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Halfway Plot Switch

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"So you think they ever settled that bag boy strike?"
Homer Simpson (while rafting down the Zambezi River), The Simpsons, "Simpson Safari"

A typical plot structure is Two Lines, No Waiting, where two mostly unrelated plots occur simultaneously. A Halfway Plot Switch, on the other hand, features two mostly unrelated plots that occur one after the other, linked by a rather tenuous chain of events. As such, the start of the episode will often have close to nothing to do with the ending. This is frequently caused by a Conflict Killer. Not to be confused with a Malignant Plot Tumor, where the supposed B-plot (or even C-plot) gradually eclipses the A-plot.

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If the plot switch occurs while wrapping up the story, it's a Gainax Ending. A Sacrificial Lion may fail to survive the switch. Can seem similar to First Law of Tragicomedies, but that only applies to a specific change in tone (comedy to tragedy), where the plot is unaffected. If the Halfway Plot Switch involves the work becoming darker or scarier, a Gut Punch may be involved.

Compare Developing Doomed Characters (which is about the time spent examining the mundane lives of the characters before something extraordinary happens that starts the "real" story) and Batman Cold Open (where the opening events not connected to the main plot are resolved before it begins). See Two-Act Structure when the two parts are narratively connected but differ in their mood. Contrast Working the Same Case. Compare and contrast Mid-Season Twist, which typically marks the end of the first act or even earlier.

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May overlap with Genre Shift, or Surprise Creepy. Often the switch itself is a Wham Episode.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan goes from an After the End story about the last remnants of humanity fighting for survival against hulking giants to a war story with about the protagonists fighting an invading empire (turns out they weren't the last of humanity after all) with more of a focus on politics and world-building.
  • This is a favored tactic of Cromartie High School, often combined with Random Events Plot or What Happened to the Mouse? Rarely will anything actually be resolved. One episode, for example, ended with:
    Narrator: Will anyone learn Hokuto's Lackey's name? (second plot) What will happen with the Boss Championship? (first plot) Many questions will be answered in the next episode of Cromartie High School... and many will not. We hope you'll join us then.
  • Dragon Ball Z's Cell Saga has this combined with a serious case of The Big Bad Shuffle — after a fake out with Freeza coming back to Earth (only to get on the bad side of The Worf Effect), the main plot seems to be the Kid from the Future Trunks coming back in time to prevent Dr. Gero, a scientist who worked for the Red Ribbon Army, from unleashing a pair of deadly androids in revenge for the Red Ribbon Army's defeat, which caused the apocalypse in Trunks' timeline. Dr. Gero and another android show up and put on a terrible showing before Gero is unceremoniously killed by the two androids who caused Trunks' Bad Future... who don't actually have any interest in destroying the world this time. Then Cell shows up with his own goals, leaving the 'Dr. Gero's Revenge' plot thoroughly by the wayside except by the very end, when Cell inadvertently ends up killing Goku during his attempted Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum as per Dr. Gero's original goal, and then attempts to blow up the Earth once he comes back from that.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha starts out with a standard Monster of the Week formula with Nanoha's primary goal being the collection of the Jewel Seeds. Once Fate appears, the Monster of the Week formula is abandoned, and the Jewel Seed hunt becomes more of a secondary goal to Nanoha's attempts to get through Fate's cold exterior.
  • The manga and anime of Soul Eater starts with the main characters capturing 99 souls and 1 witch's soul so any of them can become the new weapon of Lord Death, who is basically the Grim Reaper. ... too bad! Witches eventually become actual antagonists, and that goal is set aside completely to defeat them. The manga eventually circles back to its original goal, while the anime has an original ending that forgets it.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: The first half or so is about the heroes fighting to free the world from the villains keeping everyone underground. The second half is about them actually trying to govern the world they've just liberated, which turns out to be harder than they thought.

    Asian Animation 
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons episode 99 starts out being focused on Wolffy Playing Sick to avoid her wife's wrath after his attempt to catch a goat falls flat. Once Wolnie discovers Wolffy is faking his ailment and leaves with Wilie, the plot switches to being about Wolffy having to hide Pink Fox from Wolnie when she pays a visit to Wolf Castle.

