How is your middle shaping up?

by Marie-Claude Bourque

So how do you work the middle of your story?

A writer friend was asking me that just that last week and I shared with her what I do. I thought I’d share it here in case it might give someone some ideas.

Now everyone has their own way to write a book, and frankly there are no “right” ways. But here is mine. This is what I told her.

Have you tried Save the Cat to plot your book?

 A fake victory half way through your story.

At mid-point, I have a fake victory. A place in the story where the characters feel they won but it’s an illusion (a love scene there works well).

Find your way from mid-point to climax

So for the last part I need to go from fake victory to the Climax in Act 3. I start with a bad event, something coming out as a consequence of previous decision. Blade Snyder talks about the “bad guys closing in”. I bring in my “really bad guys” in this oart, maybe escalading from one bad thing to the next.

How bad can it get! Escalate the bad in the second half!

Donald Maass talks about the “how bad can it get!” In my current WIP, a contemporary romance, it starts after my heroine finally gets together with the hero, with first her car breaking down, then her ex moves in town, then she lose her job (because of a stupid decision on her part), then she breaks-up with the hero (tied to the job loss), then she gets into a huge fight with her mom.

As far as the bad stuff happening, I try to have the bad events tied to the characters worst fear as defined in the GMC! And make it a consequence of their actions (in my story, it’s her fault she gets fired, then the firing leads to a break-up, she fears being dependant on a man). You have to torture your characters the whole time!  Make them suffer!

Tension and conflict! Lots of it. 🙂

After all that bad stuff, we need “the dark night of the soul.”

This leads me to the real bottom and a “dark night of the soul”, where the heroine is all alone and is really really low. Then I come up with some epiphany where she decides to take action towards solving her problem. The decision to take action is what leads to Act 3 and the beginning of “lead into victory” and to the climax.

Tie all loose ends in the climax

And then, as I heard Jane Porter say, it’s just a matter of closing all the doors to make sure all is resolved (in this WIP, my heroine makes-up with mom, get back with the hero and takes action that leads to a new job and dealing with issues with her ex.)

Story boards: See the story in one picture!

Jim Butcher had conquered the swampy middle!

I really like the Save the Cat story boards. I made 3 so far for 3 WIP and it helped a lot. Basically, the first part is all about the “fun and game” promise of your book (say for me in a small town family romance, I have sexy kisses and some cute scenes with family, kids and engaging with the hero) and the last part is the meat and bone serious “how bad can it get” sort of thing. I like to make things deeper and deeper in emotions and/or action (for my paranormals) to escalade the pace, than finish with a bang in the climax.

Have fun with your middle. If all fails, also have a read of Jim Butcher’s The Great Swampy Middle! His writing advice his priceless.

What are your tricks?

One Response to How is your middle shaping up?

  1. Daniel says:

    Yeah, Jim Butcher! 🙂

    Gotta whip that middle into shape. Have you tried this new weightloss program from- *bricked*


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