Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bad Company: Midpoint

In his guest article for Script Frenzy, Blake Snyder, author of the book on screenwriting called Save the Cat! (and its new sequel, Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies), writes about the crucial importance in a story of the midpoint. So many screenplays and produced movies, for example, have weak second acts because they neglect the midpoint. But Snyder insists that the midpoint is "the key to cracking any story." He insists two things must occur at midpoint:
  1. The stakes must be raised.
  2. The Ticking Clock must start counting down.
And so the midpoint is where one of the most important events in the story must occur. Snyder writes: "Cracking your midpoint is the key to figuring out not only where your story goes, but what it means."

Now take Bad Company. What happens at midpoint? Remember that this novel has an action line in which Dictel tries to take over America, and a relationship line in which a fallen pop star much choose whether to kill herself or answer her sister's call to resume their love affair.

In the relationship line, Drusilla Becket is a true villain. She is the one trying to keep her daughters apart. Once Snyder's advice on the midpoint was firmly in mind, I realized that when Charlie and Desiree strike up their relationship again after Desiree is released from jail (she was charged with some of her demon ex-lover Rashid's many crimes but was acquitted), Dru will be forced to realize that she no longer has control over her girls. Since she, being a Becket and a right-wing New Age guru, does not like homosexuality and is utterly repulsed by the very idea of incest (she will destroy her third husband for molesting all three of her daughters); and since she is also the most controlling kind of stage mother, whose ego depends on total control of her daughters; when Dru comes to the horrible realization that she can no longer either control Charlie and Desiree nor keep them apart, she loses all control of herself. She exercises the "nuclear option" and files child rape charges against Charlie over the torrid sexual relationship that in fact Desiree started. This occurs at midpoint.

In the action line, Dictel is the villain, and its plan is to take over America by brute mercenary force in order to establish a military dictatorship that can wage the Middle Eastern colonial wars with impunity because it will no longer need the support of the people. Colonel Tom Becket, the Dictel chairman, is as much an elitist as he is a militarist; he loathes even the very idea of democracy. The people, he says, are too fickle to build an empire; they need to be commanded and to obey. Thus "the Plan". What happens at midpoint? Maybe I should use Yasmin Khoury, Charlie's ex-girlfriend and a former love slave/murder weapon of Rashid the terrorist incubus, as the messenger. The message is word of the Dictel plan. Near midpoint, Yasmin gets into a crash when being transported to the nearest military base for deportation, and loses her memory. She regains it just before the actual Dictel invasion of America begins. But the Colonel will already be putting his plan into action. This will surely make for some nearly unbearable suspense. At midpoint the Ticking Clock must start counting down. I'll have to think more about this.

And so the midpoint of Bad Company will be the crucial moment that holds the entire novel together. Otherwise, it will fall apart. Just like it did in the first draft. Midpoint is where you raise the stakes big time. Use it well, and your story will be all the better for it.

Back to Spanner‘s World...

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