The midpoint is the most arguable of the story points in the classic three act structure. It’s the axis upon which the second act revolves, it clarifies the arc, the stakes, and the tone of the exploration of the script. Midpoints are incredibly useful, so they’re worth talking about.
The second act takes up 50% percent of a scripts length. You want this second act to showcase what you can do with a concept. It’s been said that a second act is what the story is about. The midpoint separates act two into two parts. Proponents of three act structure often talk about act one, act two a, act two b, and act three. Sometimes people ask why it’s the three act structure and not the four act structure. This is a fair question. Someday, someone is going to to write a book called “MASTERING THE FOUR ACT STRUCTURE” or similar, and everyone will argue about this more, but for now, let’s use the three act structure, which is widely accepted, well documented, and useful.
Your basic three act structure:
ACT 1 (25%): Set up the world and characters, explain how we got to the events of the story.
ACT TWO (50%): Explore what’s cool about the premise and the characters in an active, memorable and visceral way that both entertains and shows off why you deserve to be a professional writer.
ACT THREE (25%): Resolve the goal of the story, illustrate how the second act changed the character to a version of himself that can succeed at his goal.
So act two = exploration, where the premise of the movie is explored via a series of genre beats in a way that creates specific and memorable entertainment. If you’re using a midpoint, it’s going to split that second act into two roughly equal chunks, act two a and act two b.
This raises a simple question: how is act two a different from act two b? [Read more…]