How To Transform Your Story With A Moment of Truth

How to Transform Your Story With a Moment of Truth

How To Transform Your Story With A Moment of TruthPart 4 of The Do’s and Don’ts of Storytelling According to Marvel

“How can I fix the saggy middle of my story?”

love it when writers ask me that.

Why? Because the answer is so incredibly juicy–and it all revolves around the Moment of Truth that needs to occur at every story’s Midpoint.

The Second Act—that longest of all the acts, spanning a full 50% from the 25% to the 75% marks—is largely misunderstood. The setup of the First Act and the Climax of the Third Act are pretty self-explanatory. But what’s supposed to happen in between? How can you come up with enough story to entertainingly fill up such a huge chunk of the book?

The short answer is: structure.

There are more important structural moments in the Second Act than anywhere else in the story. If you’re aware of how to use the First Plot Point, First Pinch Point, Midpoint, Second Pinch Point, and Third Plot Point, you’ll never lack for forward impetus in your story’s hard-working Second Act.

Today, we’re going to take a look at what is, arguably, the most important of these structural turning points—the Midpoint and its Moment of Truth. (Click here for more info on structure in general, here for more info on the Second Act in general, and here for more info on the pinch points.)

The #1 Reason Thor Works Despite Its Problems

Welcome to Part 4 of our ongoing series exploring what Marvel has done right (and sometimes wrong) in their cinematic universe. I debated whether or not to focus Thor‘s post on a “do” or a “don’t” of storytelling.

This is far from a perfect movie.

  • The pacing is wonky: sometimes rushed, sometimes lagging.
  • The antagonist—the ever-charismatic Loki—is relatively absent from the protagonist’s main conflict for most of the story, and he fails to provide solid pinch points.
  • The parallel worlds of Asgard and Earth are never balanced well in the presentation of scenes.
Thor Throne Room Coronation Scene

Thor (2011), Paramount Pictures.

In a lot of ways, it feels like a “small” movie, despite its obviously epic and interstellar stakes. Some people complained that the romance between Thor and scientist Jane Foster was given too much emphasis. Personally, I loved Natalie Portman in this role and thought she was a highlight of the entire movie—but I don’t disagree because, ultimately, the greatest problem with both this movie and its sequel Dark World is that it has a muddy thematic focus. What these movies are really about is family, and Jane, however adorable she may be, keeps getting in the way of that.

In short, we’d have to objectively say the script and its execution are pretty choppy. And yet I still really like this movie. For one thing, it was the movie where the whole cinematic vision of the Avengers throughline really gelled for me and started getting exciting. I thought the Earthside humor was charming. And, of course, it gets full credit for introducing the single most loved and interesting villain in the entire series.

Tom Hiddleston I don't always play the villain

However, at the end of the day, the reason I like this movie—and the reason I decided to focus on its good qualities instead of its weaknesses—is because I love its heart. I love its character arc (however rushed). I love the transformation of the protagonist from arrogant, self-centered war-monger to humbled, self-sacrificing, crown-worthy hero.

Thor's Hammer Gif

Thor (2011), Paramount Pictures.

And most of all I love the Moment of Truth at the story’s center.

What Is the Moment of Truth?

The Midpoint is your story’s second major plot point. It occurs, as its name suggests, smack in the middle of the story. It divides both the Second Act and the entire book into two distinct halves. The first half of the book is all about the character’s reaction to the conflict; the second half is all about his ability to take action in light of a revelation he experienced.

That revelation is the single most important job of your story’s Midpoint. It is the Moment of Truth, and it is comprised of two different layers—one pertaining to the plot and the other pertaining to the character arc.

Layer #1: The Plot Revelation

Within the exterior conflict of your story’s plot, your protagonist is going to reach a game-changing revelation at the Midpoint. This revelation pertains directly to his exterior conflict with the antagonist. He desires a goal, and the antagonist has been throwing up obstacle after obstacle throughout the first half of the story. The antagonist has been squarely in control of the conflict, and the protagonist has had little choice but to remain in a reactive role.

Now, thanks to this Midpoint revelation, the protagonist suddenly sees the nature of the conflict much more clearly. He learns the true nature of both the conflict and the antagonistic force. He gains important info that will allow him to finally start taking control of the external conflict—thus allowing him to phase out of reaction and into action in the second half of the story. (Captain America: The Winter Soldier offers a great plot-based Moment of Truth, which I talked about in this article.)