    Comedy 
  • "Buck Buck", one of Bill Cosby's routines from his stand-up days. The first half is about Buck Buck, a game in which one group of kids gets jumped on by another and tries not to fall down (Bill's team is good on defense, but their real secret weapon is Fat Albert). It then segues into a story about young Cosby and Fat Albert getting scared by their friends with the help of a Frankenstein statue. Originated the line "I told you that story to tell you this one", which has become a stock phrase sometimes used as a Lampshade Hanging.
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    Comic Strips 
  • A Calvin and Hobbes story had Calvin and Hobbes creating their G.R.O.S.S club and then accidentally pushing Calvin's mother's car out of the garage, leading to the duo running away from home.
    • In another arc, Calvin is trying to do his homework when gravity reverses, causing him to get stuck on the ceiling. Just after everything reverts to normal, he starts to grow bigger and bigger until he falls off the Milky Way Galaxy. As he puts it, "this has been a very peculiar afternoon." The 10th anniversary special has Watterson admitting that the story was "weird for weirdness' sake".
    • Another story arc had a variation of this; Calvin and his parents go to a wedding for presumably a friend of the mother, but Calvin accidentally leaves Hobbes behind and gripes about it throughout. But when they return home, the family is horrified to learn their house had been broken into and robbed. The parents are visibly shaken by the robbery, while Calvin gets scared that Hobbes may have been stolen, but after he's found under Calvin's bed covers, Calvin quickly goes back to normal, but the plot now focuses on the parents dealing with the robbery. And then it ends with Calvin complaining about the TV having been stolen.
  • FoxTrot uses this sometimes.
    • One 1995 story had Jason entering a chess contest with Roger and wins $50, thus turning the story into Jason using the money to taunt his siblings. Then, the plot shifts to Jason spending all his money on 5,000 gumballs, which he eats all in one weekend. THEN, the plot shifts to Jason getting his first cavity as a result of eating all the gumballs, before finally leading up to Jason's first dentist visit.
      • Probably a bigger one occurred in 1999, with a big story of Roger going on a business trip out of state, then returning home to find Jason in stitches following a Hot Wheels accident. After two days focusing on Jason and his stitches, the plot switches to Roger quitting work to spend more time with his family. He then gets scammed out of $199.99 in an infomercial. He then tries trading stocks on the Internet and winds up losing $11,000 in the second hour (after earning $3,000 in the first hour). After everyone at Roger's work goes crazy without Roger there to mess things up, he gets his job back. However, Roger sold the family computer after losing the money in the stocks, so the plot finally goes to Andy buying the iFruit.
  • A Heart of the City seven-week arc started with Dean mourning the end of Star Wars and ended with Heart dreaming she was in summer school. It starts here.
  • A 1976 storyline in Peanuts had Snoopy determined to play tennis at Wimbledon, which he believes is near Kansas City. When he gets to Kansas City he becomes more concerned with finding his sister Belle, and the whole Wimbledon thing drops away. Lampshaded when he laments "And now I can't even remember why I'm wearing this stupid tennis visor!"
  • The Wacky Adventures of Pedro often does this for storylines that run longer than a few months. One Wacky Adventure lasted from August 2001 all the way to March 2005 just because the cartoonist kept changing the plot (though each story does flow into another relatively well).

    Fan Works 
  • The Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfic The Joyous One has two. The first third of the story deals with Feliciano trying to get Ludwig back home and him recovering from his First Episode Resurrection. The next third of the story deals with Ludwig (now Monika) coming to terms with her trans identity. The last part of the story becomes a Coming-Out Story as Monika explains the situation to her parents, and they try to find a place where they can all live together.
  • The Zootopia fanfic A New Dawn is initially about Dawn Bellwether seeking revenge after escaping prison. However, she is caught and thrown back in jail early on, and the rest of the story is about her relationship with Gideon Grey, and how he slowly helps her realize the error of her ways.
  • The Loud House fic Thicker Than Blood starts out about Lincoln (and the younger Loud sisters) learning he is adopted and dealing with the emotional fallout of that. But they more or less get past this less than ten chapters in. Then Lincoln's parents reveal that he has a twin sister, Linka, who got adopted by another family and the rest of the story begins.

