Sagging Middle

Sagging Middle

What exactly is a “sagging” middle?

  • Place: Approximately the middle third of the story.
  • Appearance: There is a lot of blank space on your computer screen because you can’t find the right words to move forward with the storytelling.
    • OR a lot of space filled with clutter that really supplies too much info.

What is a “good” middle?

  • Purpose: To pull the incredible opening you’ve created for the story to the perfect conclusion you imagine.
  • Appearance: Picture a lemon meringue pie. A “good” middle is the thick, full-bodied layer of filling between the amazing meringue topping and the flaky crust.
    • It’s the heart of the story where a lot happens.

Problems to watch out for:

  • Characters: Speeding from one location to another and doing too much.
    • OR becoming too chatty or too contemplative and not doing enough action.
  • Secondary Characters:Introducing too many new characters.
    • OR the new characters take over the story.
  • Goal: Too easily reached.
  • Conflict: Tension withers away, and the drama is reduced.
    • OR too many obstacles are introduced.
  • Plot: Not strong enough to build an entire storyline.
    • OR too much to be completed in one book.
  • Subplot: Not resolving the subplot before heading for the story climax.
    • OR adding a subplot that dilutes the main plot too much.
  • Sections: No beginning, middle, and end to the Middle.

Solving the problems:

  • Characters: Determine the worst thing to happen to the protagonist at this point in the plot.
    • Determine what would make the protagonist give up, and then make him keep going.
    • Reveal a secret that could ruin everything.
  • Secondary Characters: Determine which additional characters work best or best hinder the main characters.
    • OR kill off a secondary character and show the effect on the protagonist.
  • Goal: Increase the uncertainty about reaching the goal.
    • Make the consequences of failure worse, that something important will be lost.
    • The protagonist confronts another obstacle that forces a goal change.
  • Conflict: Increase the plot complications and time pressure.
    • Have the internal conflict affect the external conflict.
    • Have the protagonist make a mistake that sets off a chain of unexpected events.
    • Have the protagonist face betrayal, actual or suspected.
    • OR reduce adding too many obstacles for the protagonist.
  • Plot: Strengthen a fading plot by adding something startling.
    • Use a plot element from the story opening differently.
    • Change the pace.
  • Subplot: Make sure the subplot can be resolved before the main plot’s resolution.
    • Have this resolution create even more conflict.
  • Sections:
    • Beginning: Give as much attention to the Middle’s opening as you did to the story opening.
    • Middle:Ratchet up the conflict and tension.
    • End:This should be either the dark moment in the storyline or close to it. The conflict should be high and the tension strong.