Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tightening That Sagging Middle

I'm late, but I have an excuse.  I've spent today working on my own middle.  The middle of the book, that is.  Work on my physical middle has fallen to the wayside, thanks to the hot weather.  Once it cools off, the walking will resume.

Frankly, I'd much rather blog about the middle in the picture on the left.  Who wouldn't?  But lusting over a hunk isn't going to get a book written and, except for being a reminder of tightening those sagging flesh and blood middles, it's only going to make it warmer in here.  Another 105 today was hot enough, thank you.

I'm one of the lucky ones who hasn't had a rejection because of a sagging middle.  (And I'm knocking on wood.  It can strike at any time.)  Believe me, I've had plenty of rejections, but they've been for a variety of other things.  Still, it seems sagging middles are one of the top reasons for rejection.

If you're coming up on the halfway point in your story and your Hero and Heroine are getting along so well that it's almost scary, it may be that you've forgotten about the conflict between that H and H.  It's conflict, not rosy moments, that keeps them from reaching their happily ever after too soon.  This is where a little plotting can go a long way.

A good story that keeps a reader reading will build from that first introduction to the conflict to the end when that conflict--and often new and different ones--are solved.  This is true for all fiction, not only romance.  While it's nice to have interludes where the characters aren't at odds and everything is going fairly smoothly, if it goes too smoothly for too long, readers can easily lose interest.  And so can editors.

To counteract a lull, it helps to focus on what can happen that will increase the conflict between the H/H.  This conflict should be emotional, and therefore internal, but can be brought about by something external.  A kiss...or a romance will increase the stakes of the characters and bring about more intense emotions and...  You guess it.  CONFLICT.  This could happen while discovering something new about the other character that means a re-thinking of the relationship.  Or maybe a romance that's been kept a secret suddenly suffers a leak that could destroy the couple.  Do this mid-way, and you've discovered the main turning point of your story and solved quite a lot of the sagging middle problem.  Keep it connected to the main conflict, and you'll discover that you won't be going off in directions that lead nowhere.

It doesn't take heavy, thorough or even complicated plotting to do this.  Simply knowing, either before you begin writing the story or discovering it as you're writing it, that this moment is going to happen will keep you on course and keep the story interesting.

The main turning point isn't the only thing to keep readers hooked, but it is one of the most important ones.  Don't cheat your readers.  Give them a strong shift in the story, then take them to a heart-wrenching black moment, before leaving them with happy sighs over the HEA.

Torturing your characters is fun and much better than torturing your readers. ;)
The greatest rules of dramatic writing are conflict, conflict, conflict. ~ James Frey

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