    Films — Animation 
  • Freddie as F.R.O.7 is a definite example. The story begins in medieval times where a king and his young son Frederick (whom he blessed with magical abilities) live in a beautiful castle alongside Frederick's aunt. Frederick's mother was lost at sea so he spends all of his time with his father. During a horse ride, a snake spooks the king's horse. He falls and dies instantly. Shortly afterwards, Frederick realizes that it was his aunt who spooked the King's horse. She tries to kill him but ends up turning him into a frog instead. He escapes and she vows to find him. The narrator goes on to say that Frederick lived life among other frogs...and then used his powers to travel through time to the United Kingdom and become a secret agent. The rest of the plot focuses on Freddy trying to solve a mystery with his human team Scotty, and Deffers. The only cohesion comes from the fact that Freddy's aunt is the Big Bad having apparently gotten bored of ruling the kingdom for which she killed Freddy's family in the first place and teamed up with an overweight evil man to steal monuments instead.
  • Tom and Jerry: The Movie starts off as an hour-and-a-half-long Tom and Jerry cartoon. But when Puggsy shows up, things start to go downhill. Most of the rest of the plot is about helping a Heartwarming Orphan escape her Rich Bitch aunt and find her long-lost Adventurer Archaeologist father.
    Puggsy: The name is Puggsy. What's yours?
    Tom: I'm Tom.
    Jerry: I'm Jerry.
    Both: (Gasp!) You talk!