Layer #2: The Character Revelation

Even as your character has been navigating the story’s external conflict throughout the first half of the story, his internal conflict has been closely mirroring, affecting, and being affected by the external plot. When he reaches the plot-centric Moment of Truth at the Midpoint (which grants him important new information about the nature of the external conflict), he also reaches an all-important personal Moment of Truth.

Remember, character arcs are founded on the protagonist’s inner battle between the story’s Lie and Truth. Throughout the first half of the story, he has been learning to see, more and more clearly, the nature of his Lie and that, indeed, it is a Lie.

The Midpoint is where he finally sees the Truth. He still has a long way to go until he’ll be able to fully claim that Truth by surrendering to it and acting upon it. But the Midpoint is where something happens to him that’s so dramatic, it prompts a shift in his personal allegiance—away from the Lie and toward the Truth.

How a Good Moment of Truth Transforms Your Story

Some stories will require a different Moment of Truth for both aspects of the Midpoint mentioned above. Often, one aspect’s revelation will lead right into the other. Other stories, however, will be able to harmonize plot and character into a single Moment of Truth.

Thor is such a story.

Thor’s Lie is that he is a worthy leader simply by right of birth and personal power.

Thor Throne Room Coronation Chris Hemsworth

Thor (2011), Paramount Pictures.

His story is that of growing into an awareness that true worthiness is instead based on personal merit—humility, foresight, love, and self-sacrifice. Worthiness is something that must be earned. Despite getting boxed around by his Lie (in essence, “punished” for believing in it) throughout the first half of the story, he does not come face to face with that Truth until the Midpoint.

After using his old Lie-based methods to batter his way through SHIELD’s defenses on his way to reclaim his hammer Mjolnir and his Asgardian powers, he discovers he can’t so much as much lift his own hammer. He doesn’t know his father enchanted the hammer so that only “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.”

Thor Can't Lift Hammer

Thor (2011), Paramount Pictures.

Thor is not worthy. That realization changes everything. It rocks his world. It undermines everything he has believed about himself, about others, and indeed about the universe. It forces him to reconsider his old belief—the Lie—in exchange for a new paradigm. As Dr. Selvig tells him after rescuing him from SHIELD, “It’s not a bad thing finding out that you don’t have all the answers. You start asking the right questions.”

Eric Selvig and Thor Drinking

Thor (2011), Paramount Pictures.

Boom. Moment of Truth. Right between da eyes.

3 Questions for Planning Your Story’s Moment of Truth

What should your story’s Moment of Truth be? The answer depends on three factors:

1. What’s Your Protagonist’s Truth?

Can’t have a Moment of Truth without first knowing what that Truth is, right?

Naturally, the Moment of Truth cannot live in isolation. It is a product of everything that has come before it in the first half of the story, just as it is the catalyst for everything to follow. You can’t just shoehorn in any ol’ Truth. It has to be the Truth your protagonist requires in order to overcome the Lie he’s been carrying around since Page 1.

So take a look at Page 1. What’s the Lie Your Character Believes? What Truth will he need to overcome that Lie?

2. What Is the Key to Overcoming the Antagonist?

Now consider the plot. What is the one bit of information the protagonist requires in order to transform his understanding of the external conflict and allow him to shift from reacting to the antagonist into taking action?

(Note that Thor’s external conflict is not defeating Loki, but rather returning home. In reaching his Moment of Truth he becomes worthy of the hammer—and thus his ride back to Asgard—even though he doesn’t yet realize it.)

Ideally, both the plot and character revelations should be the same or at least lead organically one into the other. If they’re too disparate from one another, then you need to consider whether or not your plot and theme may be too different from one another to belong in the same story.

3. What Is the Best Visual Representation of Plot and Theme?

Once you understand the Truths your character will come to understand at your Midpoint, you must then create a scene to represent them. Your Midpoint will usually be one of your story’s biggest scenes (in Thor, the fight in SHIELD’s compound is one of the the biggest action setpieces in the movie).

