Here’s what I understood about the middle:
· There are a series of tests and challenges your main character(s) must go through.
· The challenges increase in difficulty.
· Something dramatic and life-changing is supposed to happen to the main character(s) at the midpoint that changes the outcome.
Kind of vague, right?
Recently, I read James Scott Bell’s short (93 pages) book, Write Your Novel From the Middle. He maintains that pansters, plotters, and those in between can write from the middle. I hesitated to buy it because I’m skeptical about something that is portrayed as helpful to everyone.
However, I was surprised and do believe that different types of writers can use this approach.
Briefly, Bell considers a story to be a triangle where the bottom left is pre-story psychology or world, the bottom right is post-transformation, and the top of the triangle is what he calls the mirror moment.
This moment, located halfway into your story, is where the main character looks in the mirror and takes stock of herself and the conflict. If it is a character driven story, the character will determine how she needs to change in order to fight successfully.
In a plot driven story, the character will determine the odds against her, not necessarily how she needs to change. At this point it seems that the character faces certain death. Bell points out that some stories have both kinds of mirror moments.
Bell believes that the mirror moment is what the story is really about. (An epiphany!)
Also, “It’s not a scene, but a moment within a scene.” (Wow) This may not be a new concept for you, but it was new to me. I always thought the midpoint was a scene where something needed to be done instead of an internal moment.
He makes the point that while the character can decide what she needs to change during the mirror moment, the writer must show actions proving the character changed.
Another concept that intrigued me was that the main character should be in danger of dying and that there are three kinds of death:
· professional (if a novel revolves around a character’s calling)
· psychological (key to romances)
There can be more than one type of death in a story. Bell says that it’s crucial to know the death stakes in order to write from the middle.
Currently, I’m in the process of plotting a short story writing from the middle. I’m finding that I need to take some time and really think about my character to understand her mirror moment and how it fits with the beginning and ending I had envisioned. I’m hopeful that this time I won’t have such a huge muddle in the middle to sort out.
There's more good information and some writing tips in James Scott Bell's book. You can read the description or order it on Amazon.***
Is the middle of the story easy or difficult for you to write?
If you’ve read Write Your Novel From the Middle, did you find this approach helpful?