What’s His Mirror Moment?

My last prompt for the month with my theme of tackling the middle of our stories. What’s his mirror moment? What has made him question who he is in the middle of the story? For more on the mirror moment, click here. Below is my inspiration.

This power was getting out of a hand.

I shoved my hand through my hair and clamped it on top of my head.

What was I supposed to do with this superpower? I couldn’t use it for my own entertainment any more, not with what I’d learned in the cafeteria. But if I acted on the information, someone might ask me how I knew. I’d never lied enough to be good at it. And I’d have to lie if I didn’t want to become the main specimen at a secret government research facility.

I fell back against the wall of the empty room.

Or I could just pretend I didn’t know what was about to come off Saturday night? Couldn’t I?

Click here to find more prompts for the mirror moment.

Keeping the Middle Moving

Every piece of writing advice warns against letting the middle of your story sag. I understand the danger. Deep in the heart of my story, I’m writing page after page of fun character interactions and sparkling dialogue and then it hits me. I’m lost in my story. I don’t know why I’m in this scene or where it’s going. Scenes like that work against the idea of keeping the middle moving.

A variety of approaches can help you structure the middle. Below are three metaphors that might help you keep the middle moving.

The Domino Effect

One metaphor is the domino effect, an idea found in this excellent post by Denise Hunter on the blog for American Christian Fiction Writers. She writes about how conflict should move the story forward.

I think of the domino effect as every action scene should advance the story. If Rae, my main character in A Shadow on the Snow, visits her great-grandfather, it can’t just be for a pleasant conversation. She learns a clue to the mystery she is trying to unravel. That clue leads to another and another. Or the clue may turn out to be a red herring, but it still has to knock over the next domino and keep the story going.

A Line Graph

Another way to visualize the middle is a line graph. I learned this technique from authors James Rubart and Cara Putnam at the ACFW conference in 2017. They used the line graph to demonstrate how the entire plot unfolds but it still works for analyzing the middle. The dips in the line are obstacles the main character encounters while trying to achieve her goal. The peaks are victories.

For a mystery, a line graph could resemble the image below. The obstacles and victories grow more intense as you move toward the climax.

keeping the middle moving

Piloting a Glider

A third way to think of the middle is like the flight of a glider. The glider goes up and down while riding air currents, but it must always move forward. If it stops, it drops. The same is true for the middle of a story.

If I get lost in a scene, I have to discover its purpose. What is the point of this scene beside giving me a lot of enjoyment as I write it? Often I find I can combine several points into one scene giving it multiple purposes.

In the scene with Rae and her great-grandfather, their conversation reveals a clue to who is stalking Rae. It also gives readers another chance to get to know the great-grandfather character and to learn about an uncle who doesn’t like Rae’s father. Giving my scene several purposes keeps the middle moving.

How do you tackle keeping the middle moving? I’d love to learn from you!

This is a repost from 2020.

What’s the Mirror Moment?

Today’s prompt is to inspire a mirror moment in the middle of a story. What’s the mirror moment? According to James Scott Bell in his book Writing Your Novel from the Middle, it’s the moment in the middle of a story when the main character (MC) decides who he or she truly is. I’d also say it’s a moment when the MC decides on an irrevocable course of action.

So how could this photo provide a mirror moment? The woman looks deep in thought. Why is she thinking in the middle of a bridge with a guitar? Here’s my inspiration.

The wood of the old bridge felt warm on my bare legs in the afternoon sunlight. I sat and strummed. Music had always been my refuge and my joy. When had it gotten so complicated? I was a songwriter, not a singer. I didn’t care if people loved the singer of my songs more than the writer. That wasn’t why I wrote them.

But Jake said he believed in me.

I plucked some notes. Sitting on this old bridge had inspired some of my best songs. Maybe it could inspire me to make up my mind.

For more mirror moment prompts, click here.

Patchworking  the Muddy Middle

My friend and fellow Mt. Zion Ridge Press author Bettie Boswell is back for another guest post, “Patchworking the Muddy Middle”, explaining how she overcame obstacles in the middle of her latest novel. To learn more about that novel and how to connect with Bettie, read her blurb and bio at the end of the post. Thanks for coming coming back, Bettie!

One method that recently worked well for me is to patch that muddled manuscript middle together like a quilt. This was a strategy I used when writing my newest book, Free to Love.

Warning:

You need to kind of know where you’re going before you start working on your patchwork blocks. When I reached the point where I struggled to keep things moving, I sometimes skipped ahead to an idea that I thought would eventually be a scene in my story. 