Even though the Moment of Truth will probably be a quiet moment of personal introspection, it should be featured within a huge plot catalyst—one that visually and symbolically represents the Lie and the Truth.

James Scott Bell talks about a “mirror moment,” in which the character must metaphorically look at his own reflection and confront what he sees. In some stories, you can portray this outright, either by having the character literally look at himself in a mirror (e.g., Thor sees his battered appearance in a reflective door after he’s imprisoned by SHIELD), or by providing some other visual reflection of his inner battle (e.g., in Iron Man II, a drunken Tony who is using his suit for dangerous party tricks is confronted by his best friend Rhodey, also in a suit, telling him he’s a disgrace).

Thor Sad Face Reflection

Thor (2011), Paramount Pictures.

Note: this visualization of the “mirror moment” isn’t a must; don’t shoehorn it in. But it can present a nice symbolism if handled well.

Once you understand your story’s Moment of Truth at the Midpoint, you already have your single most powerful tool for crafting, not just an interesting Second Act, but a powerful and resonant character arc, story structure, and theme. Think you’re worthy?

Stay Tuned: Next week, we’ll talk about one of my all-time favorite examples of subtext-rich dialogue from Captain America: The First Avenger.

Previous Posts in This Series:

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! What’s your protagonist’s Moment of Truth at the Midpoint? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. This is an awesome article (and series! I’m enjoying them all!). I was thinking about my WIP while reading through this, and at first, I didn’t think I had a lie/truth to tell, but my MC definitely does. This just made it clear. Thank you!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      If the character is experiencing any kind of change, then you can bet there’s a Lie/Truth at the heart of it. Identifying them and boosting them can really bring the theme to life.

  2. Kate Flournoy says

    YES. I love this. And it’s so applicable right now. I’m ironing out the plot-points in my WIP as I go through editing, and this really confirmed the order I set them in to impact the theme. Thanks so much for an awesome article.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Good for you! Getting the order of the plot points right is so important. I’m reading a book right now that placed what should have been its Third Plot Point way too early, and the subsequent story really suffers as a result.

  3. Another fantastico and fun article to read! I’m just getting started (for the last year, eh- hem) writing my own story, and, yes, one can apply this at any point in the process as other readers comment, and in my case, I’m just getting my protagonist and antagonist to begin to think!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Truth! It’s never too late in the revisions to wrangle plot structure and boost theme.

  4. Ingrid B. says

    A spectacularly great post! This has truly helped me ‘see’ my WIP character’s Lies and Moments of Truth more clearly. To the point where I believe I’m realizing my MC is NOT the one I thought I was writing as the main protagonist (gasp!).

    I may or may not go with this flow and see what happens with this MC change. Or continue to fight it…this post has de-fogged several areas I was apparently having this struggle with, now that I’m seeing the storyline unfold more clearly at the Midpoint with your help.

    A true ‘AHA’ moment! Thank you for this, Katie!


    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      One thought: It’s totally possible that the character you originally intended to be the protagonist *is* the protagonist, even if he’s not following a strong change arc and undergoing a strong Moment of Truth at the Midpoint. Rather, it’s possible he’s a flat-arc character–already in possession of the Truth and “offering” it to the other character, who is undergoing a change arc. Just something to consider.

  5. Joe Long says

    You really make us think these things out, huh?

    I’ve mentioned here earlier about how the MC starts out believing he’ll never find a girl, and later it’s that this is the only girl – but there’s a more pwerful theme as well.

    Susie defends casual hook-ups with “I don’t have to be in love with someone to have a good time with them. It’s just…sx.”

    The MC counters with, “I was waiting for the right person, someone who wanted me as much as I wanted her, so that it would be something special we’d remember the rest of our lives.”

    But there’s something I deliberately left out for later. Romance and marriage shouldn’t be about finding the person who makes us the most happy, because true love is putting the other person above yourself. It’s about giving, not getting. Physical intimacy without relationships are all about self gratification.

    The song lyrics I put at the very beginning tease that the MC has a very deep wound such that “my apology pales.” My moment of truth will come somewhat after the 50% mark, leading into the climax. It’s then that reality will slap him in the face, realizing the damage his actions have done to her – that it never should have been about him.

