knew, are gone forever.
Starving, Scarlett discovers a lone radish in the vegetable garden and desperately devours it, only to retch. This is Scarlett’s dark night of the soul. How will she survive? It seems hopeless. Before we go further, take a moment and watch this masterful scene.
Instead of surrendering, Scarlett raises her fist to heaven and promises that she and her folk will survive. While the tactics she mentions might not be ideal, her zeal to live comes through loud and clear. Scarlett grew up as a pampered, spoiled southern belle with suitors waiting on her hand and foot, and her father wrapped around her little finger. And yet she was in a sense powerless, since she had to manipulate men to make any gains. The reversal she makes is that she now has stopped looking for the men in her life to save her.
A well-written midpoint scene forces your main character’s back to the wall, where the only answer is to tap her inner strength and take a stand or lose everything. The scene is life-changing. Never again will your protagonist allow herself to be pushed around by forces that prevent her from attaining the sought-after goal, the desire of her heart. Because of this one scene, the outcome of the story changes. The reader knows it will be a struggle but victory will come.
Related Plotting Articles
- Next: Plotting a Novel in Three Acts: The Black Moment
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