Monday, March 30, 2009

The Muddled Middle

As writers, the middle of a fiction project - whether it's a short story or novel - is often our undoing.

Some writers bog down and trail off and wind up putting an unfinished manuscript in a file. Some plod through and work to fix the problems on subsequent drafts.

As readers, sometimes we put the book down and don't pick it up again, or we stop reading and go to the next story.

The middle of a story - long or short - is no place to take the middle road.

One way to avoid a muddled middle is to tap into characters and tie them tightly into plot. Plotwise, we're told to pile on the trouble. With each chapter, ask ourselves what else can go wrong. What more dirty deeds we can go wrong for our protagonist.

While you're asking these questions, don't forget about your character. If he has an unrational fear of snakes - think Indiana Jones - play that up. If she's afraid of her shadow, it's the time for her to become more paranoid about everything happening to her. Because of her fear and paranoia, she searches for ways to defend herself. And in doing so, causes more problems.

So heap on problems that fit your character so that plot and character become entwined.

It's one sure way to unmuddle your middle.

8 comments:

Paul Brazill said...

didn't chandler say to have someone walk into the room with a gun? I quite like the scooby doo device of velma dropping her glasses, crawling around on the floor, finding them and then looking up to see the monster.

Mary@Holy Mackerel said...

Love your blog. I look to you to fix any of my writing issues, of which I have many!! Thanks!

Jan Christensen said...

Thanks for the reminder to pile more and more "stuff" onto my characters. In the current WIP, I think I've been a little lax in that regard.

Dick Stodghill said...

Interesting topic, Carol.

Carol Kilgore said...

Paul, I know someone said to add a gun or gunshot if the plot slowed down. I'm not much of a historian in any regard, however, so don't know if it was Chandler. As the former person of a Great Dane, I have a particular fondness for Scooby Doo. He's pretty true to character.

Carol Kilgore said...

Well, Mary, I have many writing issues, too. One of mine is forgetting to read back through these blog posts. I spotted several errors tonight when I checked back in.

But since the fun is in the journey not the destination, I think striving to produce the best we can on any given day is all we can ask. Tomorrow we can edit.

I love that you love my blog!

Carol Kilgore said...

Jan, don't let those characters slide by on their charm. Knock them down. Dump dirt on them. Drag them through the mud. Then get really nasty with them!

Carol Kilgore said...

Thank you, Dick.