Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tying the Knot - Novel Middles

I love this little picture because it really demonstrates the point I want to make about the middle of our novels. The concept is a compilation of ideas learned over time. A bit from the blueboards, a bit from conferences, a bit of my own.

We should think of the middle third of our books as knots ..



tying the opening inciting incident to the final climax.


Sound like a tall order?
It is! And, it is the most difficult part of the book (for me) to write.


So, what makes the perfect knot?

1.
reconnection with main character we need to be certain the reader is consistently connected to our characters. Only then will they care what happens in the second half of the book. How many of us have set a book down at the half way point because we think, the story isn't bad but I just don't care what happens anymore and I've got more important things to do. Look at what is happening to your characters in this middle third and ask why would my readers even care?

2. a false impression of resolution that main character seemingly tackles the problem...but, could there be trouble around the bend?

3.
foreshadowing to the turning point at the end of the story every end should have a moment where the character says 'a-ha! now I can fix the problem! -- our middles should set that up so it does not make the reader feel cheated or disconnected from the ending.

Like a knot, the middle third explains the start and foreshadows the ending. Don't drag on in exposition or go off on tangents.

Keep it tight and make the reader feel connected to the characters.


Now, I need to take some of my own advice and do some manuscript chopping today!

Questions:
any other middle work advice? how do you navigate those tough middle third waters? Who got a nap this weekend?

*

23 comments:

Scott said...

Nap? Seriously? Oh, wait, yes I did! Woo-hoo!

I always try to make sure that, by the middle, the resolution of the conflict is within site for the character(s). . . as well as a few additional problems to mix things up a bit.

Great post. Have you been singing 'Afternoon Delight' lately? Ha!

Jackee said...

Welcome back! I love the image of the middle being a knot because I struggle with those messy areas too. I've been using a lot of the Plot Whisperer's advice. That has seemed to help keep the tension up.

And nap? No, there's no rest for the weary over here. Give it a couple of years. :)

Jennifer Shirk said...

Yes! great ways to tie up that middle. For my romances, the middle has a lot of set-up for the black moment, which I guess is a lot like your #3.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

These are great, Tess! I try to heighten everything even more here--raise the stakes--and those are three great ways to do it!

Piedmont Writer said...

I'm not sure if I even have a middle. Oops. Or maybe that my middle is more toward the end. I generally keep building the tension until the very end of the book. Hmmm...I'll have to take a look at that.

Lynnette Labelle said...

Just keep upping the stakes and the middle can't sag.

A nap probably would've done me some good this weekend, but I had too much on my plate. Oh, well.

Have a great day!

Lynnette Labelle
http://lynnettelabelle.blogspot.com

Karen Akins said...

Great post. Tackling the middle for me usually involves sitting at my laptop whining and e-mailing my crit buddies until they threaten to flog me.

And, why, yes, I did get a nap this weekend. It was lovely.

[Okay, this is just too perfect...my word verification is "unflog"!!]

Solvang Sherrie said...

The "muddle" is always the hardest part for any book. But I like your image of the knot. Tying up those loose ends to make a coherent story.

Amy Saia said...

Oh! I totally did the trick them in the middle thing with a fake resolution. Yes.

Hey, nice to see you again. I really like the idea of being unplugged, I might try it next week to finally get these re-writes done.

Tere Kirkland said...

This is a great analogy for keeping your plot tightly woven! It's so important to think of your middle as the place where the threads from the beginning and end come together. You don't want your story to start fraying at the ends! ;)

Tina Laurel Lee said...

Very helpful post.

Crystal said...

Love, LOVE this analogy, Tess! This post was (is!) truly something I needed to read like, RIGHT NOW! I'm revising toward the middle of my novel and you've given some great points to think about. What you said about tying the opening inciting incident to the final climax makes perfect sense & is something I'm keeping in mind as I go through the manuscript, while adding and revising scenes to increase the tension. In fact, ALL 3 of the points you list are great ways to tie up the middle. Thanks SO MUCH for sharing your thoughts & experience with this, Tess! :)

Carolyn V. said...

Owwww! I love this advice Tess! I'm working on my middle right now! Yay! Thanks. =)

Jody Hedlund said...

Awesome advice, Tess! I needed this advice since I'm at the middle of my novel at this moment! Thank you!

L.T. Elliot said...

I spent all last week working through that rotten middle. Thanks to my clever hubby, I figured out where to put the right knot! =] Tess, you're so awesome. You take the hardest topics and make them so easy to understand. How do you do it?

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

I agree with L.T. Elliot, these posts are awesome and they make the mechanics of writing make sense. Thank you, Tess!

Oh, and thanks for stopping by my blog and for following. :)

Sharon Mayhew said...

What was it Patti said? Box up Box down....

Susan Fields said...

Welcome back, Tess - I hope you had a productive break! And yes, I got naps on Saturday and Sunday. :)

Michelle said...

Great post - must not lose the read in the middle

Mary Aalgaard said...

It seems like good middles have some sort of adventure. Bring in a good blizzard, or mean character, or injury.

I did not nap last weekend, but have put it on the schedule for the one coming up.

Jill Kemerer said...

Great advice. No meandering. Each scene needs to further the story--even the pesky middle ones! Alas, no nap for me.

dellgirl said...

What a nice post and such great advice. You really made this so easy to follow and understand. Thanks, for sharing this.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

yes - i just finished cutting this week!