Difference between Crisis and Every Other Scene in the Middle of Your Story

Difference between Crisis and Every Other Scene in the Middle of Your Story

The middle of your story is made up of half of the scenes in your entire story. Your challenge in writing the middle of the story is differentiating between the highest point of intensity in the middle — the crisis — and every other scene in the middle. So what is the difference between the crisis and every other scene in the middle of your story?

To Review

The middle of a novel, memoir, screenplay is the territory of the antagonists. This means that the antagonists create the rules and control the new and unusual world the protagonist enters. In this world, antagonists—internal and external—interfere with the protagonist’s forward progress, creating tension and excitement. This back-and-forth between protagonist and antagonist forms the essential dynamic yin and yang of stories.

All the rules, customs, expectations, and punishments of this new setting reflect the antagonist’s world. To be successful, the protagonist must master them.

Induce Change

The new world performs the primary function of the middle: to induce change. As such, it is a place of struggle and resistance.

As long as the protagonist resists and until she accepts what is, she suffers. He feels unlovable and pursues wealth and power and success no matter the cost. In her fear of failure, she keeps busy, busy, busy. To avoid criticism, he avoids taking risks and always pleases others. To bury anxious or empty feelings, she drinks too much, fights too much, eats too much, hides too much.

In each of these scenes in the middle, she continues using techniques that used to always work and never fail her in her old world and in the exotic world of the middle prove useless. Her backstory wound oozes betrayal. Not unusual for scenes in the middle to deal with betrayal as she copes and complains, resists and controls, hides and suffers.

The Crisis

Finally, a crisis jolts her awake — a betrayal or a death where everything changes, all her illusions shatter and nothing will ever be the same again. A crisis often is exacerbated because the protagonist trusts the wrong people, others, and not herself. With a backstory wound that deals with betrayal, the crisis may turn around a major betrayal.

The difference between the crisis and every other scene in the middle of your story is the level of intensity in the scene. As the protagonist continues trying and failing, dread and anxiety and self-doubt grow. She turns even more tense and restless.

The intensity of the crisis, however, changes her forever.

Antagonist Climax

Think of the protagonist’s crisis as the antagonist’s climax where the antagonist(s) prevails and the protagonist fails. The protagonist is only as good as the antagonists. Throughout the entire beginning and middle of a story, antagonists are always more powerful than the protagonist and seem always to find just the right buttons to push to bring out the worst in the protagonist. After the threshold following the crisis, all that changes. For now . . . the antagonist(s) rule. The height of the antagonist’s power comes at the crisis when the protagonist is confronted by a moment of truth; thereafter, nothing is ever the same.
(Excerpt from The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories.)


Knowing what to write where in a story with a plot reinforces daily writing practice and allows for more productivity in your writing. Whether writing a first draft or revising, if you falter wondering what comes next in a story with a plot, follow the prompts inThe Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing.

Today, I write.