Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Five tips for the middle of your story

Ideas are the lifeblood of a writer. Unless you're the next Harper Lee, chances are you'll need to pen more than one book in order to work your way into the literature Hall of Fame. If you're like me, ideas for new projects come from tons of different places. I have a whole folder full.

The problem comes when I need to turn a fun new idea into 200+ pages of a fun novel.

I can usually sculpt the opening and endings are my favorite part. But how do I find ideas to keep the middle of the story going and give the reader a book that will keep them up at night?
Pondering the second act is hard work. Credit

This is something I struggle with. On the chance you do too, here are the questions I ask myself to come up with ideas.

1. What is your main character's worst fear? - It's not cruel, it's being a writer. The thing that would give your character the worst experience is exactly what will give your readers a great experience. Don't hold back the heat.

2. What is your character's worst personality trait? - Is your character selfish? Put her in a situation where she has to pick between her usual selfish choice and something that will genuinely make her happy. What if he can't trust others? Wiggle him into a tight spot where he has to trust someone else in order to save his life.

3. What does your antagonist want the most? - You might not being able to give it to him (killing off your protag might be a downer), but how close can you get it. Up the tension by getting your antagonist as close as possible to winning. Your readers will hate you and love you at the same time.

4. What's up with your secondary characters? - In the heat of your novel it's easy to forget about your second string players. All the focus is on your MC and that's a good thing. But don't forget to keep track of where your other characters are and what they are doing. One of them may have a great way to help (or inadvertently hurt) your MCs mission.

5. Work backward. - Are you stuck with how to get from where you are to the fantastic ending waiting 50 pages away? Go ahead and skip to the end and work back. What needs to happen in order to get your character there. Do they need to move physical locations? Is there an emotional breakthrough that needs to happen in order for them to make the right (or wrong) decision at the end of the novel? This is also a great way to check yourself when you have reached the end to make sure all your character's decisions make sense.

Here are my top five ways to generate ideas for the middle of a story. What are some of yours? Leave your tips in the comments.

13 comments:

  1. Great tips, and they come at a much needed time! I'm going to print these tips out and keep them handy - thank you!

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    1. I'm happy to help. Sometimes it's nice to know we aren't the only ones struggling with a part of the writing process.

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  2. I love skipping to the end. It really helps me figure out how to get my characters to that point. I once began a novel by writing the final chapter. I had a clear ending point and everything else filled itself in from there.

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    1. Yep, the end is the easiest part for my to write. I usually have at least a rough sketch of it before I start writing anything else.

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  3. Thanks for the great ideas. They will help in my re-writes for my work-in-progress.

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    1. Glad it helped! Good luck with the re-writes. :\

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  4. First, I love this: "give the reader a book that will keep them up at night?" Yes! That's what I want to do too!
    Second, you're suggesting great things. These are so important to plotting a novel.
    Great post! :-)

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  5. Nice post. I suck at plotting, but the two things I mull on BEFORFE book I write a book is always decide the beginning and the ending.

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  6. Yes, I often work backwards, or a little bit here and a little bit there, filling in the plot pieces that I'm already clear on, and excited by. In y first draft, I no longer separate by chapters, only buz forward, separating by scenes.

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  7. And in reading over my comment, I also don't bother with spelling in a first draft too much!!!! Eek.

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  8. I usually start my books somewhere near the middle, but I always have an ending in mind and will often write it as soon as it becomes clear to me. I like having something to aim for.

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  9. Thanks for the tips! I really appreciate you sharing your experiences for others to read.

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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