    Literature 
  • The first part of Alouette's Song is a techno-thriller about the discovery of a potential means of Faster-Than-Light Travel and the subterfuge from a secret government agency that wants to suppress it. At almost exactly the halfway point, the starship is built, and the heroes beat the primary villain in space and are just about to apprehend him, only for them to accidentally enter warp drive and wind up embroiled in an interplanetary war on the other side of the Galaxy. The original Skylark Series was also split into a terrestrial and an extraterrestrial half, but when they first arrive in space there are several smaller vignettes before they encounter the aliens so that the Rising Conflict is more gradual. These scenes were cut out of Alouette's Song, and therefore the book reads like two separate stories with their own climaxes, told one after another.
  • Very much so in "Brainjack", where the beginning is about a Cracker who ends up being hired by a government White-Hat hacker group after hacking the White House and a major telecommunications provider for a neuro-headset. The plot then brutally murders its previous self and becomes about a group of the hackers trying to subvert the neuro-headsets' Hive Mind from destroying them. Can also be considered a Malignant Plot Tumor.
  • Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. The first half has the elevator and its occupants accidentally ending up in orbit and ultimately rescuing most of the crew of a space hotel from carnivorous aliens. Once the elevator returns to the chocolate factory, the second half has the three still-bedridden Bucket grandparents overdosing on reverse-aging pills that Willy Wonka invented, necessitating a journey far beneath the factory to rescue one of them. The events of the first half aren't brought up again until the last chapter.
  • Double Image by David Morrell: A photographer takes pics of something in Bosnia that really pisses off a bad guy. As soon as that plotline is resolved, said photographer becomes obsessed over a mysterious woman in some pictures he finds.
  • In the 13th book of Colin Thompson's series The Floods (called The Royal Family), a plot about a dog breaking another dog's heart and a resulting revenge plot is suddenly interrupted by a fourth-wall-breaking "interregnum" chapter where the more central characters say that they're absolutely sick of that story arc, and then the rest of the book changes to a plot about Betty Flood pursuing the throne of Transylvania Waters and the Ultimate Super Wizard Powers.
  • Friday the 13th: The Jason Strain starts off in the Deadly Game genre... then shifts to Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Played with in Gone Girl. The novel is told from both Nick and Amy's perspectives. Nick is in the present day, trying to cope with being the main culprit in his wife's disappearance, while Amy's diary entries tell the story of a crumbling marriage. In the second half of the story, we learn that Amy's diary was a complete fabrication, all part of an elaborate scheme to frame her husband. From there, the story gets a little more interesting...
  • The Host (2008) starts out being about an alien adjusting to life as a bodysnatcher, then devotes the entire second act to developing platonic and romantic relationships with the rebels, before focusing on saving the humans near the end.
  • Sidney Sheldon's If Tomorrow Comes is divided into three "books". Books One and Two, which take up a little over a third of the novel, tell the tale of Tracy Whitney's horrifying Break the Cutie experience when she's framed by the Mafia for a robbery and wounding, and how she gets her revenge on the guilty parties. In Book Three, her struggle to make an honest living while paroled from prison leads to her becoming a Classy Cat-Burglar who finds herself matching wits not only with European authorities but a fellow con artist. The main nemesis is an insurance investigator who briefly met up with her in Book One as part of his investigation of the false crimes; he becomes obsessed with tracking her down when his employer is besieged with claims for things she's stolen.
  • The Kneebone Boy starts with three kids dropped off at their aunt's house while their single-father goes out of town on business. Upon finding out their aunt is away on vacation, they go to a small town with a castle, where they find out about the legend of the Kneebone Boy, which says that the first-born child of the family who owned the castle would always be born as a deformed monster. The middle of the book sets up several intriguing plot threads which leave the reader guessing... then drops them all in the last few chapters without resolution to reveal that the castle is now a mental institution where the children's mom is.
  • The first chunk of Little Star is effectively about Lennart and Leila raising Theres before she kills them. Then there's a significant chunk about Theres growing up, followed by a section on Theresa's life before the two finally meet around the midpoint of the novel.
  • The children's book Mandie and the Secret Tunnel starts out as a drama that turns into a mystery/treasure hunt midway through the story.
  • Madeline:
    • The first half of the original book is just about the everyday lives of Madeline, her schoolmates, and Miss Clavel. Then suddenly Madeline is stricken with appendicitis and the rest of the plot revolves around her stay at the hospital.
    • Madeline in London at first revolves around Pepito's unhappiness at having to move to London and leave Madeline and the other girls behind. But when Madeline and friends come to visit him for his birthday, the rest of the plot involves their misadventures with the horse they buy as a present for him.
    • Madeline's Christmas starts out with Miss Clavel and all the girls except Madeline having colds on Christmas Eve and needing Madeline to take care of them, but then switches the focus to an Arabian rug merchant, who sells all his rugs to the girls only to get chilled without them, is nursed by Madeline, and then turns out to be a magician and makes his rugs fly all the girls home to their parents for the holidays.
  • Arguably used in Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow where a routine murder mystery trope dives off the deep-end into X-Files-esque killer bug from space about halfway through the novel.
  • Tané's plotline in The Priory of the Orange Tree starts out like a Coming-of-Age Story about a commoner at a warrior school, struggling to prove herself against her snobbish rival and her own self-doubt to achieve her dream of becoming a dragonrider. She succeeds in her goals, and shortly after that, the decision she made on the first page of the book crashes back into her life and destroys it all. That launches her into the main plot of the rest of the book, which is about the eternal rage dragon that's coming back to dominate the world.
  • Raybearer opens with a typical YA plot: Troubled, but Cute teenage assassin develops feelings for a cute boy she's supposed to kill, and much angst is had. Then Tarisai succeeds in circumventing her orders about a third of the way through the plot, happily assimilates into the council her mother forced her to infiltrate, and helps them advance the nation's human rights. And discovers she is also an heir to the throne. Most notably, her relationship with the boy never has any romantic or sexual elements, nor does any sort of Love Triangle develop.
  • The Tawny Man trilogy starts out with a book about prince Dutiful's abduction by the Piebalds, with his upcoming betrothal to an Outislander princess a background detail. The Outislands plotline becomes more prominent in the second book and completely makes up the third book, while the Piebald storyline becomes less prominent and is ultimately resolved off-page in the third book.
  • Neal Stephenson's Ream De does this in a big way. It starts off with Russian mobsters abducting a girl and several other people who were unwittingly involved in the mob losing millions of dollars to Chinese hackers. After getting dragged to China with the Russian hit squad, the girl gets abducted by Jihadist terrorists in the apartment one story above the hackers. The rest of the story involves various friends, family and government forces trying to stop the terrorists and rescue the girl.
  • Room is about a woman who was kidnapped as a teenager and gave birth to a son while in captivity. The child, Jack, thinks that their prison (or 'Room', as he calls it) is all that exists in the world, while his mother tries to enforce these beliefs for him, although dire circumstances eventually force her to tell the truth. Then they escape, and the rest of the story is about the two of them trying to adapt to the real world after everything they've gone through.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land starts out mainly with a plot about Valentine Michael Smith's (the human raised as a Martian) land rights to Mars, but then this issue is resolved with surprising ease, and the plot transitions to be primarily about Smith creating a religion and becoming a Messianic Archetype.
  • Twilight. In New Moon, most of the book is devoted to Bella recovering from Edward leaving her, finding out about the werewolves, and the werewolves hunting for Victoria. Suddenly, the climax of the novel goes to being about Edward planning to commit suicide via the Volturi, and Bella and Alice having to save him. In Eclipse, most of the story is devoted to the Bella/Edward/Jacob love triangle, and only gives focus on the matter of the vampire army and Victoria near the end of the book. In Breaking Dawn, the first two sections of the book (as well as a bit of the start of the third) are focused on Bella and Edward marrying and her having and raising her half-human daughter. Most of the third section is about the Volturi arriving to use Renesmee as an excuse to kill the Cullens, with flavors of a vampire conspiracy and the set up for an epic battle that never happens.
  • The first chunk of The Twits is vignettes about how horrible the twits are. The second chunk is about the family of monkeys trying to escape.
  • Wuthering Heights is a famous example. The first half is a more-or-less conventional tragic love story (albeit with very morally ambiguous characters and a strange, mystical, brutally codependent emotional twinship in place of normal romantic love) between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, ending with Catherine's death. The second half takes place after a long Time Skip, focuses on the now-adolescent children of the previous main characters, and casts Heathcliff in the role of Evil Uncle, manipulating and abusing his niece-by-marriage, son and ward to complete his revenge on the Earnshaw and Linton families. The two halves are so distinct that most screen and stage adaptations easily cut the second half and only adapt the Heathcliff/Catherine love story.

