Monday, April 16, 2012
Muddle in the Middle
By BD Tharp
I've completed two full-length women's fiction novels and I have to say that the middle is a challenge. When I have an idea for a story I usually know who the main characters are going to be, what their goals are and what is getting in the way, and how the story will end. But the middle is a bit of a muddle.
The story for me grows more complex in an organic way. Scenes and situations will come to me where the characters are revealed or challenged in some way. They don't always flow chronologically, either. I may hear a snippet of conversation or see a situation at the store or read a news story that triggers a scene in my head. I'll grab my trusty note pad (I don't leave home without it) and jot down whatever it is that has intrigued me.
Dreams are often a way for conflicts in life to be resolved. Our conscious self gets out of the way and our subconscious shows us an answer. It works that way in writing, too. I've had scenes that just didn't feel complete or a conclusion that just didn't feel right. I'll sleep on it and often dream the way it should work. Crazy, but true!
Many stories grow so complex by midpoint with subplots and minor characters that I although I write it all down, I'll delete parts of it later. I find that it's good to get the story idea down, even if it doesn't make sense, write what scenes you see, then piece them all together and fill in the skeleton with flesh. Like putting together a puzzle.
I don't think there is a right or wrong way to write a novel, but there is a definite patter to them that must be adhered to if the reader is going to be properly sucked in. The middle has to bring the tension as high as it can go, and little by little, resolve the issues to the climax.
I've written chronologically, too, and it worked but felt a bit constrictive. The middle muddle occurred both the chronological writing method and the puzzle piece method. You have to find your own "best way" to capture your story. If you get stuck in the middle, don't stop, just keep on writing. It'll come to you - I promise!