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I'm currently working through the preparation process before I start to write my first feature length screenplay, helped in no small part by Syd Field's books.

I've got the three act structure fleshed out, but I'm looking for a bit of validation in regards my 'mid point', which should provide a twist in the story, yes?

My question is, does this twist have to involve the protagonist? Does he/she have to be directly involved, affected or aware?

The plan is for the twist to share information with the audience that the protagonist won't find out about until the climax to act 2; plot point 2.

In terms of both the visuals and the overall narrative, it works perfectly both on paper and in my mind; I suppose it is inexperience casting doubt here!

Any advice/comment/suggestion welcome.

Thanks, Dave

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Your audience is absolutely allowed to know more or less than your main character, but remember to consider how they are being presented the story. If they are watching from just over the main character's shoulder for most of the film and then are pulled away into a scene without him/her, it could be very jarring. Remember that your film has a narrator and a point of view, even if they are not explicitly introduced and never directly address the audience. Know who that narrator is (or maybe guide is a better term in a screenplay). Know what their relationship is to both the story and the audience. This will help you know whether or not various devices really work.

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I’m not a screenwriter, but as far as I understand 'mid-point' your approach seems problematic to me.

Michael Hauge calls it point of no return, where the hero must fully commit to his goal. If he is not involved or even aware, he cannot make his decision.

Blake Snyder is talking about putting pressure on the protagonists to make their lives more difficult. Problematic if the hero is not aware of what’s happening.

I do not want to say that your approach will not work, just that you should be careful. Mid-point is an important turning point and there should be something or someone "turned". Better someone important.

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I think I understand what you're trying to do - you're trying to get the audience to go 'uh-oh, Jake is going to be surprised once he gets to the end of the story', when we're following Jake throughout the story.

A couple of points from someone who is similarly struggling with writing (I.E. take any advice I give with a big lump of salt):

1) Don't feel like you have to be shackled to what Syd Fields says about screenwriting. The whole point of making a format is to provide a skeleton for your story. Your story may have more fat and muscle in a different area of the story than what others might do (this can work either brilliantly, or else will cause a BIG problem with your story). Work on what you feel is the right beat for the story. And remember that even once you're done, you only made a first draft - how it'll look later will probably be very different than what you have now.

2) Any twists that you make should be in line with the story and where the protagonist is going to go in the story. I can't quite think of any examples that would parellel what you want to do (my first thought was the 'twist' of Harvey Dent becoming Two-Face in The Dark Knight, but then I realized that the main protagonist in that story is The Joker, who helps shape Harvey into becoming Two-Face), so it should be something that is not going to make the audience lost. If you're bringing in some new character to furnish the twist, for example, that is a good indication that your audience is not going to be able to follow you to where you want to go.

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The midpoint is all about the main character! And it could be argued that it is the most important plot point in your story, at least for some aspects.

K. M. Weiland calls the midpoint a second inciting event. It divides the story in two and pushes the main character from being reactive to proactive, from being on the defense to being on the offense. It usually provides information that finally gives your character a much more complete idea of what the conflict is and who the antagonist is.

James Scott Bell, in his "Write Your Novel From the Middle" describes the midpoint as a mirror moment where the protagonist sees themselves as if in a mirror. They see their situation for what it is and has an epiphany about the truth of the conflict.

Stanley D. Williams, in "The Moral Premise" describes the midpoint as a moment of grace where the main character decides to follow either the truth/the moral path (for a story with a positive ending) or the lie/the immoral path (for a story with a negative ending).

The fun thing about these three examples is that even though the main character knows what the conflict is and who the antagonist is, and have had an epiphany about the truth of the conflict, even how to fix things, and have decided to follow the truth (or not) the story is just halfway done and far from over.

We know this from our own lives (from new years eve and on) having it all in our head, promises and plans made, is not the same as having solved the problem. And that's where the story can make some great connections with the audience showing the character fighting some real battles involving doubt, fear, and recurring failure.

The fact that we know, the main character know, and still they struggle is what makes this connection possible.

The fact that the character, in Scott Bell's vocabulary, is fighting death (physical, mental and/or professional) is what makes this struggle worth following through each and every heart-wrenching twist and turn.

Having said all that, I'd argue that what you are describing is not a mid-point.

Unless it's a mid-point in a subplot or another dramatic event in the middle of your script? Other than the mid-point?

Looking over the above examples of what a mid-point should contain, you might (correctly) draw the conclusion that it's hard, even impossible, to get all that into a single scene.

Some scripts will let you do that. Some won't.

I don't think it's a problem if you have more than one scene located as close as possible to the middle of the script to perform all these tasks.

And then make your reveal just one more of those scenes.

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An addition - there is actually one scene I thought of this morning that might be an example of what you're trying to do. In the film "Get Shorty", Chili Palmer (John Tavolta) is trying to get out of the mob business by becoming a movie producer, working with B-movie director Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman).

In the middle of the film, he's at LAX where there's a locker that has drug money (and some drugs) that's being watched by the Feds. Realizing that this is a setup, he makes it look like he opens the locker, but opens the one adjacent to it (complete with tote bag and a book, so that it looks like he's picking up the money and drugs). As he's being hustled off by the Feds, Ray Barboni (Dennis Farina) - the guy who Chili worked for, and who is after Chili for some money a client didn't pay - is seen walking off with a limo driver (I.E. twist number one - Chili is in trouble if Ray is now in town, but he doesn't know this yet). As Ray walks off, Roberto Escobar, a Columbian drug lord - the guy whose money and drugs are in the locker - is also seen walking along, wanting to get his money that Catlett (Delroy Lindo) - who invested $200,000 in Harry to be part of his films - left in the locker (I.E. twist number two - Catlett is now in trouble, and this will wind up affecting Harry and Ray).

The whole scene from start to finish is over in less than 5 minutes, but we get A) Chili's smarts at being able to outsmart Catlett and the Feds; B) the knowledge that Ray is now in town, and will soon be after Chili (even though he doesn't know it yet); and C) the knowledge that Catlett is in big trouble, and this will soon translate to trouble for Chili as well. It's a well-made scene, and worth watching, especially to show how you can add a new element to your story without the main character knowing what's going on.

  • A good example of good writing. But in this example, I don't recall if this is the mid-point. If it was, Chili is still involved, he suffers a "false defeat" by getting arrested (but they won't find anything on him), and a real defeat by not getting the money he expected. So new developments occur with it; but the MC is still heavily involved, the mid-point did not occur without Chili getting set back. – Amadeus Apr 19 at 10:30
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Your midpoint should be the false victory of the false defeat.

The true victory/defeat occurs at the end of the screenplay, so the false one should occur in the middle, around page 50-55.

So in a love story it's when they finally get together, which then sets up the end of the second act where they typically break up, or find something very wrong with each other.

In a story I worked on, the mid point involved the hero achieving his revenge - only to realize that he killed the wrong person (end of act two).

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