    Music 
  • Tom Lehrer's song Poisoning Pigeons in the Park starts out as your typical ballad about the wonders of spring... and then in the first chorus suddenly moves on to being about, well, poisoning pigeons in the park.
    • Also I Hold Your Hand In Mine which starts out like a regular love song but then reveals that the hand isn't attached to her body.
  • The Beatles' "A Day in the Life" is the ultimate Halfway Plot Switch song. Paul even confesses that the middle part was a piano piece that he was initially working on independently.
  • "Charming Weather" from Lionel Monckton's The Arcadians. It starts off obviously leading into a marriage proposal — until they realise they aren't alone, and it turns into banal smalltalk for the chorus. Unusual since, being music, it can do it all over a second time. YouTube has a rather badly performed recording of it.
  • Katrinah Jospehina by Universal Hall Pass. The first half of the song is the tale of a girl (the eponymous Katrinah) who decided to explore beneath the earth. The second half consists of a twisted, echoing beat accompanying backwards-sounding fragments of the lyrics. This change is never really explained, but it's heavily implied that Katrinah is either mentally ill or trapped in hell... or both.
  • Arlo Guthrie starts out "The Alice's Restaurant Massacree" by telling about how he was arrested for littering on Thanksgiving, but he switches halfway through to talk about going to visit the draft board. Eventually it all ties together.
  • Gorillaz's "Empire Ants" song, from the Plastic Beach album. It starts with 2D singing, backed by sweet almost lift-like tropical tunes. Then, full stop, and it starts what appears a new song, with electro-techno sounds, bass, and even new vocals, from guest artist Little Dragon. And it's awesome.
  • "Miserable Lie" by The Smiths seems constructed out of three separate songs, opening with a slow, gentle, serious introduction that seems to represent the end of a relationship. The song then turns on a dime to an uptempo number with a series of bitter, (yet comical) stream-of-consciousness lyrics. This shift in tone gets escalated to a manic level in the final part of the track, as Morrissey switches to a falsetto voice, howling about his perceived inadequacies in life and love. It can be argued that the theme of the lyrics stays constant, but then again, said theme is dominant in most of The Smiths' songs, as well as Morrissey's solo work.
  • The Good, The Bad and The Queen's song, Three Changes. It doesn't take a genius to see why it's named like that. The song starts and goes all well, up after the second chorus, and it switches to a Latin-like song, and later, it changes into a slower and minimalistic version of the first part. So there's only two changes?
  • The first half of Laserdance's 1995 album The Guardian of Forever is the same style as the previous two albums, but halfway through it undergoes a total Genre Shift to tech-trance.
  • David Bowie's "Cygnet Committee" starts with the singer bemoaning the intellectual passengers in his circle and shifts into a tale of that circle leading a Full-Circle Revolution.
  • Billy Joel's "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" switches tone and subject three times. The first and final sections are about the restaurant, or more accurately its wine list. This restaurant is not mentioned in either of the other two more upbeat sections, one of which is about a teenage romance that eventually turned into a failed marriage. Also, the original title was "The Ballad of Brenda and Eddie" (The two teens the third section is about), according to Word of God.
  • The song "A Fair Day's Work" from the Monty Python Oratorio Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy) starts off as a silly song in which a man on death row praises the social benefits of capital punishment. Then he goes on about how everyone must pull their weight in society as part of the reason why capital punishment is necessary (this is where the title comes from), and then finally changes subject again to discuss what he did for a living before ending up being sentenced to die by crucifixion for unspecified reasons. Since the career in question was lumberjack and this was made by Monty Python, this naturally transitions into a monologue about crossdressing.
  • Scorpions "Coming Home" starts out as a soft acoustic ballad then about halfway through suddenly changes into full-on heavy metal.
  • 5 Seconds of Summer's "She's Kinda Hot" starts out about a guy who's annoyed by his girlfriend but only stays with her because, well, "she's kinda hot". Then in the second verse, it randomly switches to being about the narrator's friend dropping out of college because he has "bigger plans", then for the chorus, it becomes an anthem of empowerment for losers and outcasts.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's song "Foil" begins as a cooking show parody about the benefits of using aluminum foil as a wrap. The second half is all about the conspiracy theories the singer believes in (Alien Abduction, Black Helicopters, The Illuminati, Mind Control, and Moon-Landing Hoax among them) and how a Tinfoil Hat will protect you.
    Oh by the way, I've cracked the code...
  • In "Raspberry Beret" by Prince the first verse starts off by talking about the narrator's job at the store and his problems with his manager. Then the girl with the raspberry beret walks in and there goes that whole plot line.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Built into Betrayal at House on the Hill. The game begins with the players exploring a spooky old mansion. Eventually, one player will reveal the Haunt, at which point one player betrays the others, and the heroes have to complete some objective, with the traitor attempting to stop them.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Adventure S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks starts off as a standard "clean out the monster-filled dungeon" scenario. After the PCs enter, they discover that the dungeon is actually part of a derelict spacecraft and they're fighting alien monsters armed with high tech weapons.
    • The 5th Edition adventure Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus starts out with the players fighting an evil cult in Baldur's Gate, then has them have to go to the first layer of Hell to rescue the city of Elturel, which has been sucked into it. This is not a surprise to the players, given the name, but the cult's activities have absolutely nothing to do with what happened to Elturel.
  • After half the total turns in Fiasco have elapsed, an event called the Tilt occurs, which adds a bunch more conflict elements to the game. This has the effect of splitting the story into two halves — before the shit hits the fan, and after the shit hits the fan, so to speak. Good players also modulate their playing before and after the Tilt — before the Tilt, more gentle Character Development scenes and Anachronic Order are usually possible, but after the Tilt, characters with a Need should go from pursuing it to a big Jumping Off the Slippery Slope in pursuit of it, and everyone is expected to take more unpredictable, unreasonable and direct actions. The rulebook also notes that killing other characters before the Tilt is bad form.
  • A Lesser Shade Of Evil seems inordinately fond of this idea (non-GMs are asked not to even read the book's introduction), especially given that the "switch" happens during the first session. PCs are asked to make Exalted-esque demigods in a High Fantasy setting... only to learn during a centuries-spanning fast forward that there is no magic in this world, all their powers come from genetic engineering, the people who chose them for this duty are having a falling out, and the results of this falling out lead to an After the End setting in which the PCs have mastered a variety of scientific principles and must use them to help humanity cling to life. Whew.
  • Fantasy Games Unlimited's Year of the Phoenix. The players are told to create astronaut characters for a science fiction/space game. Partway through the first adventure, the game suddenly changes to an After the End saga in Soviet controlled America 200 years later.

