Fiction Writing – How to Write the Middle of Your Novel

In the previous article on Beginnings, we discussed the importance of opening scenes and particularly the first lines in which your goal was to hook the reader. We talked about introducing at least one character early on, maybe two. If you did this, and neither of them are your main character, you have the perfect set up for bringing him onto the stage.

Some novels, some great ones in fact, do not let us meet the main character until late in the first part of the novel, Act One or even the start of Act Two. If you’ve decided to do that, one way that works well is to have your characters talk about him, praise him, tell interesting stories or raise questions about him. In doing this, by the time we meet him our interest is piqued, we’re anxious to know that character นิยายอีโรติก.

In the beginning you also put us in the time and place of the story and set up the dramatic situation that will keep us reading over the next few hundred pages. Now as you come to the ‘middle’ of your book, Act Two as it were, you will be developing the plot. Middles are said to be the most difficult part of the novel writing process, but if you don’t buy into that, just work your story, you can get through it with little stress, and actually enjoy doing it. It most likely will be longer than the beginning or the ending. Good. That gives you the broad canvas on which to write the truly important part of the book. The beginning must hook us, the ending must satisfy us, the middle is the grit of the story itself.

If you’ve set up conflict as you should have, now is the time to deepen it. If you feel you need to resolve it, don’t do that until you’ve set up the next conflict or obstacle. Once you resolve all the conflicts your story is over even if you didn’t intend it to be. Be sure a new conflict overlaps before you resolve the first one. The more obstacles you can believably create, the more tension and the more your reader is going to be turning pages well into the night.

For your story to be a hit you’ll need these obstacles and part or total resolutions for your characters but you’ll also need to write good, believable dialog to develop those characters. You want to stay in the point of view you’re using. That is not to say you can’t change point of view but be careful in doing so. You will confuse readers if you pop around to different points of view. If you are in Bill’s POV and he makes a statement but then you write “John didn’t argue but he didn’t believe that for one minute” you have just switched the viewpoint. The reader can’t know what John thinks since we’re looking through Bill’s eyes. You could write ‘John didn’t appear to believe that at all.’ Now the story has stayed in the same point of view but the reader is given a glimpse of what John might be thinking. Changing points of view is risky. New writers might be wise to limit changes to chapters, making the switch clear perhaps even by giving the chapter a title. It takes an experienced hand to change POVs in paragraphs. Writers learning the craft would be well advised to avoid it. If the Point of View technique is not clear to you, be sure to study it in books or online articles on writing, as this is a point (pun intended) that can seriously squirrel up a story.

Dialogue is another technique the writer should grasp fully. Story characters do not speak the way people speak in real life. If you listen to a nearby conversation when in a restaurant, for example, you’ll hear many partial or unfinished sentences, ahs and uhs, certainly some bad grammar, abundant adjectives, moralizing, clichés, swearing, street slang…most of which you do not want in your book. You do, of course, want your characters to speak in a manner that works with who they are. A laid back, easy-going character will not speak the same way that an uptight, stuffed shirt will or a western rancher or a Fargo used car salesman.

Give your people dialog that matches who they are, but please, please don’t bog them or us down in stereotype. If you have started reading a book you decided you hated, go back and look at it. What made you close and set it aside? Maybe the plot line was boring or seemed to be going nowhere, but odds are that the dialogue and characters had much to do with your resultant disinterest. If you have Bell’s book “Plot & Structure,” recommended in an earlier post, there is very good information on dialogue in it. Also, Gloria Kempton’s “Dialogue” from the Write Great Fiction series, is considered by many to be a worthwhile treatise of learning to write dialogue. Writing books are available online from Amazon and at the Writers Digest Shop.. You can purchase books from Writers Digest without belonging to their book club.

Great characters in any story will override a mediocre plot. Not that you should strive for a boring plot but the point is that the characters in your book need to be interesting and believable. If we care about the characters we’ll ride along with the plot even if it isn’t a truly strong one. Learn all you can about writing characters so you don’t write wooden ones. They’ll kill a story quickly, even one with an engrossing plot.

While “Lonesome Dove” had a good story line, or plot, the characters were nothing short of memorable. And who can forget Randle McMurphy or Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest?” Novels with characters fully developed and alive cannot do anything but succeed. An excellent book on this subject is “Creating Characters, How to Build Story People” by the acclaimed teacher and writer, Dwight W. Swain.

What exactly is a Plot? That question is asked in hundreds of writing classes and everywhere else when a few new writers congregate. It looks like something difficult to grasp, ethereal, elusive, complex. It is none of those. Someone, somewhere, reduced Plot to its simplest form. Character + Conflict = Plot. That’s about it.

Most books on writing will address plot or at the very least mention it. You’ll read various rules of Plot, but they’ll all crunch down to these as pointed out in “Techniques of Fiction Writing” by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, published in 1959:

1) Who is the character?

2) What does he want?

3) What is preventing him from getting it?

4) What will he do about it?

5) What are the results of his actions?

6) Does he get what he wants or does he get something else?

7) What does the story say?

What the story says is called the Theme and every story has one. You might have the Theme of your novel clear in your mind before you start writing or you may get to the very end before you know what it is as author McGraw found – and myself as well. In either case you should be able to state in one sentence what your book says. What is the theme of “Gone With The Wind?” Maybe: We do what we have to do to survive. What about “The Firm?” Maybe: Money can’t buy loyalty, or Things aren’t always what they seem. “The Hunger Games?” Maybe: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

I don’t know what the authors of those books would say their themes are but they might be close to my guesses. Some writers work with the theme in mind. Some find that to be too restrictive and believe it forces the direction of a story when in fact the characters should be free to develop as they will. (Unless a character steps up and starts to take the story down a path you don’t want and you have to rein him in. Believe it, this happens.) Those writers prefer to filter out the theme after the novel is complete. You should do it whatever way feels right but at some point, know your theme.

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