Monday, April 30, 2018

10 Ideas to Avoid a Sagging Middle

Ah, the sagging middle. If you're a writer, you probably read those words on a brandished sigh. Well, I'm here to tell you we ALL face that fear! Will my story have progressed the way it should by the middle? Will my reader still even be with me by that point? AM I REALLY EVEN A WRITER?!?!

Here's a handful of tips to help get those creative juices flowing and, ultimately, hopefully, help you avoid that terrible, awful sagging middle:

1. Keep conflict HIGH. Yeah, buddy. If you can't taste the tension, you may be in for a heap of rewrites. Just sayin'.

2. Build to a mini-climax. This makes me think of mini-bosses in Everquest, but you get the idea. Have your characters conquer something major, but not quite as major as what you have in store for the ending.

3. Increase obstacles. Throw something, anything in your characters' path to make them either, one, change directions or, two, reassess who they are and why they're on this journey.

4. Build romantic tension. Ooh-la-la! But, seriously. This one needs no explanation.

5. Kill off a character. Aww...what?? But I hate it when George R.R. Martin does that! Me, too, but it works, doesn't it??

6. Raise uncertainty. Your main thought she knew her goal and the motivation behind it, but then something happens to make her question everything.

7. Give your main a taste of her worst fear. This could definitely go right there along with #6. If you do character worksheets, you already know what this is. If you don't, make sure you know what your protagonist's main fear is and that it's wholly realistic.

8. Betray a character. Whether it's your main or a secondary who fights for page time, throwing a little betrayal in the mix will always raise the stakes and the tension.

9. Use a subplot to build the stakes. I'm going to use Harry Potter as an example here, because those are the first books that come to mind. As we know, Harry's main plot line is to defeat Voldemort. He's working toward the end, right? But each book is a subplot of that -- like with Sirius Black in The Prisoner of Azkaban and so forth. Harry has to soar past a handful of mini-bosses to get to the end and his main goal, which is to rid the world of Voldemort once and for all. See #2.

10. Reveal the true antagonist. I actually read this one somewhere, but it's a great concept, especially if you're writing fantasy or science fiction. Revealing the true antagonist automatically sets your characters' feet on a new path, chock-full of new tension and conflict.

What are your suggestions for a sagging middle?

1 comment

Andrew Leon said...

Plenty of exercise and eating right!

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