    Theatre 
  • The play Done to Death. Act 1 is all about meeting the 5 lead characters and setting up their writing styles and the show's fantasy sequences. Then there is a sudden death at the end of Act 1. Act 2 is then all about solving the murders.
  • The first half of Edward III is a romantic drama, verging on romantic comedy, as King Edward attempts to seduce the Countess of Salisbury. When she refused him, he returns to the wars, and the rest is a standard war history play.
  • The first act of Hamilton is the story of plucky, incredibly intelligent revolutionary soldier Alexander Hamilton as he fights his way through the American Revolution. From "Yorktown" on, the second act follows Hamilton's rise to power in the new American government before his untimely death. Justified in that that's actually what happened in the life of Alexander Hamilton, but still, the two halves are so separate that four main/supporting characters can disappear from the show entirely, and four new main/supporting characters have to be introduced the moment they're gone.
  • The Magic Flute starts out as an apparent "rescue opera," where the heroic young prince Tamino and his sidekick Papageno set out to free the Queen of the Night's lovely daughter Pamina from the clutches of the "evil" Sarastro. But in the Act I finale, it's revealed that Sarastro is a benevolent high priest, while the Queen is the real villain. Act II then consists of Tamino and Papageno undergoing trials in order to be initiated into Sarastro's brotherhood and win the hands of the ladies they love, while Pamina is forced to choose between her mother and Sarastro once and for all, and then heartbroken because her beloved Tamino won't speak to her (which, unbeknownst to her, is part of his trial).
  • The Winter's Tale consists of a first half that is tragedy and a second half that is comedy. Much scholarly ink has been spilled over the exact relationship of the two parts. (Either way, 'Exit pursued by a bear' is around where the shift happens.)

