1. Flying Geese

    Flying Geese Senior Member

    Aug 12, 2013
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    Tell me how you avoid sagging middle in your plotline

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Flying Geese, Aug 10, 2015.

    Now that I am officially on the middle of my story, I am actually pretty worried about it. The middle of my story (about 3 chapters long)and the ending scene are the last bit that I have to do before I'm finished. I will tell you how I plan to avoid Sagging Middle in mine. Might work, might not.

    Everyone tells me that the beginning of my story is intriguing, awesome, and compelling. I've even been compared to bestselling authors like Tolkien and Robert Jordan, neither of whom I have ever read.

    Of course, being human (and worse, a writer), being praised for one thing causes me to worry that another won't be as good. My middle actually begins with a drastic turn in the story, in which you start to solve the mystery of the plot. The plot takes an entirely different turn, but not in the form of a twits. Simply the unfolding of events.

    Several scenes need to happen, and when I write, I tend to feel closed off from the world and get desperate for feedback before going too far in. Perhaps that's the entrepreneur in me.

    TL;DR: What I plan to do is treat the middle of my story like its very own beginning and write as if everything that has happened thus far was just a prologue. In my mind, I will even temporarily change the title of the entire work. This is a mental exercise of sorts.

    What do you think?
  2. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Contributor Contributor

    Nov 30, 2006
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    Ohio, USA
    It's a viable method, and whatever works for you will work for you. There are many 'right' ways to write a novel.

    Just as a frame story, whose structure is to have a story within a story, thus, there is a second beginning after the first beginning. It also affects the ending, or how the ending is structured.

    Good luck moving forward.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2015
  3. theoriginalmonsterman

    theoriginalmonsterman Pickle Contest Administrator Contributor

    Dec 3, 2014
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    To fix that problem think of it this way: Maybe there is no middle maybe there's just a long beginning and then an end.

    I know it sounds a bit weird, but if you treat the beginning and middle as the same thing then it allows you to continue to raise the story's tension until you reach the climax (which would be at the end of the imaginary middle). That way there's never a dull moment in your story.

    It sounds a bit stupid though to write a story without a middle though, but you can really think of it anyway you want because the readers will never know what you were actually thinking while writing the story. :3
    jannert likes this.
  4. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
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    Massachusetts, USA
    Cliche crunches and characterization calisthenics.
    Solar likes this.
  5. FrankieWuh

    FrankieWuh Active Member

    Feb 6, 2014
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    Deepest Darkest UK
    When I asked a writing tutor about this over a pint in the local pub, between us we realised that the structure of a book mirrors stages in relationships, or our lives, and books should be treated in much the same way.
    He argued that the middle part, or middle age of the book is the dullest bit because as writers we become comfortable with ourselves and the writing, that or we are not looking forward to the end so we do everything to avoid it. While I believed that we as people/writers might become a little lost along the way or even overwhelmed once we reach the midpoint of our stories.

    His solution to both was to spice things up. An affair here, an incident there, nothing that will change the course of the story but will add character to your MC, to give a sense they've lived from beginning to end.

    My first thought was it was a daft idea (I'd had a few at that point), but thinking about it more, there are plenty of bestselling authors who do this; you can call it narrative padding if you like, but then when you know more about a character through situation you empathise with them more; you get to like them and then the middle doesn't feel so saggy, or stagnant.
  6. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

    Mar 7, 2013
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    I especially like your statement : That way there's never a dull moment in your story.

    I reckon if people pay too much attention to rigid story structure, they can end up with a three parter that is killer/filler/killer. Killer start, filler middle, killer ending.

    I think it's more important to make your story progress at a natural pace. What happens first is what creates the next thing, etc etc. All the way through to the end. There is no 'middle,' in the sense of a separate story part.

    If a section gets dull, it doesn't necessarily come in the middle. We've all seen dull starts and have read disappointing endings. Dull starts can put you off reading further, while disappointing endings imply that the start and the middle were actually better.

    If you find yourself with a 'dull' bit, no matter where it comes in your story, liven it up with some overall purpose pertaining to the story—character development, relationship development, another notch in the plot. Or simply dump it.

    If you find yourself struggling to write what you feel is a dull bit, then ask yourself: what is the purpose of this dull 'bit'? Do you want to lull your reader into a sense of false security before hitting them with the ending and the twist? Then make the diversion interesting in some way. Let us see why the character has become complacent. Divert the reader as well as your character. Does your character think his problem is solved, when we know it's not? What does he do, while complacent, that will make the endgame more difficult for himself? Does your character get sidetracked by a love affair he didn't expect to happen? Work on these things, if they apply. But also do a bit of foreshadowing, if you can. Clever foreshadowing can keep a reader alert, even as they 'enjoy' an interlude.