I would jump into that scene and fill in the conversations, stitching them together with setting, tags, the five senses, conflict or tension, an arc, and any other good writing tactics needed to complete the scene. The work went faster because I had skipped the hurdle holding me back. With less effort, because I felt free to move on, I soon had a nice block of story for my quilt. I jumped around and created several blocks. Before long, I was even able to go back and take on the scene making the hurdle that held me back in the first place.

When I exhausted my creation of blocks, I then figured out the placement of each scene and what might be a good binding strip to attach each blocked scene to another. At this point I printed out what I had written in small print, with two pages on one piece of paper (a function on most printers.) I cut scenes out and put the blocks in an order that made sense for the story. Some of the blocks had changed my story but they still met the goals and themes I set at the beginning. 

After I figured out the order that each block would fall in my quilted story, it was time to put the patchwork together. I did that by binding each block into the story by using transitions, adjusting wording to make things fit, figuring out where to leave the reader hanging between chapters and scenes, and sometimes throwing a scene back into the rag bin for another quilted story.

This type of organization worked for me. It might not work for anyone else but you never know until you try. I am not as good at quilting as my grandmother but her beautiful bed coverings provided inspiration for this type of writing. If nothing else works, snuggle under or relax on top of your favorite quilt and brainstorm what might happen next in your story. Happy writing!

What a great idea! I’ve been stymied at the beginning of my next novel, so I followed your advice and jumped ahead to a scene that I wanted to write. It’s been refreshing to finally get words on paper again.

For more posts on writing the middle, click here.

*****

As Ginny writes her musical, inspiration comes from journals about Missy and her maid, bound together by slavery and blood, journeying toward freedom and love. Early and her mistress have always been together. When Missy’s family forces Early into an arranged marriage with George, also held in slavery, their relationship will be forever changed. Will Early and George find a love that can survive the trials of a forced marriage and perilous journey?

*****

Author Bettie Boswell

Bettie Boswell has always loved to read and write. That interest helped her create musicals for both church and school and eventually she decided to write and illustrate stories to share with the world. Her writing interests extend from children’s to adult and from fiction to non-fiction. Free to Love is a prequel to her first novel, On Cue. Connect with Bettie on FacebookTwitter, or her website.

Collaborative Speculative Fiction: the Whole Story

After taking off last Monday for the Fourth of July, I now can publish the entire story I offered prompts for in June. Thanks to author M. Liz Boyle for her wonderful inspiration! This was so much fun to write. Since speculative fiction isn’t my genre, I had to work my imagination over time. To see all the photo prompt, click here.

Collaborative Speculative Fiction: the Whole Story.

The creature barely had to swish his tail, the sea was so calm. The moon turned the surface to silver, and the creature’s wake appeared as an arrow cleaving through it.

Lifting his head, the creature looked to the horizon, where many pinpricks of light dotted it, his nostrils flaring. He inhaled deeply, then tilted his head to one side and gazed at the sparks of light, which lined the horizon as if the stars overhead had fallen into a rut.

With one great last of his tail, the creature pivoted. Then with his tail acting as both rudder and engine, he swam toward the lights.

*****

I ran onto the pier. I had to get out of the house, go some place without people–people meant problems.

Slowing to a walk, I jammed my hands into my windbreaker. The cold night and rising fog had left the pier empty of people. Perfect.

I leaned on the railing, breathing in the salt air. The sea was still, touched with silver where the moonlight could slip through the mist. 

I stared at the horizon. How far could I see? How many miles? How many miles could I put between myself and–

The smooth surface of the water rippled. Something was swimming toward the pier. Something big.

My eyes widening, I felt my heart take a jump.

The ripple stopped, and a head broke the surface. A head like every dragon I’d ever seen in a fairy tale.

I slapped my hand over my mouth to squash a scream.

What was it? And why was it coming toward me? The creature’s eyes had to be as big as my head. And its eyes were fixed on me. It was approaching me fast, now only ten feet away. A wild cry, a high-pitched roar that seemed to slice my ear drums, raged from the creature’s throat. I spun on my heels, adrenaline surging and heart pounding, but I slipped on the wet pier and face planted the cement. Was this it? Why, oh why did I leave the house, slam the door, yell that I never wanted to see any of them again? Was that really the end of it all?

I whipped around to a seated position, expecting to see the creature opening its mouth for its first taste of me. 

Instead it lifted its head and made a sound like a giant sniff. Then it swam toward the end of the pier.