    Visual Novels 
  • Zig-zagged in the first case of Ace Attorney Investigations 2. It begins with an assassination attempt on the president of a foreign country, with Edgeworth looking for the perpetrator. About halfway through, you find out that the president is fine, but one of his bodyguards has been found dead, shifting the case to a more traditional murder investigation as per the rest of the series. Then you learn that the assassination attempt was staged, and the murder plotline is put on hold until you can prove it. Afterwards, the murder plot resumes, but at the end of the case you find out that amidst the fake assassination, someone planned to kill the president for real, setting up a Sequel Hook for the next four cases.
  • Approximately half of Daughter for Dessert revolves around the protagonist and Amanda saving their diner, while the other half revolves around the wedge that Cecilia drives between the two of them, and the protagonist's attempt to clear up what really happened between Lainie and himself.
  • Doki Doki Literature Club! seems to begin as a Slice of Life Dating Sim where the protagonist reluctantly joins the literature club. The game starts with a Content Warning for disturbing images for a good reason, because the plot changes into a metafictional Psychological Horror game after Sayori is Driven to Suicide. After this, the game becomes a glitchy mess, the characters' backstories are revealed to be really dark, and the characters themselves begin turning into Yanderes.
  • The freeware Visual Novel Ristorante Amore is presented as a Dating Sim in which the player takes the role of a young woman working in the eponymous restaurant. When the prologue ends, however, the role of the game's viewpoint character changes to Pierre, whereupon it's revealed that all of the characters are actors on a planet called Erewhon fueled by feelings of love from the inhabitants of Earth, and they're staging a visual novel in order to encourage those feelings. Pierre isn't even really named Pierre; his name is actually Josh.
  • Steins;Gate is an example of how this can be used to great effect. The story has a Slow-Paced Beginning, revolving around Okabe accidentally inventing a time machine and gathering his friends to figure out how it works and perfect the design. The shadowy enemy organization, SERN, mainly lingers in the background while the focus is on Okabe trying to invent a time machine before they do. Once it is finally completed, however, the SERN agent M4 shows up, and things get serious when she kills Mayuri. From then on, SERN becomes a direct threat to Okabe. and the plot switches to him fighting against SERN while traveling through time to find a timeline where Mayuri lives, then saving Kurisu, and trying to avert two possible dystopian futures.

