Thursday, September 18, 2014



    We all know it. Like the demon possessing the man from Gadara, it is Legion, and it goes by a hundred different names. The bog; the swamp; the stairway to nowhere; the wall; the well; the pit; the wasteland; the middle part; etc. It is that part of our story past the setup and the inciting incident, but before the build to the climax. It's the middle part of our book in which the story must be carried forward, but we have no earthly idea what to do with it. Understandably, the opening and inciting incident of out book gets a lot of attention - often it was the idea that sparked us to write this book to begin with. Generally the climax and denouement of our story has gotten at least some focus, as well - we've at least imagined variations on how to bring our story to a close. But the middle part rarely gets much thought until you're there. And then, you're stuck.

    Generally I find this is a great time to introduce complications into your story, subplots, if you will, as we discussed earlier this month on the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers blog. But what kind of subplot could we introduce? We've given our main plot a lot of thought, now suddenly we have to come up with another?

    I've heard the advice before, and though I've never had occasion to use, it, it's an interesting thought. Think of the worst thing that could happen in relation to your story...and then make it happen and see how your characters react. If you've set up a murder mystery in which an innocent man is imprisoned forma murder he didn't commit, ask yourself, after all the setup and inciting incident, what's the worst thing that could happen? Maybe he gets shanked in prison by someone connected to the victim; maybe his six-year-old daughter is kidnapped by a disgruntled relative of the victim; maybe he is visited in prison by a US Marshal and we discover that not only has he been living under Witness Security, but because of the arrest they are cutting him off. Anyone of these twists can eat up a lot of pages to bring around, meanwhile still advancing your main plot.

    I keep telling myself one of these days I'm going to try this in one of my books. Unfortunately up to this point my stories have been pretty tightly scripted, with not a lot of room for experimentation like that. But if anyone out there has tried this trick, or plans to after reading this blog, my readers and I would love to hear about how it all came out in the comments, below! Drop us a line.

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Blogger Patricia Stoltey said...

Most of us have been caught in that swampy trap in the middle at least once. One workshop I attended a few years ago left me with an interesting idea to add to your list. Think of something your main character/protagonist would never do in a million years....and then make them do it. I think that has some interesting possibilities.

11:20 AM  

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