Leaping to my feet, I was about to turn and put as much distance between me and the sea as I could when I saw a light bobbing at the furthest point of the pier. That bobbing had to mean a person was holding a light. I’d thought I was alone on the pier. Had the light or whoever was holding it attracted the creature?

The creature glided toward the light, its long body leaving a slow wake. My jaw open, I watched it too. Then a gentle splash to my left caught my attention. I stared for a minute and then realized that a second creature like the first was making its way toward the light. I quickly looked between the two animals, and then glanced back at the distant light. Clearly I had been forgotten by the enormous and mysterious creature. Had I also been forgotten by the hurt people back in my house? Now that I wasn’t about to be torn apart by teeth the size of my arm, I had a chance to go back and apologize. I blew out my cheeks, dropped my head, and took two steps toward home. Another thought crossed my mind. Now that I wasn’t about to be torn apart by teeth the size of my arm, I also had the chance to find out what that animal was. And who the person with the light was. And what they were doing. I looked back to the light and counted four distinct swells with tails cutting through the water. I turned my face toward home and heard the door slam. That was enough to make up my mind.

I strode down the pier, the only sound the slapping of those tails and a gulping sound. Through the mist, I saw a white head illuminated by a lantern. The elderly person was pitching something from a garbage can seated on a dolly.

I had the strangest feeling I was interrupting something but cleared my throat.

The person whirled to me, an old man, his face seamed from age and weather. “What’re you doin’ out on a night like this?”

“I-I-I–who are your…pets?”

His eyes narrowed. “You’ve seen the animals?”

“Yes.” I stepped closer, and the stench from the garbage can pushed me back. 

“And you didn’t run away?”

I decided to be honest. “I thought one was going to eat me, but then it swam out here to your light.”

“Ain’t my light.” He dug a short shovel into the garbage can and heaved the stinking meat into the sea. “They smell the rotten fish. They can smell it on still nights.”

A thousand questions swirled in my mind like the mist. As I was trying to choose one, the old man stiffened. “That shouldn’t be on the water at this time of year.”

I peered at the sea. The boat that took tourists on pirate cruises in the summer chugged toward the pier.

The old man rummaged through items in a box beside the garbage can. “It’s gettin’ so’s a man can’t have any peace with a few friends any more.”

My eyes focused on a gun in his hand, so I took a slow step backward. “Y- you’re going to shoot the pirate cruise ship?”

His dark eyebrows lowered. “Course not. Ya’ think I want me AND the boys to wind up behind bars?” He took aim at the water and I heard a pop, not as loud as I braced myself for. “I just shoot a pellet into the water, in the direction of danger. Just enough to warn the boys without drawing attention.” Immediately the animals changed direction and turned toward the open sea.

“The boys?” 

“They’re all males in this pod. Won’t join the ladies until next month. Then I don’t see of ’em for awhile.”

Pod? So are they some type of whale? Afraid that question was too stupid to ask out loud, I asked another question, a safer question. “So are you a researcher?”

A throaty chuckle rumbled out of the mysterious man as he propped the shovel back in his nasty garbage can. He grabbed the handles of the dolly and looked at me with dark, serious eyes. “No. And you best not mention any of this to anyone.” 

He wheeled the dolly two steps when a beam of light landed on him. “POLICE! STOP! You too!” Another light blinded me.

I threw up my hands, but the old man just snapped, “Della, it’s me. You think you’re gonna find a drug kingpin out on the pier?”

“Martin.” The cop groaned the name as she lowered the light. “Martin, I can’t keep persuading the owners not to prosecute you for trespassing.”

He glared at her. “My family’s been on this shore for three hundred years. This pier’s been here for sixty. Who’s got more right?”

“I’ve got to follow the law, Martin.” She sighed. “You should too. And you definitely shouldn’t talk this girl into coming out here with you.” She looked at me for the first time. “Maybe he didn’t tell you it’s trespassing if you’re on the pier after it’s closed.”

So much had happened so fast that I didn’t bother to make up a lie or a truth. I just stared.

“C’mon, kid.” Martin pushed the dolly toward the beach. “We’d better get a move on before Della cuffs us.”

Once we reached land and the cop had driven away, I had to ask, “Has your family been feeding the creatures for three hundred years?”

Martin just grinned and then pushed the dolly and its odorous trash can up the street.

People meant problems. And I didn’t need any more. And yet–

I caught up to Martin, the mist obscuring the mist behind us. “You said they come on still nights?”

He nodded, the dolly creaking up the hill. “In winter.”

“Could you use some help?”

He stopped and grinned again.

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