    Web Animation 
  • Hanazuki: Full of Treasures uses this to dramatic effect in the first season finale, "Big Bad Sickness". The conflict alluded to in the title, that being Red Hemka suffering from a fatal disease he was afflicted with in the previous episode, is resolved halfway through. The remaining half spotlights Kiazuki's emotional turmoil that has been building up since the series began as she suffers a Villainous Breakdown, turns against her newly gained friends, and nearly undoes their hard-earned victory against the Big Bad.
  • The second series of The Most Amazing Story Ever Told starts off in a waffling fashion, with a child's action figure fantasy and recklessness with explosives somehow affecting life two million years later, but the fifth episode shifts focus to God finding out a strand of fate has been misplaced, with the following episodes elaborating on the story of that fate strand.

    Web Comics 
  • In the popular The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, an entire story arc (part 2 in a 4-part mega-arc) is based on this storytelling format, to the extent that it is called "I Told You That Story So I Could Tell You This One". The stories concerned are the titular main character's dilemma when every person he ever killed returns as a zombie to plague him, which leads into an exploration of his family and his sidekick's family when he leaves his sidekick to stay with them instead of bothering him.
  • When it began, Ciem was about how Candi was different from other girls. Then, it was about her sister being murdered. Then, it was about her going to college. Then, trying to find love. Then, it was about her sexual frustrations. Then it was about some guy in a shrew costume murdering everyone. Then, it was about her finding true love again.
  • Close to being standard practice for Mountain Time, such as here, when the plot switches to an entirely new set of characters in a completely different scenario, and much more pronounced in longer story arcs like this one.
  • YU+ME: dream . Goes from a very typical Coming-Out Story about a girl named Fiona who goes to a Catholic high school and falls in love with another girl called Lia, to finding out that it was all a dream, Lia is 900 years old, has been captured by the Queen of Dreams and now Fiona, a bear called Mrs. Butterfield, a woman with a removable head, Fiona's conscience, a blue-haired girl called Clandestine, and a bisexual male called Don must travel through Fiona's dreams to get her back. You... you have to read it to wrap your head around it.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd:
    • The Nerd's review of Super Mario Bros. 3 starts with a normal review of The Wizard and SMB 3... until he starts pointing out satanic references in the game. After that... well... let's just say that all hell breaks loose. Literally.
    • The Nerd's review of Pepsiman starts out looking like it's going to be a review of Yo! Noid. The Nerd goes into the Noid's backstory, then he prepares to play his copy of the game, which he gets from a litter box. Then Pepsiman shows up and transforms the game into the Pepsiman game (along with several other product-placement games the Nerd would rather review).
  • SuperMarioLogan:
    • "The Burger!" initially starts with Junior and his friends playing baseball inside the apartment. Then Cody gets a home run and the ball falls behind the refrigerator. Then Junior and Joseph completely forget about the baseball when they notice the titular burger in front of it.
    • "The Purge!" starts with Junior and his friends watching the news and being notified of the Purge, then Bowser finds out about the Purge and kicks Joseph, Cody and Chef Pee Pee out. This builds up into Chef Pee Pee and Brooklyn T. Guy teaming up to kill Junior.
    • "Jeffy's Wifi Problem!" just so happens to be the most notorious example. Halfway through the video, Jeffy tries to call Brooklyn T. Guy in an attempt to get the WiFi password, only for Brooklyn to quickly forget about the password afterwards and con both Mario and Jeffy $800 out of a Foosball table. Worst of all, he gets away with it.
  • At first, the Scott The Woz 200th episode special, "Borderline Forever", just seems to be another instance of Scott talking about game graphics and box art design, up until he rants about the blue screen border in Super Mario 3D World's multiplayer, and openly wonders why it refuses to go away. And then he notices the video's own blue border. The rest of the episode sees Scott attempting to break free from the blue border and get rid of it once and for all.

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