The turning points are what I write toward.
At the very beginning of a story, I'm writing toward the catalyst. Then I write toward the break into act two. After that (which is the position I'm currently in) I write toward the midpoint. But the midpoint is not just any turning point. It can arguably be called THE turning point. Some writers refer to it as the midpoint shift. It's that crucial. It shifts the movement of the entire story.
And what happens in between your act two break and your midpoint is just as crucial, if you want your midpoint to be effective. This is the first half of your second act. Blake Snyder calls it the Fun & Games section. But since that title can be misleading (not every story is about having fun), he also refers to it as the promise of your premise.
In order for your story to feel like it irrevocably shifts after this section is complete, your main premise must be strongly emphasized here. The midpoint is either a false peak or a false collapse. No matter which your story utilizes, both are closely connected to your main premise. If the main premise isn't clearly moving forward, already in action, then the midpoint will fall flat. It might even be missed entirely by your audience.
Roz Morris explained on her blog why it's important for your audience to feel the shift:
When I'm reading a novel, if I can't identify the midpoint shift, then it really bothers me. The middle is where I start to lose patience with a story-- the writing style gets repetitive, the humor isn't fresh anymore, the action starts to feel like it's just the same thing over and over and over-- so something significant needs to change in the plot or I'm likely to give up on it.What’s the midpoint anyway and why do we bother to identify it? It’s a moment where the story significantly shifts gear. Readers (and moviegoers) seem to have an internal clock, and generally like it if this shift comes roughly half-way through the story.
In Lauren Oliver's DELIRIUM, the midpoint shift is blatantly significant. The premise of this novel is that love is a disease that must be cured. In the first half of the novel, the MC is working toward getting her "cure." But in the first half of act two, she begins experiencing the wonderfulness of love, and by the midpoint shift she's convinced that there is nothing wrong with love at all. Her goal shifts from wanting a cure to doing everything she can to avoid it. It's more complex than this in the actual story, but you get the idea. And you really can feel its significance while reading.
At this shift, the conflict intensifies in a new and huge way. The protagonist/s must adjust their viewpoint and their plan to continue moving forward and resolve the conflict.
As I mentioned earlier, whatever shifts at the midpoint is highly connected to your main premise. So before you write toward your midpoint, you must:
- have a solid premise
- have a clear plot goal moving forward by the end of act one
- have an idea of how you want things to worsen after the shift
Going back to the example of DELIRIUM, I don't think the MC could have done much worse than outright rebel against her government by choosing to love. It is easy, then, to imagine how the second half of act two will be much worse for the MC than the first half was. In the first half, she was merely confused and undecided. Now she is proactively working against everything she's been taught. This resistance, this conflict, is not going to go unnoticed or unpunished. So the midpoint shift has effectively set up the stronger intensity of the second half of the novel, and we keep reading on through to the end.
That's how you keep a reader reading. By continually making it worse. More conflict, more tension, more worry for the MC. But all of this worsening still has to be connected to the main premise and somehow move the plot forward. It can't just be random acts of worseness.
The same goes for the beginning half of the story as well. Everything must have a purpose, and the reader should feel like the story is moving forward. Moving toward something. The protagonist must have a goal in line with the premise.
So ask yourself...
What is the MC's main story goal?
What is her plan to reach that goal, made clear at the Act Two break?
How can I change this goal (or viewpoint) without changing the premise?
Once you have that figured out, you can effectively write toward your midpoint shift. It's simply a matter of connecting the dots, filling in the blanks, setting it all up to (seemingly) fail.