Muddling Through the Middle of Stories

This month’s theme tackles the part of story writing I think is often overlooked–the middle. A great deal of advice is written about how to start a story, but the middle and end don’t seem to be analyzed in as much detail. So muddling through the middle of stories isn’t unusual for writers. The posts this month aim to help you with your middle.

The Middle is Critical.

When I examine my YA mystery, A Shadow on the Snow, the first 48 pages are what I consider the beginning. The last 41 pages make up the end. So that leaves 162 pages, minus a few blank pages, of middle. Since the bulk of my story is the middle, it’s critical that I get it right. A story can’t just be set-up and resolution. The resolution won’t mean anything if the set-up hasn’t been developed. For a mystery, the middle is where the detective conducts most of his investigation. It’s also the part where readers get to know the characters.

If Your Middle Isn’t Working

A number of reasons could lead you to muddle through the middle of stories. Like …

Secondary characters take over. If you are writing in the middle and find you are spending more time with your main character’s (MC) grandmother than with the MC, you’ve got a problem. Maybe you’re writing the story from the wrong POV. Or maybe you need to flesh out your MC better to make her more interesting. If she’s more interesting, it will be easier to write about her.

The stakes aren’t high enough. Are you too nice to your characters? If you don’t let bad things happen to them, then you might find yourself writing pleasant, boring scenes. Think of situations that would really hurt or test your MC. Don’t save all the action and suspense for the end. In A Shadow on the Snow, I have a suspenseful chase through a snowstorm in the middle. It’s sort of like putting the second most thrilling feature of a roller coaster ride in the middle. Just be sure to save the most thrilling one for the end.

No ending, no middle. I may be atypical, but I usually think of a climax before any other part of a story. Knowing where my story will eventually end up helps me construct the middle. It’s like planning a trip. I know where I’m starting from and I know where I need get to. Between those two points are quite a few different routes I could take. But if I only have the starting point, it’s impossible to plan a route. I could end up anywhere. That’s not always bad, but I can waste a lot of time.

So let me hear from you. What problems have you had muddling through the middle of stories? Or what stories have you read that did a great or terrible job in the middle?

2 thoughts on “Muddling Through the Middle of Stories

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  1. That’s such a great reminder, to add more adversity for the MC in the middle, and it’s really cool that you figure out the end from the start.

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