    There are similarities to “Men, Women and Children.” (I swear, I started my story more than a year before I ever heard of it.) I saw the movie, then read the book (which I thought was very poorly written.) The movie is pretty faithful to the book. Anyway, in one of the multiple story lines Jennifer Garner is a way over protective mother of her daughter Kaitlyn Dever, and won’t let her engage in normal teenage relationships. She finally realizes how badly she messed up when her daughter’s boyfriend tries to kill himself. It was the part of the movie that strayed the furthest from the book, and probably the part I enjoyed the most.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      It’s possible the moment of truth you’re referencing here is actually your Third Plot Point, which is the big “showdown,” so to speak, between the protagonist’s Lie and Truth–where he has to definitively pick one or the other. The Moment of Truth at the Midpoint is his big revelation of the Truth, but he doesn’t yet reject the Lie at this point. He spends the rest of the Second Act trying to juggle both, until he reaches the low moment at the Third Plot Point, which forces him to make a tremendously painful choice between the two. This then leads in the final climactic confrontation against the outer antagonistic force.

  6. Oh Katie, what if I tell youe that Loki is the protagonist of the avengers? In the end he’s the one moving towards a goal and the superheroes are getting in his way

  7. My best writing friend and I were just talking about how hard Midpoints are. She said, “For the character arc, I need my MC to be hiding, but for my story, I need her to discover the dead bodies.” I said, “Hiding among dead bodies sounds pretty epic to me.” And voila! She got a great Midpoint and we learned how hard (but rewarding) it is to get both character arc and story arc to align at the Midpoint.

    Thanks for this blog. 🙂

  8. I found your article very helpful. I’ve been on a writing hiatus for little over year as a I contemplated switching genres. I’ve gone from fantasy to women’s fiction. Quite a jump!

    So, I struggle a bit with structure because there’s some deviation from formula for the book I just started. POT (Point of Telling) figures in strongly. But I love the food for thought here, and see how I can apply it to a less conventional storyline to make the character arc even stronger. I needed this structural reminder, so thanks for that!

    My book opens with my main character finding her elderly mother dead in her bed in the middle of the night. She says she’s not grieving, which is a lie. She says she doesn’t care that her sister will think she’s responsible for their mother’s death. Another lie. I’m anxious for her to come to the realization of her truth, and now I have the tools to help her get there. Thank you!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, the great thing about learning structure is that it provides such a strong base from which to jump into less formal and recognized storyforms. Have fun!

  9. As always, your lessons point me in the right direction. Since my MC is his own pro- and antagonist, it’s a bit more difficult to flesh him and his problems out.

    He’s his own greatest enemy after a horrific trauma and the only way he thinks he can cope with it (his lie! Thank you!) is for him to recreate and relive it whenever the stress of an undiagnosed PTSD becomes too much.

    Now to word out how the female MC helps him see it’s not true – and for him to accept that. It will be difficult, but extremely satisfying, the clearer the way to the finish becomes.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Before I finished reading your comment, I was going to say that one of the best ways to un-complicate an arc is to figure out where you want the character to end up. But I see you’re already on that track!

  10. So, K. M., you really liked Natalie as Jane? That’s the one thing I differ with you about in this insightful and prolific article. I feel like you are my personal guru (dating myself here) in assisting my evolution from writer to author. Now, I accept the challenge to wield the hammer Thor-like and forage through the bricks and mortar of my plot structure. I identified my MC’s LIE, but now I’m faced with the task of using a minor character and his “love” interest push the MC to step over and through the crumbled rumble to uncover his ultimate TRUTH. I can do it! Thanks for your help!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      The Love Interest–in the archetypal sense–is extremely useful in character arcs, since they generally represent the Truth. The protag can’t have the Love Interest *until* he is transformed by the Truth. So the Love Interest alternately resists or supports the protagonist, depending on his alignment to that Truth in any given scene. Have fun!

  11. CM Friesen says

    I’ve been meaning to comment for a while, haha. I read about every blog post of yours when they come out, but I don’t believe I’ve ever commented.

    I feel like such a weird writer. The middle is my strongpoint of the story. I tend to write weak beginnings and procrastinate on writing endings, but my middles tend to be packed with action and cascading conflicts.

