Squishy Middle

By CBramkamp Newbie Guide 1 Comment on Squishy Middle

Maze in Cologne Cathedral

Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo reminds us that the middle of any endeavor is called the Long, dark night of the soul for a reason.Maze in Cologne Cathedral

Every Hollywood movie has one because we love seeing our protagonists pummeled for a while before they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and head out to kick some ass.”

During NaNoWriMo  while frantically (a fun frantic, make no mistake), the worst, more difficult part of the project is after 30,000 words or two weeks and you are suddenly in the quicksand of the middle.

So what is in your middle?  Do you need to change it up?  Is the heroine boring?  Is she given to spouting clichés?  Did she bat her eyes at the hero and then faint dead in his arms?

That’s what I thought.

Maybe your heroine needs a hobby.  Like lighting things on fire.  Or running away from home.  Or getting herself kidnaped by aliens.  Any kind of Alien will do.

Something needs to happen.  And explosion, an invasion, a betrayal.  What you   need is a sudden turn of events.  Something wow, something dramatic something that gets both you and your heroine excited.

How to do it?  Because we are all about helping rather than just haranguing our readers and Newbie Writers listeners.

Has the Hero forgot why?

Return to what your hero wanted in the first place.  Is he or she off course?  Is that the problem?  What can they do to get back on the plot path?

Are you bored with the plot?  Then drop a bomb, you can fix it in the next draft run, but get your plot energized again, you’ll thank yourself the next morning when you tackle this again.

Introduce a new character, a really weird one.  A sprite from the forest, a child the heroine forgot she birthed, a love, a hate.

Back Story

Stuck in the middle?  Toss in that back story that we shamed you into removing from the opening chapter.   Talk about the hero’s past, talk about his or her family.  Reviewing the hero’s past can inspire new motivation and plot development.

Remember that if you are bored writing it, your reader will be even more disinterested.

Go Shopping

What does the heroine need:  sword, shoes?  Who does she meet in the stalls or stores?  What happens during the annual midnight sale?  Are there random battles,   monkey knife fights, arguments.


Where is he or she?  Describe the town, the forest the city, the world.

Have her rescue someone or something.  Does that person or dog follow her?  Change the course of the plot?  Or did it just end up an one off.  But hey, if it is  one – off, at least you got closer to the end.

Skip It

Skip the section that is bogging you down and move to what excites you.  If you are determinedly showing and not telling in the story and have found you are lovingly describing every mile of the hero’s journey, skip ahead.  Because the reader certainly will.   She started out for the city and after five grueling days that are too tedious to describe here, she arrived at the Cuddly Duck Bar and Grill and was instantly thrust into the middle of a monkey knife fight.

The point is, sometimes when you struggle in the middle that resembles creativity quicksand, your job is to stop struggling and look around for a low hanging branch.

  •  Snow White was in the middle of the forest when she encountered the dwarves. 
  • Belle was in the middle of the castle when she encountered the beast. 
  • The Titanic was sailing in the middle of the ocean when it hit the iceberg.

The middle is soft, squishy, troublesome, but also tasty. Some consider it the best part.

And sometimes you bite in the See’s candy and see that the middle is not your favorite.

So toss it and reach for a new flavor. Throw in something new and get on with the novel.

Catharine Bramkamp is the author of Future Girls and Future Gold

as well as the upcoming Don’t Write Like We Talk – what we’ve learned after three years interviewing authors, agents and publishers.

Newbie Writers Podcast

For more information: www.YourBookStartsHere.com

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One comment
  • Beth Barany
    Posted on August 27, 2015 at 1:05 am

    Love it, Catharine! Especially that bit about biting into the candy and hating the middle. So why not throw that out and choose a different hopefully tastier candy?!

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