Before I launch into today’s blog, I do want to preface a point-- any and all writing advice, suggestions, madcap ideas that you are exposed to here-- are just ONE writer’s way of doing it.
The ideas may work for you – they may be absolute crap for you. Just wanted to remind folks there is no absolute RIGHT way to write…so don’t break your neck trying to follow all suggestions from all people.
OK, Public Service spot over (prompted by a post I saw from a very confused new writer on another blog!) Now on to today and my current writing issue.
Ya know, I don’t think I have ever met an author who openly admitted to liking the middle portion of their book. At least not while IN the middle of it. Whether plotter, pantser, or somewhere in-between—it seems that middles are a pain for a majority of writers.
Either there’s too much mayhem going on, or not enough.
Beginnings are great, the excitement of a new world, new characters, and new adventures. Endings are thrilling, even in a series, you’re finishing up something big, a story arc is coming home to roost.
Middles are just…there.
Middles can go one of two ways (well, three really, but the third way is when they do exactly what they are supposed to do—more about that later).
The two ways they can go wrong is to putter out or explode. Puttering out is probably more common for pantsers. You’re steaming along, things are getting interesting, then you hit a “then what happens” moment. Problem is, when you’re telling the story if you don’t know, then who does?
One way I’ve come up with the help get by this is to have a nice conversation with my main characters. I ask them at this exact moment in time- what would be the thing they would want the absolute most. What would bring them untold happiness and joy. Really detail it out.
Then do the opposite.
At that precise moment in time- what is the worst thing that could happen (something I’m sure we always are asking- but a muddled middle sometimes means we lost that). Do that worst thing and go with it. Try and pull your characters apart. Give them crappy weather. Have the damn break. Wash out a road or two. Destroy the dilthium crystals. Whatever it is- do it.
I don’t always keep all of my middle worst case events in (I aim to go over the top)- but it gets me moving.
After that, I look at my end goal. Where do they need to be by end of Act 3. How many other things could go wrong before they get there? This usually gets me past the muddled middle and solidly into the final act.
The other way middles can go wonkie (and sadly, these sometimes end up in books too) is mayhem middle. Too much is going on and the reader (and I’m thinking the writer) kinda gets lost. Could be a case of applying the worst case scenarios without editing them back in a later draft.
My suggestion would be to really take those middle scenes apart and pull out the main line. What do you need to make the scene do what it needs to do. Then slowly add a few bits at a time so it’s not so naked, but hopefully no longer as gaudy ;)>.
Which leaves us with what middles should do. They need to pull the character deeper into their “new world” and the reader right along with them. They need to raise the stakes, and have the character move solidly into the point of no return. They also need to make a logical path for the character arc from beginning to end, as well as one for a twisty, turny (but still logical) plot.
Those are my views on middles—what about you? Major problems? Ways you’ve beaten them into submission? Please share!