    I think my worry is that my story doesn’t really conform to the standard because what my protagonist discovers in the midpoint is only half of the truth. He basically coasts through battle after battle relying on his friends to win and doing the bare minimum to help them, until the midpoint where he faces the antagonist prematurely and gets his ass handed to him by a guy who should stand no chance. He’s dragged aside, and his strongest friend more or less addresses him as a damsel in distress, and then flies off to sacrifice himself to try and save everyone. The protagonist has a moment of realization where he accepts that he’s been lazy and useless, and his friends aren’t going to survive unless this changes. So he finally stands up to the antagonist, starts using his potential, turns the opinion of his allies completely around and shoots to the top of his antagonist’s threat list.

    And they still lose. They’re forced to retreat again, and again somebody stronger takes up the fight to keep the antagonist from winning. Somebody still dies. The protagonist starts to doubt if what he learned was really the truth, or just another lie.

    He’s allowed a moment to think on it before he’s forced to go into battle against the antagonist again, and during the finale fight he notices that what he realized wasn’t a lie, but it was only half of the truth. It’s not enough just to work hard–he also has to work smart. It doesn’t matter that he’s willing to use his potential if he doesn’t know what his potential is. The antagonist isn’t winning because he’s stronger, because he isn’t stronger. He’s winning because he’s smarter. So he starts to pay closer attention, figure out how the antagonist fights, what his motives are, what his weaknesses are, and he finally overcomes him in the finale.

    I’d like your opinion; does this sound alright? Any advice, if you have time? I really like it, but I kind of oscillate between full of myself about my book and insanely self-conscious about it, haha.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      No, no, half the Truth is good! It’s good in the sense that the character’s arc is far from over at this point (the book’s only half over, after all). The character *recognizes* the Truth at the Midpoint. He doesn’t, however, yet fully recognize the darkness of the Lie, much less reject it. You get the full second half the story to finish developing that. So I’d say you’re on the right track.

  12. Thanks, K. M. Your blog is the best writing reference in the cyberspace and I can say that 101% sure. Never let it drop offline, please!

    Your post built a query in my mind. My protag (love that word, learned from U =D) lives in an Abstract Reality, which is a reflex of his needs and desires, and then forces from the Real World start to exert pressure on him.

    In his Moment of True, the protag will finally comprehend that the Abstract Reality is just a shelter he created to hide himself from Real World problems.

    Can I make him react to the Revelation in his own way but keep the Revelation itself to the very Climax? (I don’t want to spoiler that he lives in an Abstract World yet).

    Maybe I could handle this with some foreshadowing or symbolism or mirrors or it doesn’t even matter anyway (the story is about exoplanetary exploration) =D

    Thanks again for your blog. You are an infinite source of help.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      In the vast majority of situations, it’s risky to keep readers in the dark when your protagonist knows something. It feels like a cheat. Readers need to be right there with the protag, discovering what he discovers along the way. There are exceptions, of course, but you have to be aware of the end effect you’re creating in forcing a separation between reader and character.

      Great to hear you’re enjoying the site!

  13. E. A. Anthony says

    Always seems like your articles pertain to exactly where I’m at in my WIP. Do you have telepathic powers?

    My anti-hero protagonist is a serial killer who is discovered by my extortionist antagonist and he is blackmailed by her to kill. At midpoint in the story, my protagonist discovers the truth that his split personality serial killer self and he are one in the same and his belief that he is condemed to hell may not be true as he has the opportunity to save the target/victim and defeat the antagonist. He believes that by doing this one good deed at the cost of “losing everything”, some level of forgiveness is possible.

    The initial draft sort of just glossed over these “truths” and now I realize that if I flesh this out I can add yet another layer to this story which will up the ante to the plot twist that follows. That’s awesome, yay!

    Thanks, K. M.!

    PS. I miss your video episodes!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Sounds excellent! Split personality stories are always fun and have the ability to say interesting things about humanity’s dual nature. And, yes, I’ve taken a break from the vids for the being–but all the same info is still showing up here on the blog every Friday!

    • To answer your question, she’s definitely telepathic. Could be part of some government project. Area 51 maybe?

  14. Holy batmobile Batman, we’ve just discovered the secret.

    Everything hangs on the moment of truth in the middle of the second act. This is great structurally speaking to realize this. Although, I haven’t fully realized it for my protagonist yet. But *this* is the missing piece of the puzzle after which all other dominoes will fall into place.