    Focus on the total journey, if you can—not just arriving at a destination with breathtaking efficiency. Remember, a story is an emotional experience for most readers, not just an intellectual one. They need to enjoy the trip.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2015
    Viridian likes this.
  7. Aaron DC

    Aaron DC Contributor Contributor

    May 12, 2015
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    At my keyboard
    I like what 2k to 10k author said: if you're dreading writing a scene / chapter / part of your book, don't. It's probably because it's boring or exposition or narrative or something tedious. The bits you love to write are interesting and dynamic, moving the story forward. Essentially what you should be feeling the whole way through.

    I have not done it yet, but have certainly experienced this sensation (*yawn*) when reading a novel.

    That's not to say everything should be break neck speed. It's the slower bits that help you appreciate the intense bits, and can help flesh out the characters and the setting.
    Cave Troll likes this.
  8. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

    Jan 28, 2012
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    My current WIP is divided into two parts. Both have a beginning that escalates up to the end.

    Part one ends on a cliff hanger, and part two immediately resumes from there, i.e. the divider is superficial. What it does is reset the tension/suspense.


    I would argue Lolita and a whole slew of novels use this model. I've added in red an optional third section. This would occur after the main drama is over, when the MC is standing at the station waiting for the train to take away his love from him forever, and in the last paragraph right before it leaves she gets off.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Aug 11, 2015
  9. Ryan Elder

    Ryan Elder Senior Member

    Apr 15, 2015
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    Did you come up with your ending first and work backwards? Did you discover that you do not have a middle by doing so?
  10. blconlon

    blconlon New Member

    Aug 16, 2015
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    "Maybe there is no middle maybe there's just a long beginning and then an end." -- That largely echoes my sentiments. I personally do not like to think about stories having a beginning/middle/end; I find it limits one's imagination by boxing it into a pattern. I prefer to look at a work as a combination of conflicts and questions. It is true that most works have a major conflict which extends throughout the entire work, but it is also true that most works have many subsidiary conflicts. Also, that "central conflict" often is not so simple as to in fact be only one conflict. Take Romeo and Juliet, for example. The central conflict might be described as something like Romeo & Juliet v Fate, to lovers who are fated to be opposed. But, the reason they are fated to be opposed is because they were born into two family's that hate each other, the Capulets and Montagues. Thus, we in fact have two conflicts, Romeo and Juliet v Fate and Capulets v Montagues. Because Shakespeare has created a plot involving two key conflicts, he never has to confront the problem you are facing now. He can resolve one earlier, that of the Capulets and the Montagues and hold the more important one off until the end, that of Romeo and Juliet v Fate. And, importantly, because the two conflicts are so interconnected, the resolution of the subsidiary feels like an essential step toward the resolution of the main conflict. If you are struggling with the "middle" than it suggest to me that there may be something wrong with your beginning or even your overall premise. Your main conflict may not be sufficiently complicated to extend its tension throughout the entire work which is why you are struggling with the middle. You know how it starts, i.e. what the conflict is, and how it ends, i.e. how it is resolved. But, if your conflict is too one dimensional than there wont be any thing to discuss in the "middle". I suggest you go back to the beginning and ask yourself if your central conflict is, in fact, to simplistic too sustain a full novel. If it is, ask yourself how you can evolve it so that you have something important to resolve in the "middle" while not resolving the most essential elements.

    Ill give you one more example for thought. In the Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald also uses an interconnected multi conflict structure as the main driving force of the work, resolving one well before some of the others. The primary conflict is probably an internal conflict for Gatsby, who is wealthy but not happy, but this is tied up in his infatuation with a married woman Daisy, so we also have Gatsby v Daisy and Gatsby v Tom (Daisy's husband). But, interestingly, we as the reader do not even get to meet Gatsby for the first few chapters, he starts out as something like rumor. Thus the initial hook for the reader is not, will Gatsby ever find happiness, or will Gatsby ever get Daisy but rather, who is this Gatsby? We obviously do in fact meet Gatsby well before the book is over, but by that point, he has become such an interesting character that the other conflicts can sustain the book. It is the interconnection of all these different conflicts that makes the work the great work that it is.
  11. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Aug 12, 2015
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    London, UK
    I have different conflicts or mysteries set up that get resolved at different stages of the book. So I don't have 'set up conflict in the beginning> ???play board games??? > resolve conflict at the end'. And of course when one conflict is resolved, it causes a whole other bunch of problems...

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