Hello, Write Owls! Welcome to Day 24 of Storytelling 101. Today we’re talking about story middles.
Middles can be challenging because they are the bridge between the beginning and the end, the two parts where most of the super exciting and interesting events occur. The middle is the largest part of your story, and it provides scenes that build-up to the big finale.
Your middle should consist of three primary parts. The first is during the early half of your middle. This is where you make good on whatever promise you made your reader. This could be a couple bonding in a romance, or a person exploring a jungle in an adventure. It could be the hero learning how to wield magic in a fantasy. In the middle of your middle, you should have a midpoint, which is a turning point. This is where something happens that causes the protagonist’s battle with the conflict to go downhill. The second half of your middle shows all these bad things happening that will ultimately result in the final confrontation in the end.
Many writers struggle with sagging middles where there isn’t enough action and tension to keep the story moving forward. There are things you can include in your middle to prevent it from sagging.
Each scene and chapter in the middle needs to propel the plot forward. How does each scene contribute to the plot? If it doesn’t, it probably isn’t necessary.
Make sure you have tension in the scenes that are necessary. If things are going well and there’s no tension, you have a problem. You can remedy this by throwing conflict at your protagonist. This conflict should be related to your plot and/or subplot(s) (Moreci). Just be careful that you don’t throw too much conflict at your characters. Otherwise, your readers will get tired of the never-ending series of unfortunate events. Balance the low points with high points. Give the characters some good things to celebrate. Have your characters reflect on the things that happen to them. These reflections will help with pacing (See Day 29 of Storytelling 101). Just don’t drag them out too long.
The middle is a great place to ask and answer questions. Bring up questions related to your plot and/or subplot(s) and/or character arc(s). Each time you answer a question, bring up a new question. Maybe the answer complicates the situation and leaves the reader with more questions than answers. This can help keep readers engaged because they want to know the answers to the questions brought up in the narrative (Donne). Now, these aren’t literal questions that you type out on the page. They’re little hints at things. For example, in a mystery novel, your reader may know that something is a clue; but they haven’t figured out how it fits into the overall puzzle yet. That’s a question that’s unanswered. Once they figure out how it fits into the mystery, then it’s answered.
Don’t let your subplot(s) take over during the middle. If your subplot(s) is getting more attention than your main plot, there’s a problem. Either your subplot is actually your main plot, or you’re letting the subplot get out of control. I’ll be talking more about subplots in a couple days.
These are the basics of middles. If you have any questions about this topic, please leave them in the comments; and I’ll try to answer them either as a reply or in my Q&A on Saturday.
Feel free to answer these in the comments if you want to chime in!
1) What keeps you engaged in the middle of a story?
Donne, Alexa. “How to Get Through the Sagging Middle of Your Book.” YouTube, uploaded by Alexa Donne, 18 March 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aq6UddAXmeE
Moreci, Jenna. “How to Combat Sagging Middle Syndrome in Your Writing.” YouTube, uploaded by Writing with Jenna Moreci, 14 November 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Gt61PWmhTc