    One word that kept sticking out was *learn*. The protagonist is learning to see clearly the nature of the lie from the first page until he reaches the moment of truth. This is also where he learns the true nature of conflict, the antagonistic force and the info necessary to start taking control in the action-phase.

    So does the internal and exterior conflict lead to the plot and character revelation at the midpoint? It would certainly seem so. Well, at least in my limited understanding. It seems that both conflicts work in tandem on the character until he reaches a breaking point. I would think the exterior conflict would force him to begin learning and dealing with the lie leading to the mirror moment. Wow that great! The conflict from the antagonist and anyone in the story would be a catalyst for change then.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Your understanding is exactly right. The external plot is about the character pursuing the Thing He Wants via his Lie, while the internal development is about him learning to use the Truth to gain the Thing He Needs. He often won’t see the connection between these two conflicts until he slams into the Midpoint, where the Moment of Truth makes his internal conflict extremely relevant to the outer conflict.

      • Wow that’s amazing it’s almost like a conflict sandwhich! I like this intrinsic view of the character arc. I’m assuming this is one the most core elements of a story. Would you say this mirror moment is the most critical versus actually defeating the antagonist? Without it he couldn’t defeat him.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          Yes and no. Yes, in that it’s one of the biggest revelations in the story. But, no, in the sense, that every piece of puzzle is equally important. Remove any piece, and the overall pattern doesn’t work.

          • I think this gives all conflict a nice target. Not to mention significance and a barometer by which we can measure if something is working.

            Any conflict that doesn’t work towards the protagonist moment of truth is pretty much useless isn’t it? Or it won’t bear much weighton the story.

            Does every arc have a moment of truth?

          • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

            Yes, every arc has a Moment of Truth, although the person to whom it is offered will vary, depending on the protag’s arc. In a positive change arc, the protagonist will see the Moment of Truth and be transformed by accepting it. In a flat arc, the protag will already be in possession of the Truth and will offer it to the other characters around him. In a negative arc, the protagonist will encounter the Moment of Truth and ultimately reject what he is offered here, leading to his eventual destruction.

  15. Testing to see if I can subscribe to comments.

  16. Like E. A. Anthony, this post is timely. My MC, a P.I., is asked to find a missing American naval officer who has not reported for duty at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Only not one seems to want him found, and the P.I. begins to think he’s a pawn being used by forces greater than himself. This is his ‘a-ha’ moment in the 2nd act – and it took me a while to sort that out. Angry that no one is telling him the truth, he sets out to find out what’s really going on.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Sounds like it also marks a great shift from reaction in the first half to action in the second. Good job!

  17. Stephanie says

    I have an important question about my story I can’t seem to get answered.
    I am afraid that I don’t have enough unity because my book is made of six parts–like six stories. Although I have the same main character and over all villain there are many characters and villains that are only in one story. Also I do have a finale climax, but here are also a small climax in each story. Is this something to be worried about. Will the reader feel like they’re reading six mini stories or a complete novel? Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      This certainly isn’t an unheard of technique (although I can’t think of any good examples off the top of my head right now). It’s a more complicated structure, to be sure, since you not only have to structure the individual stories, but also the stories within the overall novel. The same basic overarching structure applies to the book as a whole–with the First Plot Point happening in your second story, your Midpoint at the end of the third, and your Third Plot Point in your fifth story. The sixth, of course, would be climactic.

    • Robert Plowman says

      Hi Stephanie, I realize your post is two years in the past. Hope your story has gone well in the meantime. In Conquest Born, by CS Friedman, follows a similar structure. I believe it was published in 1986 and was nominated for the Campbell award, so obviously it was well received by readers. You might want to take a look at it.

  18. This idea is busting my brain. You said:
    “Ideally, both the plot and character revelations should be the same or at least lead organically one into the other. If they’re too disparate from one another, then you need to consider whether or not your plot and theme may be too different from one another to belong in the same story.”

    You’re saying that the wrong theme in a story can cause a mis-alignment of the plot revelation and MC’s Moment of Truth?

