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.