Writing the Midpoint, with examples from ‘Legends & Lattes’

How to tackle one of the most ambiguous plot beats.

Dewi Hargreaves 🏹

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When talking about plot structure, most of the important plot beats are easy to grasp. The inciting incident is exactly what it says — an event that sets the wider story in motion. The point of no return is, usually, the point where the hero can no longer go back.

But the midpoint? A lot of people struggle with it. This is because it’s an ambiguous plot point, with few hard rules.

Most stories that follow traditional plot structures are pretty similar in the opening and closing pages. The first and third acts have common, tried-and-tested conventions that readers expect authors to hit. The second act, meanwhile — everything that comes between — is where a novel really breathes and becomes its own thing. There are fewer rules (which is, incidentally, why so many writers struggle with it).

The midpoint, put simply, is the moment where contextual change happens. It reveals new information about the main antagonistic force of the novel. It changes the context of what has already been happening, making the protagonist see it in a new light. It often forces the protagonist to change direction, in reaction to new information — or it can reveal new information about the protagonist to the reader. Crucially, though, it changes the protagonist from mostly reactive to mostly proactive — instead of trying to avoid harm, or failing to thwart the antagonist, they finally have the capacity to go on the attack.

This is all very theoretical, and if you’re anything like me, it’s hard to see how it applies in practice without a solid example. Fortunately, there’s a very popular book out right now that hits all these perfectly — let me break it down for you.

The Midpoint in ‘Legends & Lattes’

[NOTE: the rest of this article contains major spoilers for Legends & Lattes. If you haven’t read it yet and don’t want it spoiled for you, leave now!]

As an editor and reader, I’m a sucker for short, neatly plotted books — and L&L is one of the best I’ve read in recent times. It does little, but it does it very well.

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Dewi Hargreaves 🏹

I draw maps of places that don’t exist ✨ I write about publishing ✨ words in Noctivagant, Lost Boys, Etherea Magazine✨ editor at Lost Boys Press.