I’m currently embroiled in editing The Middle of my current work-in-progress. Yes. That third of the book where the characters have all been introduced, the tone set, the problem introduced, and now I’m throwing obstacles into the path of my protagonists like an irate Greek god. How about a flood? Whoosh! Maybe a creepy discovery. Boo! or maybe a Yuk! The reveal of a treacherous plan. Wa ha ha!
So far, I’m not satisfied with the result. I hate The Middle. The possibilities here are endless. I’m in a middle muddle. What to cut and what to leave? Do I HAVE to have that scene? I’m sorry Authorities. But I’ve been studying this issue and have pretty well decided that scenes could be cut from most every book I read (which is a Lot of books) without hurting the plot. But, cutting the scene might hurt the story. The middle is where the author gets to really tell the story. Not introduce the story, not wrap-up the story, but tell the story. The middle is after graduation but before retirement. Middles are messy.
Don’t write nasty comments. I know the science. Protaganist strives toward goal as increasingly difficult obstacles are thrown into the path until JUST AS SHE/HE CAN”T POSSIBLY MAKE IT, success!! Plus, maybe a subplot to make things more interesting and provide greater depth to the plot. I find nothing wrong with this structure. It’s a good outline.
But, think of a story as a long road trip. Everyone is excited starting out. No doubt they will be happy when they get to the end in the nick of time before the Big Event. But what makes the miles between interesting? Doesn’t there have to be more than flat tires, wrong turns, and the seriously carsick kid sitting next to you?
We want diversion. Yes, two flat tires in the middle of nowhere is an obstacle. But will we remember the flat or the fact that the protagonist squatted to pee next to the rattlesnake? Yes, the wrong turn caused a serious delay. But will we remember the delay or the weird old man who led us out of the forest? Will we remember the massive puke incident? Okay, we’ll remember that. But we’ll also remember singing along with the Beach Boys, Dad snoring while Mom drove, playing Slug Bug, watching for deer along the road in the headlights. Years later, when the family gets together and the stories begin, what will we remember?
The fact is that once the story ends, how we got there is less important than what happened along the way. That is the middle. That is where we learn about who our characters really are. Middles are full of humor and heartbreak. Things happen. Life happens.
Now, back to my middle muddle.
I so agree, Cynthia, the middle is by far the hardest part to write, but we spend the most time on the beginning. Why? Because that’s what everyone (including publishers) look at, so we try to make it perfect. Yet, you are right. The middles is where the book happens. Interesting thought.
The phrase “Middle Muddle” is *perfect* Cynthia! So many writer struggle with this, and editing that particular section can be painstakingly tedious. Good luck with your editing–you can do it!!
The middle is the hardest, because what is most memorable when we think of other’s stories is where they started and how they ended. It’s rarely a vision of the in-between that inspires a story. One of mine that was inspired from the middle still has the strongest middle because of it.