Monday, June 29, 2009

My Middle’s a Muddle

Help me. Please, help me.

I've entered the dreaded "muddle in the middle."

Writers know what I'm talking about. It's that place in your novel where stuff needs to happen to move the story along, but you don't know what, not exactly (maybe not even vaguely, if you haven't outlined well enough). You've stormed through the "beginning" of the book, hooking readers and introducing characters and creating challenges for them to overcome. You've described the setting, you've wedged in a sub-plot (or two, if you're ambitious), and you've managed to bring the readers along for the ride. Everything is going along perfectly, until...shplatt. You find yourself in the muddle.

Now what? 

No, seriously, now what?

I'm 30,000 words into my current WIP, and I need some stuff to happen. Good stuff. Stuff that will propel this story into the final act. Stuff that will keep my readers turning pages and missing subway stops. Stuff that is intriguing, captivating, emotion-tugging, mysterious, amazing, humorous, unexpected, quirky, brilliant, compelling, and plot-advancing.*

Any suggestions?

Or should I just bump someone off and get rolling again?


*Stuff that doesn't involve space aliens. Although...



Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Time for a murder!

Just for fun, make it the suspect who seems most likely to have bumped off your victim. :)


Jenny Milchman said...

Alan, didn't I read somewhere that it's at this point you should have someone knock on the door...then see who it is?

This is the exact situation at which my last novel went awry in one specific way. I started writing scene after scene that absolutely entranced me. They were so interesting! Oh, the descriptive detail, and how well I was getting to know my antagonist!

It was only many drafts and agent reads later that I middle was completely flat. One-- according to other people besides my mom and me--admittedly interesting scene after another, but they didn't propel the plot on to higher and higher stakes, they didn't twist and turn.

So my not even two cents' worth of advice would be to look for change. What kinds of scenes will change your plot, send the characters scrambling off in new and more complicated directions?

Just get through this and you will fairly be able to taste The End...

Good luck!

Alan Orloff said...

Hmm. Maybe I should have a space alien knock at the door, then kill the main suspect.

Helen Ginger said...

Wherever you are, look at the main character and ask, what it the worst thing that could happen at this point? Then make it happen. That character will have to get out of the situation - and you will move the plot forward.

Straight From Hel