Monday, April 15, 2013

Marvelous Middles

“The function of the middle is to develop the implicit promise made by a story's beginning.” ~Nancy Kress

Often writers will delve into a story with much enthusiasm and then, even if they have a good idea where its all going to end, flounder through the middle. You know, all that stuff that has to happen to get us from point A to point B. Here are some tips to help keep your middle from sagging. 

  • Focus. Never lose sight of your through-line - the main plot line. It can be helpful to write the entire through-line before adding in subplots. Although this method might seem tedious, since you'll most likely need to go back and tie the subplots into the through-line, it can save you from trying to figure out how to fix an out-of-control middle. Once a middle is unwieldy, it's sometimes hard to figure out what it needs... and doesn't need, even for the author. 
  •  Make sure character motives are clear. 
  • Character growth/change must seem plausible. 
  • Don't try to include all your research. It's not uncommon for writers to want to include every fascinating detail they've discovered while researching a story. Too much info can muddle your middle and leave readers wondering what the point is. 
  • Use the middle to deepen conflict.
  • Raise the stakes. By the end of the middle, your story should be set up for the grand climax.

Tomorrow's post - Naming characters   

20 comments:

  1. This is so true. Writers are very excited about how to start and always have a grand idea for the climax. I guess the middle does get neglected. This is a nice reminder. Always happy to be here. Keep educating :). Thank you.

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    1. It's always nice to have you here!

      When I first started writing, I'd have these grandiose openings and I'd be so excited about the story, but then I never knew where to go from there. These days, I develop more of the whole picture before I begin. It makes life easier.

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  2. Wonderful post I agree the middle of a book do get neglected, to be truthful I expect many of the great authors have the same problems. Enjoyed the read.

    Yvonne.

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    1. Thanks Yvonne! It would be interesting to hear from some of the greats about whether they struggle with middles. I bet some do.

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  3. excellent advice--the middle is a hard part to work through for me---sometimes even to have a middle part as i want to just tell the story straight out!

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    1. I know what you mean. I've had to slow myself down before because I'll be so excited about the ending that the middle feels like wading through sludge. At some point I realized it's okay to write the ending first. That really helps.

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  4. Absolutely, use the middle to deepen the conflict...make it worse! Lovely to meet you Heidi!

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    1. Lovely to meet you, Amy! Yes, make those characters suffer, right?

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  5. The middle ought to begin giving us interesting applications for all those elements from the beginning. In most stories it's the only opportunity for novel experimentation before the whole thing explodes in conflict later.

    John at The Bathroom Monologues

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  6. The middle of my novel is pretty muddled right now. I'm trying to write through it. Get the first draft down, then fix the mess -- I keep telling myself. There's no point getting discouraged and entangled. Happy writing.

    Jan at Website
    Beyond Acadia
    Faith Talk
    Swamp Lily Review

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    1. That is so important to remember, that you can always go back and change things later. Getting it all down is more important at first than making it perfect. Save that for later.

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  7. I always find the beginning the hardest, what to tell, how to make the back story fade and not interfere with real story. Ends are always easy, the middle all action.

    Tomorrow I'm doing names too!

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    1. Cool, I'll have to check out your name post! I stress a lot over beginnings during revisions. They have to be perfect!

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  8. The middle is always the hardest part for me, too, but I'm getting better at figuring out motivations etc and that's helping. I also remind myself that revision is my friend. :)

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    1. Amen to revisions! Thanks for your comments, Madeline. :)

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  9. EXCELLENT advice Heidi!

    Thanks for dropping by my blog earlier. SO nice to meet you!

    Many authors struggle with the middle. Thankfully I managed to get through my first two novels with little sagging. But keeping a strong focus will get you through those pesky middle pages.

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    1. Nice to meet you, too, Michael! Thanks for coming over to say hello. :)

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  10. A great reminder that it's not all about beginnings and endings--the middle has great value too. Thanks for this post.

    Here from A-Z, of course!

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    1. Every word should have great value, right?

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