What exactly is the middle of a WIP (work in progress)? It’s more than page number or a place in a plotline. The middle is more of an attitude—of both the characters and the writer.
I’m a “panster” (flying by the seat of one’s pants) or an “into the mist” type of writer. Which, for the uninitiated, means that I write without an outline. This works for me, but it also means that a few chapters in I always land in a puddle of “what now?” I’ve heard rumors that those who plot carefully beforehand don’t have as many problems with their middles. Because they actually know beforehand where things are going, they don’t have the “what now” problem.
You’re probably thinking, “Why does the woman not plot?” Let me tell you, I’ve tried. I’ve charted out the scenes and the order in which they will go. Guess what? My characters take off in whatever direction they chose, thumbing their nose at the author—me. So back to square one I go. My characters are much too unpredictable for me to know what they’re going to do in advance. So, I give them their heads and let them tell their stories in their own way. My process works by seeing the early scenes clearly, and I have a general idea how the end will pan out. The area between, though, is uncharted ground. And that can be a scary place.
Being as I’ve been lost in that mysterious forest of the middle (sometimes starting as soon as chapter three!) I’ve given a lot of thought to techniques I could use to punch up the middle and get the story back on track
In the WIP I’m currently writing (a paranormal romance, of course) hero and heroine were beginning to trust each other a bit. The sparks were beginning to fly a little. The paranormal plot was solidly in place. But I needed to stir things up, create a little conflict between the hero and heroine. And to create a series of crisis in the paranormal plotline in order to get it to where I needed it to be for the climax and resolution. These are some of the ways I’ve been considering to punch up the middle and get my characters and story going again:
1. Kill off a character.
2. A character has a serious accident.
3. Introduce a new character.
4. Use a minor character in a new way.
5. Throw in an unexpected plot twist.
My thought process went something like this: (1) I didn’t want to kill off a character, I like ‘em! Except for the villain, and I kind of need him. (2) A serious accident? Well, major player gets injured closer to the climax, so I didn’t want to go that route here. (3) Add a character. This is a novella, so I didn’t want to clutter things up with another character. (4) Use a character in a new way. Now this has possibilities. There is a minor character I could play with a bit and cause some turmoil in both the romance and paranormal plots. (5) This character’s
shenanigans would play well with a plot twist I’d thought of during my local Romance Writers of America chapter meeting—thanks Smoky Mountain Romance Writers! Between the character and plot twist, things should be sufficiently agitated to get things going again. And then I realized how everything could come together to create more conflict and lead directly to the climax and resolution.
And that’s what I love about writing. It truly is magic!