Monday, March 18, 2013

Inklings: Middle, Keep the Story Moving

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the beginning of a story. Once you've set the whole thing in motion, you need to keep the momentum building. This happens in the middle of the story. Middles can be tricky things. Sometimes, your plot can get bogged down or start to wander.

In the beginning, your characters are introduced to some sort of conflict. They're launched into the story and are raring to go. Then they hit the middle. One off two things can happen. Either they scale the mountain, facing challenges and obstacles and overcoming them, or they get stuck inn the mud and sit there going nowhere.

So, how can you avoid getting stuck in the mud? How can your characters climb the heights? Here are a few good things to keep in mind as your story unfolds:

  • Keep challenging your characters--Don't let them relax for a second. Keep giving them problems to solve and obstacles to overcome. Maybe they don't always succeed. In fact, they probably shouldn't succeed all the time--after all who does? You don't want to set them up for failure, but you also don't want their journey to be a walk in the park. The more they struggle, the sweeter their victory will be in the end for them and the reader.
  • Pick up the pace--Keep the story moving. This can be difficult. Sometimes characters like to talk about things. They can talk about their situation a little, but you want to keep the pace exciting. Shorter chapters that cut back and forth from the main plot to a subplot can help you achieve this. Lots of action is also a good way to keep things moving.
  • Add details and history as you go--One of the great things about reading a story is to learn things along the way. Add in bits and pieces of characters' histories as the story unfolds. Sometimes it's tempting to divulge a character's entire life story right when you introduce them--don't. Save some of the good stuff for later in the story where it may have more of an impact. This will help keep the reader interested and provide an "aha!" moment. A reader likes nothing more than the feel they've put the pieces of a riddle together and found the answer. You want them to think "Oh, so that's why they acted that way. It makes sense now."
The middle is an important part of your story. In it you work to bring the characters and the reader through many twists and turns right up to the climax of the action of the story. When does that climax take place? We'll talk about that another time!

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