Oh, the sagging middle. And no, I am not talking about that part of some of us that jiggle and sag when we walk. Ahem… I am talking about that part of your book the rests between your exciting beginning and your triumphant end. (lol…I am totally cracking myself up tonight with my use of body part imagery!)
I am continuing my read of The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass and the chapter I just read was all about Middle Scenes. Sometimes middle scenes sag and have no sparkle. Many times authors don’t want to take the time to freshen up their middles because of self-imposed or editor deadlines. They want to meet their quotas and dadgumit, they are gonna meet them, sagging middles or no.
Maass believes authors write scenes for a purpose and the task is to open those scenes up and discover two things: Outer and Inner Turning Points. An outer turning point is “the way in which things change that everyone can understand.” An inner turning point is “the way in which a scene’s point of view character changes as a result” (of the outer turning point).
Maass also talks about dialogue as a common downfall. It can be wordy, with too many attributives. Bring tension into your dialogue by paring it down and making it flow.
Another area to check in your middle scenes is what Maass calls Striding Forward and Falling Back. We all know every scene needs a goal, but sometimes we may want to keep the readers guessing as to the outcome of the goal. Yes, a goal is a must, but each scene must either fulfil the goal or fall back from the goal (like with obstacles) This will keep the readers on their toes in expectation.
Another way to up the ante in your middle scenes is to focus on your first and last lines. Maass likens them to the checkered flag on the last lap of a race. They increase the drama. They set the stage. Bookend you scenes, even if you think its over the top. Make it memorable!
And last, Maass talks about The Tornado Effect. Its the huge events in your novel. He says our of all the many works he has read, most novels don’t have enough big events. Also, it doesn’t really matter the size of the event, but the consequences…or the scope…for more than just the protagonist.
Maass has some great questions and exercises at the end of this chapter to help develop your own work. He also has many excerpts from books to “show” you what he is talking about, which is so helpful to me, a visual person.
Let me ask you this… How do you deal with your sagging middles? Do you tend to ignore them? Cut them out? Or do you do surgery on them, like a lift and tuck…no more sag! (LOL…I am just so weird today.)