    So, if my MC’s moment of truth, his internal revelation, doesn’t contribute toward his ultimate goal in the external conflict, then the theme is probably wonky; not appropriate for the story?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Exactly. If you think of plot as an external metaphor for the character’s inner journey, it becomes clear how closely related the two must be thematically. If they’re *not*, then you end up essentially telling two totally separate stories–and the results are obviously less than cohesive.

  19. I just recently stumbled onto your website. This is a fantastic place. So insightful and helpful. I’m learning a lot. I’m a bit of a late bloomer with writing. For years I’ve had lots of ideas jotted down in my field notebooks, but they were basically a big pile of ideas. I was having trouble structuring them. I come from an animation background and I took a screenplay writing course that was very helpful, but your thoughts and ideas are just fantastic. I have learned so much in the last week reading everything on your site. Using films provides such strong easy to follow examples of how to dissect the process. Writing characters has always been the most intimidating part for me. Putting all this out there it is helping me get a handle on my weak spots. I appreciate you!!

    Great stuff!!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Welcome aboard! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the site. Makes my day to hear it’s been useful!

      • Extremely useful! They way you present your information just works for me.

        Thanks again and I look forward to reading your books!

  20. LaDonna K Ockinga says

    LIke so many before me, you have brought clarity to my story and the structure to finish the final third which I hadn’t reached as of yet. This blog was my moment of truth in writing my bock and I’m working my way to fully understanding the truth in my story.

    Thank you for being there for us writers. You are amazing.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I like Moments of Truth wherever they land. 🙂 Congrats on your story breakthrough!

  21. Ohhhh, finally I understand Story! I’ve reached my own midpoint… Stories are the search for human Truths.

    My protag’s Lie is a little nebulous at the moment, and I can see that this is messing with my plot development. It’s variously ‘everything loved gets lost’ or ‘all change is loss’ or ‘he can’t survive alone.’ I need to decide which and let it slam the little darling in the face.

    Do you ever work with the antagonist’s Lies & Truth, create his own arc that twists with the protag’s?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, definitely! The antagonist’s arc–whether a change or flat arc–can be a magnificent contrast and impact point for the protagonist’s arc. Often, I like to give the antagonist a slight variation of the same Lie the hero believes–and watch him succumb to it, even as he tries to tempt the hero into thinking it’s the best course.

      • Just saw the new Star Trek movie. Imperfect, but I enjoyed it.

        Being a student of KMWU I tried to analyse the film as I watched. The theme could be described as a “Purpose Driven Life.” Kirk, Spock and the antag all touch on this same theme. What do they really want to do with the rest of their life? Where do they think they have the most to offer? What happens if you’re really good at what you do and it’s taken away? Kirk & Spock get the positive arc, and the bad guy goes negative. What the villain believes in I actually agree with, but he’s twisted it to a destructive end.

        All I want to say with spoiling much!

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          I saw it the other day as well. My take on the theme was that it was about the importance of unity–which was the reason Kirk and Spock found purpose and made their end-of-movie decisions–and why the antag did not.

          • Yes, Kirk & Spock each decided their best destiny was together, as a team.

            But related questions –

            Do we need conflict to stay sharp, or will we become soft and complacent without it? (Kirk asks if Admirals still fly)

            What if you do something you love that makes a difference, but it’s taken away and you’re retired to a corner office?

            I found it interesting that the movie was co-written by Simon Pegg, the actor who plays Scotty, and see that he had previously written and starred in “Shaun of the Dead”

          • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

            Yes, made me wonder if that’s why Scotty got more screentime this time around. Not that I’m complaining. 😉

        • Nice! For my next story I’ll try a similar Lie for antag and protag. Plenty to explore there.

          I noticed that as I played with each of my Lie options, the plot wanted to go in quite different directions. This is helpful in doing some of the heavy lifting, I think, but also highlights the importance of having the right one.

          Gawd, now it looks like I’ll have to watch Star Trek to compare notes. Simon Pegg is writing Star Trek? That’s so funny – we in UK know him for rather different stuff.

          • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

            Whether it was due to Pegg or not, this installment was at least better than the last one!

