In the midst of the adventure: Midpoint vs Midsection
The middle section is, simply, the midst of the adventure. Standing halfway through the relative safety of the ASCENT, and the rising complications of FALL, it is often a moment of transformation and revelations, a divide that changes or accelerates the pace of the story.
It may appear as:
MIDPOINT: a central, noteworthy moment or single event that splits the story in half.
Variation A: It may be a sudden revelation, the arrival of unexpected allies, a specific complication, being able to switch from the preparation of a plan to its execution, and so on.
Variation B: A more simple and “transparent” transition between the last episode of ASCENT and the first episode of FALL. In this case the midpoint is used more as part of the plot structure than an actual event. The main purpose of this variation is to mark the transition between ASCENT and FALL.
MIDSECTION: it is a well-defined central part that, no matter how short, is made of at least one episode and features the typical traits of this part of the adventure: danger, difficult tests, new and peculiar situations rife with tension and fear, critical revelations that change the course of the story.
What is the difference between a Midpoint and a Midsection, and when should a Director choose one over the other? There are four main factors he should take into account:
The story TICKET: is this a one-way story or a round trip one? Depending on the story TICKET, the disposition of the most important story CLIMAX will also change. If the story is a one-way one, the MAIN CLIMAX will usually happen near the end, if it is a round trip one, at the center of the adventure. The second case will usually feature a larger MIDSECTION that will be entirely dedicated to resolving the most important event of the story, before moving on to the (much harder) return trip or surviving the fallout.
The STRUCTURE TYPE: is this a short Bead-String Plot (such as “Arena”) or a long Cable-Plot? Bead-String stories are usually much smaller than their counterpart. In this case the choice is either between a single MIDSECTION episode or a single-event/transparent MIDPOINT.
The story GENRE: many GENRES do not require a mandatory, complex central event. For instance, most spy thrillers don’t. At the contrary, fantasy stories usually feature a central CORE, TRIAL, or CROSSROAD that takes place in a well-defined area with different locations (and sometimes even tone) than the rest of the story. The mines of Moria from the Lord of the Rings are an excellent example.
The PLAYER CHARACTERS: this mostly rests on the topic of CHARACTER ARCS. If the Director is handling a group of simple and archetypical characters (HIGH CONCEPT) their arcs will likely be closed by now. In this case, the Director may consider to limit the story Middle to a MIDPOINT, unless these characters need to go through the death and rebirth of a TRIAL, to bloom into the heroes that will then take on the events of the FALL. If he is handling more complex and unusual characters (LOW CONCEPT) instead, he will often need to grant them more space to match the intricacies of their development, leaning towards a larger MIDSECTION.
Of course, other details may weigh in. Does the Plot require a complex central action, to explain a REVELATION or to play a difficult central action? Is overcoming trials or tests important in this particular story? And even, is this an IN PROGRESS story, where the Director is improvising? A MIDSECTION is a great way to buy time, sending the player characters through the winding labyrinths (literal or metaphorical) of a CROSSROAD, the terrifying showdowns of a TRIAL or beyond the enemy lines of a CORE, while figuring out the best way to enter the FALL.
– Elisa Mignemi and Allan Kelley