  22. I’m currently in my second round of editing of my novel, and I’m finding your website very helpful!! Just read this article and I’m still trying to identity all the different parts in my book. I think I know where my moment of truth could be, but it’s a little later in the book. Is that alright? Or does it always have to be in the middle?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      It’s best if the Moment of Truth aligns with the Midpoint (or shortly after), because it’s what fuels the enlightened actions and growth in the second half. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t have *several* moments in which the Truth hits him between the eyes to varying degrees. For example, the Third Plot Point will be another turning point in which the character experiences a profound revelation that inspires him in the Climax.

      • Okay, that makes sense. In my novel, my heroine is constantly offered the truth throughout the book, but she refuses it until around 3/4 the way through.

  23. I have one more question haha. This is for a totally different book I’m working on, and I’m kind of confused. So I definitely have a Moment of Truth in the book, and the MC is faced with the Truth, and the realization that the Lie he’s been believing is wrong. I’d say that occurs at around the 65% mark. Problem is….when I started plotting the Climax, I realized the character had already faced the Truth and couldn’t do so again in the climax, or it would have been a repeat scene. Then I realized he was believing another Lie that had been hiding all along. Is it alright for that to be the main focus of the climax and not the original Lie? I have my theme and message worked out, and they tie into the climax as well.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      The important distinction here is that although the character recognizes the Truth at the Midpoint, she does not yet reject the Lie. She spends the rest of the Second Act trying to juggle the two, trying to keep them both in her life. Then, at the Third Plot Point (75% of the way through the story), she reaches a low point in which she categorically (and painfully) rejects the Lie. The remainder of the Third Act, then, is about her weighing the consequences of the choice she just made and then entering the Climax, where she finally proves (to herself more than anyone) her absolute devotion to the Truth and unwillingness to return to the Lie.

  24. Amazing, fascinating article, as always!! Your insights into the writing process have been so helpful to me in ways that many other resources haven’t. Thank you! 🙂

    The story I’m working on is a tragedy, and so I have a few questions about how the Midpoint might change if the story is a tragedy.

    I think I read somewhere else on this site that, in a tragedy, the MC will reject the Truth that he/she discovers at the Midpoint, but what would that look like? After all, in a happy story, the discovery of the Truth enables the MC to take charge. So a rejection of the Truth seems like it fundamentally changes how the story can play out. How, for example, do you think the second half of “Thor” might have played out if he had rejected the Truth?

    I’ve also heard that if the story has a happy ending, the Midpoint should be unhappy; and if it has an unhappy ending, the Midpoint should be happy. But it seems to me that I can think of more examples that don’t follow this rule than ones that do. Would you say it’s a rather flexible rule?

    Thank you!! 🙂

  25. Hannah Killian says

    Either my Moment of Truth is coming too early, or my protag is realizing only half of it. ‘m around 22k, so I probably have enough room to present Moments of Truth for both protags.

    Then again, the supposed bad guy also has an arc, but since he’s supposed to be a minor character at the moment, his Moment of Truth might come in either the second or third book.

  26. What an amazing post.

  27. Ee-gads! No wonder it takes so long to write a novel! There’s always something new to learn, if not about your own characters and story, then about the craft of storytelling itself. When do I quit outlining and plotting and structuring and get down to finishing my first draft?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      The right amount of outlining varies from author to author. Some authors (me) like to figure everything out in the outline; others prefer to do the bulk of figuring in the draft itself. Ultimately, the answer comes down to knowing yourself and your process–what will best optimize your creativity.

  28. Jessica Salmonson says

    Phew. My main pov is so far away from this. I’m going to book mark this and comeback later first she needs to get to the midpoint… again I ended up scraping the first attempt as it was a jumbled mess. Definitely something to keep an eye on during future revisions. the moment of truth scenes n movies and books are some of teh best parts where the reader and the characters get their “Ah! Ha”, “Wow”, and “Of course moments” too.sometimes it’s “It’s about time!”


  1. […] Getting the structural elements of our story correct can go a long way to making revisions easier. Angela Ackerman explains why choosing your setting is so important, Roz Morris discusses whether you really need conflict in every scene and disaster in every act, and K.M. Weiland shows how to transform your story with a moment of truth. […]

  2. […] How to fix the saggy middle? Check out How to Transform Your Story With a Moment of Truth by K.M. […]

  3. […] How to Transform Your Story With a Moment of Truth, K.M. Weiland, Helping Writers Become […]

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